Guest post written by Julie D. Andrews
When Jennifer Aniston’s Los Angeles-based yoga instructor of nearly 22 years, Mandy Ingber, tells you to surrender to the mat at the beginning of her yoga class, the phrase takes on a whole new (deeper and sweatier) meaning. After her 90-minute hot yoga session in New York City’s Pure Yoga on Saturday, I get it. You want Aniston’s abs and buns of steel? You’ll have to grunt and sweat your way to them.
Ingber’s hot class is unique in that it incorporates 12 exercises set to tone the body into the yoga session. Ingber’s “yogalosophy” (which she developed and coined in 2009) mixes traditional yoga poses with calisthenics. Each exercise was done for two sets of eight, with a third additional pulsing set. “Pulsing goes a little deeper to burn out the muscle. With those smaller, faster reps, you really feel the burn,” she explains. Ingber takes inspiration from the 1980s stretch and tone era, of leg warmers and thong leotards, and incorporates moves like the Jane Fonda-esque fire-hydrant leg (pulse that sucker for eight reps and you’ll feel the burn!).
After class, I sat down with Ingber, feeling amazing (with apple-red cheeks and my clothes saturated enough that they could be wrung out and fill half a bucket) to chat.
What’s different about your approach to yoga?
It’s light-hearted and open-minded. I don’t take it too seriously. Life is hard enough—exercise is hard enough! Yoga is detached in a way. It shows you that you shouldn’t let things bother you too much.
How are celebs like Jen different when they practice yoga?
They’re not. There’s no secret. Everyone has to heat up and sweat through it. I’m not here to feed spirituality. I’m no guru, and I don’t see myself as that. Spirituality is highly personal. But what I do with celebs is motivate to keep their workouts going. People need motivation on a daily basis.
What pose is hardest for Jen?
It may be plank. I hear her grunt with that one sometimes. Or bringing the knee to the forehead from downward-facing dog—the moves that really engage the core.
What poses does she like the most?
She likes sun salutations. Those are good for her arms. And she loves balancing poses. She’s very focused and graceful. She could stay in tree pose longer than I could! She’s learned how to stay focused amid a bunch of other stuff happening.
To learn about how yoga translates to other areas of life and what yoga poses are best for bad backs,
You mentioned in class that cat-and-cow is one of the best moves for backs. Why?
Cat-cow is extremely gentle and is fully supported so there’s no pressure on the back. Bridge, wheel and other backbends can put stress on the lower back.
What other moves benefit the back?
I don’t recommend any backbends or forward bends for people with back troubles. Any pose where you’re lying on your back is good because your back sinks into place on the mat and the spine can have the mobility it wants to have. Try hugging your head into your knees. Or try elevating your knees on a couch or chair in front of you while your back is flat on your mat on the floor (this is called wind pose some places).
Some of the moves in class weren’t for the yoga purists, you said. What did you mean by that?
We’ve taken yoga and adjusted it to fit our lifestyle. Most of us are not living in India or attending Ashrams on a regular basis. We’ve adapted yoga to our individual needs. There was a call to make yoga sessions feel more like workouts—something that leaves your butt sore after class. That’s nice. Then you know you really worked the muscles. That’s different than the Iyengar I did growing up.
How should you prepare for a hot yoga class?
Hydration is key. Coconut water or Emergen-C, the vitamin drink mix, are full of electrolytes to fuel the body and have nutritional value but won’t give you that full-stomach feeling, which can make it hard to practice yoga.
I was shocked at how holding warrior I and II such a long time made those standard poses so hard. Why was that?
What we learn in yoga class transfers to daily life. When holding poses a long time, you have to find the voice within that can move you past the quitting bar. You start to send a message to the mind. That voice within allows you to push through where you thought you could go. Cultivating that voice helps you in other areas of your life.
I’ve seen people suddenly explode into tears or laugh like hyenas in classes. What’s that about?
Yoga can trigger a hit and release sensation. We hold a lot in our bodies. When we get physical and start moving, old stuff comes up to be released. That’s part of the purification process. That’s part of the transformation. We all feel so much better after. The real teacher is your body.
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