She's got Jen hooked!

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By Jennifer Aniston can't stop gushing about her and teaching Courtney Love was trial by fire. Mandy Ingber, one of the most celebrated yoga and fitness instructors in Los Angeles, gets candid in an online interview with t2 IPSHITA NANDI
  • Published 25.11.10
Jennifer Aniston featured in Ingber’s fitness video Yogalosophy

How did yoga happen to you?

My father brought yoga practice into my life when I was a child of six or seven years. I wanted to be close to him and understand him, so I would try out the same physical postures as him and I would also read books that he would read. I would spend my mornings before school practising out of (BKS) Iyengar’s Light On Yoga.

What school of yoga do you practise?

I started when I was very young, and have studied with various teachers who taught different approaches: Iyengar, Urban Yoga, Power Yoga, Kundalini, Taoist Yoga, Yin Yoga and Bikram Yoga. What I use as my daily practice now is Vinyasa Flow Yoga. But I learned more about yoga from indoor cycling — finding the stillness within the movement, using the breath to reduce reactivity and mind-body connectivity.

What is your signature style?

Hybrid Yoga for athletic beginners. My approach is very open-minded. I incorporate other modalities, such as spinning or toning exercises. I use contemporary music and my personal experiences to motivate others. I am not a superhero, I am plagued by over-thinking and impatience as much as the next person and I have had to overcome many trials as well. So I have had to learn from experience of falling and pulling myself through.

You are yoga instructor to the who’s who of Hollywood — Jennifer Aniston, Brooke Shields, Helen Hunt, Brittany Snow and jewellery designer Jennifer Meyer Maguire. What kind of training is needed ahead of the Oscar red carpet?

Each client is different, but I can assure you that each one of the people you mentioned works very hard to maintain their body, mind and spirit all the time, so when Oscar time comes around, they already have a headstart. When Helen was nominated, she was spinning (indoor cycling) with me five days a week, and she is a very healthy eater.

How did these Hollywood hotties take to yoga?

I think celebrities as well as others turn to yoga for a sense of balance in their lives. When there is a lot of scrutiny it is so important to be able to turn in and tune into what is really important — the relationship with the self. The body is god’s gift, so when we honour the body, we are thanking god. So, I am sure that each individual story is very personal.

Jennifer and I started working together in 2005 shortly after her break-up and my father’s death. So certainly these are times to return to the relationship with self. Helen and I practised yoga together as students and were yoga buddies. This was a good, wholesome way to socialise. She got me to begin a daily meditation practice. So there are all sorts of reasons to begin.

Musician Courtney Love
Actress Helen Hunt
Actress Brooke Shields
Actor Woody Harrelson
Courtney Cox’s daughter Coco Arquette

Who was your first celeb client?

The first celebrity I ever taught yoga was Courtney Love. Although it didn’t last long, it helped me in initiation by fire. Got me over my fears of the one-on-one class. I had already been teaching spinning for years, but the intimacy of yoga was scary to me, and that experience immersed me and had me face all of my personal fears. One thing I will share is that Courtney did not like electronica, she preferred Van Morrison!

You have helped popularise yoga in Hollywood…

Wow! I get credit for that? Cool. You know, I have been practising even before there was a real yoga community in Los Angeles, and now yoga is everywhere. It saturates the media, and there is obviously a huge demand for it. Part of what is so great is that there is something for everyone now.

Is Woody Harrelson your only male celebrity client?

Woody is someone I have practised with and I would say he is more of an inspiration than a client. I was around when he first started, but he really lives the lifestyle with his wife Laura (Louie), who is one of my closest friends. I do have male clients, but I am not able to disclose who they are.

Describe some of the skills you teach in your latest pick-me-up DVD Yogalosophy...

How to incorporate toning exercises into your yoga poses so that you get an amazing yoga workout in 30 minutes.

A few do-it-yourself poses that you prescribe...

Chair for leg strength and secure foundation. Boat for abdominal strength and strength of will. Plank for arm strength and stronger compassion.

You have replaced the basic yoga mat with a vision mat. What is it?

A vision mat is a collage of hopes, dreams and goals photographed and placed on your mat. I create one each year and the subliminal messages inspire me to keep going. When you spend an hour taking this in subliminally while you practise, it is amazing how many of these dreams come true.

Does yoga really help deal with emotional disturbances such as stress, trauma and fatigue?

Absolutely! In fact, I became yoga instructor shortly after break-up. Yoga has been a touchstone through my entire life. The yoga mindset of self-observation can be used in many forms of exercise. And I would like to bring that to the fore. Exercise can have meaning, and when it does it can truly heal many hidden parts of ourselves.

When is the best time to start yoga?

Now! Starting where you are. Not from a lofty place. You don’t need to be the most spiritual, the most physically fit, or the wealthiest to begin right now. Each day is an opportunity to love the body, and once you accept where you are, everything, all your goals... fall right into place.

What has yoga taught you and what is left to be learnt?

Yoga has taught me how to separate myself from the suffering. It has taught me to observe my own behaviour and that I have choices. I can repeat and go where I have always gone, or I can move towards the emptiness and the darkness and see what learning and growth that holds for me. It has given me connection to others and has opened the world to me. I have so much left to learn... I don’t even know where to begin.

Has yoga brought you to India?

No. But I am planning a trip next year.

Rapid Fire

Yoga means: Doorway to me

If not a yoga teacher, you would be: The artistic type

An instant-energiser asana: Wheel

An asana that should only be attempted with supervision: Headstand

Your favourite trainee in Hollywood: I love all my students

Your youngest student: Coco Arquette (David Arquette and Courtney Cox’s six-year-old daughter)

A gym freak that you converted to yoga lover: Jennifer Aniston

Your yoga mantra: I have a great ass!