With Jennifer Aniston’s body making a feature appearance in the trailer for We Are the Millers and summer clothing now officially on our minds, the publication of Yogalosophy: 28 Days to the Ultimate Mind-Body Makeover by Aniston’s yoga teacher and trainer Mandy Ingber, is well-timed. Yet this new wellness book by the celebrity trainer—who also works with the likes of Kate Beckinsale, Brooke Shields, and others—targets much more than simply looking good in a bikini.
Ingber approaches wellness from a holistic mindset and posits that health should start from a place of deep self-acceptance. To that end, Yogalosophy is structured as a day-by-day journey into mind-body health and features yoga poses, exercises, recipes, tips on creating a healthy mindset, breathing exercises, and tips on meditation.
In this special Where Books+Body Meet, Ingber discusses her approach to wellness—and to writing her first book.
On writing and short-term goals
Books+Body: What made you decide that now was the right time to write a book?
Mandy Ingber: I’ve always been a reader—and a closet writer. Over the years, my story and my motivations would drive my classes. When I first began teaching spinning in 1996, my students insisted that I write a book. Of course, I had fantasized about it, but did not know how it would crystallize. As the teacher, I feel it’s my responsibility to keep expanding myself. Not only in my field, but to expand beyond the boundaries that I have placed upon myself. That’s my spiritual work, in a way. A book was very aspirational, but attainable.
Short-term goals—you talk about them as important to health and fitness. Why are they important and how did you apply them to your writing?
Short-term goals allow us to feel we are doing well. I feel that when I accomplish what I set out to do, that makes me feel like a winner. Oftentimes, when people set a very lofty goal, it is difficult to measure exactly where you are along the way, but with short-term, manageable goals, we can mark them off.
I very much applied this principle to writing Yogalosophy. I set aside two hours each day to write. I had the outline, so I could use the template of the 28 days, and knew the basic structure of the book. I had a deadline, per my publishers, Seal Press. I then focused on the two hours per day. If I skipped a day, I simply started fresh the next day with two hours. If I had extra steam, I would still stop after two hours. At the end of four months, I had a manuscript. That’s pretty much a one-day-at-a-time process. The book then had the photographs. Then the layout and visual components. The structure. Each of these parts was its own little milestone.
What was the process of writing like for you?
I was very stream of consciousness. I did not try to be a yoga encyclopedia. There is plenty of great stuff out there. Iyengar’s Light On Yoga (the yoga bible), and many more. My book is an expression of my own journey. The yoga of self-love and self-care. That’s what I wanted to share with the world. Part of my personal experience is having been incredibly tortured about my body image, perfectionism and the yo-yoing that happens during a punishment/reward cycle of strict living and complete abandon. I have spent many years refining my own mental state about my body. So, it was not difficult. It’s a little challenging to trust that my journey is relevant to others whom I have never met; however, I learned long ago, as a teacher, that the students who were attracted to the class needed what I was offering. So I will assume the same here.
On yoga, fitness, and balance
You wrote Yogalosophy in part to bridge a gap between yoga and fitness. Can you talk a bit about what that gap is and also why it might need a bridge?
I get so much interest from people who want to bring yoga into their life for health purposes, to improve performance, to lower stress levels, and to get limber. Many of them find yoga intimidating, boring, or feel that they’ve somehow missed the boat. Or that yoga can seem lofty and exclusive. Or that yoga can seem slow. Having grown up in a home where yoga was practiced as a staple, alongside cycling, dance, cardio…etcetera, I understand what it can be like to feel like the odd man out. My dad made yoga look downright intimidating.
Many people want to explore the physical practice without the asana (or postures), while others want only the meditative aspects. My book brings together multiple modalities, because it’s completely irrelevant which one you connect with. You may bring the yogic mentality of mindfulness, intention-setting, self-observation, and wholeness into any fitness regime.
As a person who runs and who does yoga, I love both but do find their energy to be quite different and sometimes (for example) find it difficult to not bring inappropriate (and injury-producing) striving to yoga. Or conversely, I get into more of a yoga mode and feel like I’m more about just letting go, and then running seems hard (too “effortful”). For others like myself, any thoughts on how to balance those two sides?
I feel that within everything is the dance of polarities. Without the softening into, we would not have the emptiness required to excel; without the drive, we would not accomplish. We each have a balance from within. Yoga is such a great modality, because it is strength-building and energizing if needed, and calming if needed. My two main modalities are spinning and yoga. I learned more about yoga from my spinning than elsewhere. Finding the stillness in the center of all that movement. That’s a true stillness at the core. In order for the yoga practice to have clean lines, the energy must be dynamic, opposing forces creating active lines of energy. Both/and.
On a specific note, what are a couple tips you recommend to help protect your lower back and knees—two places that can be particularly vulnerable—during yoga?
Each person is unique. So, the best teacher is experience. If your knee joints are bothering you, that is not a pain to push through. Sometimes Reclining Pigeon can be helpful by stretching out the IT band. Sometimes a lesser bend in that knee for a Crescent or Warrior Pose. Regarding the lower back, many times when the lower back is in pain, it’s because the front of the body needs a stretch. A simple lunge may do. If all else fails, massage. And if that doesn’t work…physical therapy. Do not give up on your search to feel comfortable and good in your body.
One principle you support in Yogalosophy is to love your body now—as is. Why is accepting yourself as is so important?
I always do better when I get positive reinforcement. When I know I am doing well, I do better! I say, with this one, why don’t you try it as an experiment. Try speaking only lovingly and nicely about your body. The only power we have over anything is the power we have over our own actions and attitudes. This muscle must be strengthened as much as any.
Acceptance is the key to all of my problems, as when I do that, my world of choices opens up. As for being motivated, have you ever had a lover who didn’t appreciate you? This body of yours is the love of your life. If you start treating it that way, it will lovingly respond. If you need punishment and threats to keep you motivated, what is going to happen when you start doing really well and being accomplished? I want to live an enriched and exciting life that comes from joy. Anyone with me?
You also talk about moving towards health “from a place of love.” How would you describe that?
Total acceptance of self and others as is. When I am coming from a conscious place of love, I choose better foods, I am happier, and I feel awesomeness.
You work with a lot of celebrities and on the whole I would expect that they have a lot more time to devote to working out. I thought it was interesting you actually mentioned time as a constraint for at least some celebrities (one was Kate Beckinsale). So with that in mind, the average non-celebrity woman is definitely hard-pressed to find time to work out: How should she prioritize that precious hour—or less?
Make this a date. Put it in your calendar. Have a dedicated workspace or class. There are plenty of online groups where you can get support as well. This is also your time to develop a relationship with you. You are the priority. A great way to work it in as well is to make a workout date with a friend and have a meet up there. Lastly, think of it like brushing your teeth and washing your face. Would you start your day without cleaning yourself that way?
You end up close to the people you train. How important is friendship to health and why might pairing up for workouts be good?
We can’t do it alone. We all need support. It’s one of the greatest pleasures, treasures and gifts of being a human. Having someone hear you, witnessing others go through and intense process and coming out the other side. These are absolute miracles. Working out really can be very deep and very fun. Putting your head in the right space is a must.
What are your favorite or most influential books—yoga or otherwise?
- Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman
- Seth Speaks by Jane Roberts
- The poetry of Dylan Thomas
- The Castle of the Pearl (a workbook) by Christopher Biffle
- Astrology for the Soul by Jan Spiller
- Strangers Among Us by Ruth Montgomery
- Earth-A Living Library by Barbara Marciniak
- Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch by Henry Miller
- Sexus/Nexus/Plexus by Henry Miller
- The Diary of Anaïs Nin
- Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz
- The Brothers Karamozov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
- The Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You by Dorothy Bryant
- The Story of B by Daniel Quinn
…so many books….
Mandy Ingber will be promoting her book in California, New York City, Chicago, and a handful of other places. Check the Events section on her website to see she’ll be coming to your area. Yogalosophy: 28-days to the Ultimate Mind-Body Makeover is available online at her website and elsewhere. You can also find her wellness blog on People.com and for E! and on Twitter at @msmandyingber or Facebook Mandy Ingber’s Yogalosophy.