Amy Ippoliti, renown yoga teacher based in Boulder Colorado, recently visited Seattle. Seattle Yoga News took advantage of this opportunity to sit down with her for an exclusive interview to learn more about her journey and her perspective on yoga and its evolution over the years. Here is our video interview with her:
Here is a full transcript of the video interview:
The start of Amy Ippoliti’s yoga journey
Amy: I started practicing yoga when I was 16. I went with my mom to a class. That’s a lot of years, I have been practicing. I think at that age I was in my adolescence, I did not know who I was. I was struggling with the popular girls at school. It felt like this oasis to come and just discover who I was independent of outside expectations and the pressure from girls. I was drawn to it like a magnet. I just wanted to be in that space of learning who I was through yoga, through asana. I was very much a body person, very athletic, into gymnastics, and that kind of thing. I felt like there was something much bigger going on than just the physicality of it and I was very drawn to that.
The turning point in Amy Ippoliti’s career
Amy: I would say that the turning point really was the very first night of the very first teacher training I took. I was 26-27 and I had signed up for the teacher training only to go deeper in my practice so I had been doing yoga at that point for 11 years and I taught you have to be in your forties to be a yoga teacher at least, if not older, and I had this impression that you had to just be this wise woman or wise man to be able to teach yoga. I thought that since I have only been doing it for 11 years… Things have changed a lot since then… but that was my perception back then. I really just signed up for the teacher training as a way to understand the philosophy more, understand how the body aligns, the breath and the pranayama & meditation, I wanted to learn more than what I was just learning in the 90 minutes classes I was going to. That night I just showed up and thought I am just doing this to go deeper and so I wanted to let my teacher know that it was my intention so I went up to her and said that I wanted you to know that this is for me to go deeper and I do not want to teach and she looked at me and she was like, she rolled her eyes. You are going to teach. Her strong belief in me was such a shock that she even felt that I could teach, that belief in myself coming from someone else enabled me to go “oh wow”, it opened up a whole world, “really I could do this?”, then I knew in every cell of my body that I was going to teach yoga. I am natural teacher, I have always taught even before yoga I was teaching things so I knew before the shadow of a doubt I would be teaching.
Rationalizing ancient yoga & modern life
Because of the studies I have done in yoga and they are so vast I mean you are never done, studying yoga, it is just an endless process and you hope that you start really young because there is so much to learn, it is infinite. It think sometimes in the 21st century, it is very difficult to look a these ancient teachings and figure out how this applies to my life, how is it relevant to me, there are ways in which it is relevant and there are ways in which it is not. There are very ancient schools of yoga and there are more modern ones from the last few centuries that you can really apply with much more relevance to your life. I am more interested in those teachings, more of the tantric teachings, which I find more relevant to the 21st century, they support 21st century living much more than older schools of yoga. Unfortunately, most of hatha yoga or asana-based systems are going with the really ancient ones, less modern ones, I am more in the modern zone. What is interesting to me is not to look at those teachings to have them be the abstract thing that you learn because you are supposed to but you think about: how is this supposed to make me more skillful in the 21st century and how does it apply to me in the 21st century so it is relevant to my life and I can life skillfully. I am very interested in how the yoga teachings make us live more skillfully whether that is being more kind to people around you, dealing with stress more easily, dealing with loss, pain and suffering in a more skillful manner, you bounce back quicker from devastation. You can make sense from the fact that we are in this natural world where we are really not in charge, to have that humility of knowing that we are not in charge, we are not the ones who are going to destroy this planet because we are going to destroy ourselves before we destroy the planet. Looking at how these teachings can help us live in a more interconnected conscious way on earth because we are at a tipping point right now with the environment. If yoga teachings can help us to become more conscious, to wake up, to show up and be more vibrant in the world, let’s bring it on. To me, if the yoga class can be more than just “Look, I can put my leg behind my head”, I am really game for that.
What 90 monkeys is all about
We started 90 monkeys a few years ago as a way of bridging the gap for yoga teachers between when they graduate from teaching training and they enter the real world. There are so many things: either their teacher training did not cover whether that was – and it depends what teacher training it was – they might have felt that they might not have gotten enough anatomy, they might not have gotten enough career coaching. They need to earn a living as a yoga teacher or give their students the right “customer service” – it is more of a corporate word – but how do you serve your students, it is not just in the yoga room, they are paying you money. On the business side of things too, to help bridge the gap, a lot of trainings don’t have that kind of module. We also have philosophy, as some lack philosophy so we have that – We fill all the little gaps, whatever you need, we have online courses for then we have live events. We have a school of training, we also have a 200h, a 300h and so a 500h for yoga teachers that is in house in the studio.
The evolution of Amy Ippoliti’s yoga practice over time
When I was younger, I was actually stiff during the first years of practice and I found that yoga made me tighter. I found that when I started learning alignment based yoga, I started to open up a lot more, I felt like I was straining my muscles in such a way that they were getting tighter but as soon as I learned alignment and how to stack the body I opened up dramatically up through my thirties. Up until I was 40, and now as I go towards the next chapter of my forties, I found that my body is definitely changing so I find that my practices are much more therapeutically based, they are not as full on active, I no longer stand on my head for example because of the neck, it used to be my favorite pose, tick-tucking, rocking around my head in circles, it is letting that stuff go and focusing on how I can feel best in my body is how my practice has changed. It is about: what do I need to do in the mat to make myself feel really good. That’s my priority , it is not about the forms that my body takes as much anymore, it has shifted in the last year or so and quite dramatically. And I am accepting that.
Amy Ippoliti’s perspective on yoga & age
Putting a number on your age can create funny belief systems. I am in my thirties so I should be in the prime of my yoga practice, I do think that the thirties are your prime for yoga, late thirties actually, because you have enough wisdom and understanding and your body is just open. I think that it could create too much of a mind trip: “oh I am in my forties or oh I am in my fifties”, this is what I should be able to do, I think everybody is different and everyone ages differently, more important is to recognize that despite some of the pop culture of yoga with Instagram, some of the festivals, that is very young and youthful crowd, it is certainly a reality of our culture but what is so funny about that is that it is actually a minority in the larger scope of who is actually doing yoga in the Unites states for example. You have people in their fifties and sixties with back issues, shoulder problems and neck stuff or dealing with cancer or have all kinds of things like degenerative diseases, they are coming to yoga in the thousands and pouring into yoga because their doctor said that this is something that would help your stress levels… That is the majority of who is doing yoga in this country but it is the unseen, it is not as hip and “look what is happening” – yoga teachers would be wise to get educated on how do you help special populations practice this art form because that is who is really doing yoga. Sure, the young culture – all the media is around that, it is not around the masses of people who are coming to yoga with therapeutic issues and special population problems and so yoga teachers get trained in how to help those folks because otherwise you are only going to be teaching this small minority, that is why the yoga teachers also will get: “there are too many yoga teachers”, “there are too many yoga studios” because you are all fighting over the same young
youthful bendy types when there is this whole youthful population that is so much bigger.
How yoga has evolved over the years
Yoga, when I started, was this mystical thing done in people’s living room with orange shag carpets and incense going, it is the impression of how yoga was when I started. When I started it had just become to be a bit more trendy and New York and stylish to do it. They were doing it in fitness studios and it evolved there in the eighties for me, then it became insanely popular in the mid 90s. It was discovered that Madonna & others are doing yoga. That’s when I actually went from having to ask my boyfriend to pay for my yoga books to being so booked that I had to say no to jobs. At that point, the practice was so traditional and the teachers that were in the know that had the knowledge to teach had been to India. They had been to the original teachers of that day and were sharing that with people like me and young teachers who had gone from yoga and this weird you-you thing and if someone asked you in the plane and you said “I am a yoga teacher” then they are like “ohhh”. Now they are like “oh, I love yoga” if you say that. I have watched it go from this fringe thing to this mainstream thing and even when it became mainstream, it was still quite traditional because these teachers were still the ones sharing the knowledge and in the last few years it has become so different to me, there is less curiosity about the larger teachings of yoga but much more focused on pose, it seems like we have gone from doing asana to get to that meditation goal – asana was always meant to be this thing that prepared your body for meditation but now it is almost like the meditation thing is out and it is about how many poses we can actually do and get good that. There is less interest in chanting, less interest in meditation or pranayama or these slower things. How during asana you can have a moment of enlightenment, even with asana, it has just become very physical, people are not om-ing, people are not using Sanskrit. I have noticed that and I don’t have any judgment around it. It is just interesting to me but I also see that the curiosity is coming back. It is like we have taken a turn, we have gone in this direction and people are like “wait a minute”, now that I have achieved all these poses, there must me more and now they are coming back and there is a deeper curiosity and that’s been very lovely for me. When people are curious, I get excited as I have things I can share and I find Seattle to be extremely curious, students are awake, they want to know and that’s been very lovely – particularly throughout the Pacific Northwest, up in Canada too, I have seen that. That really great curiosity. It is more than just flowing, breathing and sweating and doing asana which is great. I love that stuff but there is more. Do both.
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