Sunday, February 21, 2010


I've never really been one for group fitness classes. In fact, I went about 26 years before I took one. And I had no idea just how lucky I was that my first one was with Mandy Ingber. Mandy and I met through unusual circumstances- at a support group shortly after our fathers passed away. Although the support group didn't work out as I had hoped, meeting Mandy was a huge gift from the whole experience. She was teaching at YAS in Venice at the time that we became acquainted and this was just the push I needed to finally give yoga a try.

With everything going on emotionally surrounding my father's death, I figured giving yoga a try wasn't going to be a bad thing. I found that I really enjoyed yoga and I loved taking Mandy's classes. It was focused heavily on humor, patience, fun and really accepting your body as it was and for exactly what it could do in the moment. Never having done yoga before, I was a little apprehensive, but I was really happy to find that the classes were taught in such a way that you could just do whatever you could. Modified poses were always shown so if you were more advanced you could do something a little more challenging, and if you were just starting out, you never felt like you were far behind. Instead, you felt inspired and excited to work up to the more advanced poses. And Mandy had such a welcoming and fun way about her that at times, you almost forgot you were in a yoga class. Even more exciting, she even persuaded me to give her spin class a try- something I really thought I'd never do!

Spin is an entirely different beast and I wasn't sure I could hang. But with great advice from Mandy right before my first class- "Just sit in the saddle the whole time if you need to. My first time spinning I never got up out of the saddle once."- I managed to feel accomplished at the end when I not only pedaled the entire time, but managed to get out of the saddle even for a moment!

The few times that I went to Mandy's class and there was a substitute, I was disappointed that she wasn't there. I get that each teacher has their own individual style, I had just adapted so well to Mandy's. Even though I didn't go to Mandy's yoga and spin with strict regularity, I was very very bummed when she stopped teaching at YAS. Mandy has an amazing gift as a teacher and I knew from the few times I took classes with other people, that there was just no way to ever replace her. But I knew there was a reason for her absence.

Having spent the better part of the past two years creating her amazing DVD Yogalosophy (which you can buy here on Amazon or here on her website), she's slowly coming out of hiding to get back to teaching group yoga classes. I've spent the past couple of months doing her DVD and have loved getting back into yoga.

I was beyond excited when I saw Mandy was teaching a free yoga class at Lululemon in Brentwood. I signed up a few weeks in advance and despite some moments of anxiety about working out in a group setting, I walked in the door earlier today and was so happy to be taking Mandy's class. It'd been quite a while since I had seen Mandy, but as she was making the rounds, I gave her a quick hug hello and sat and took it all in.

First, let me say the place was packed! I had never been to a class at Lululemon before, but I have to imagine that this was probably one of the most attended classes they'd ever seen. I sat next to a woman who had never taken a class of Mandy's before and only happened upon Lululemon by chance- not wanting to drive all the way to Hollywood for a yoga class she often went to. All she knew was the buzz that "Jennifer Aniston's yoga instructor is teaching the class." I filled her in a little bit about Mandy's amazing gift for teaching and assured her that while it would be challenging, she'd be able to go at her own pace and just do whatever she could.

I sat back, stretched and watched Mandy work her magic around the room which was getting more and more full! Almost every single person was greeted by Mandy. As she crouched down by the top of their mat, she'd introduce herself and ask if there was anything she needed to know about their body. (As an aside, my favorite reply was the woman on the other side of me who said, "Yeah. That I'm old!"). I love this about Mandy. I know other yoga teachers do this. I get that. But again, going back to Mandy's style, it's done so warmly and instantly makes you feel glad you're in her class.

After getting everyone situated and placed just so, the class began. And it was awe-sum. Any nervousness I had was gone. Any apprehension I may have felt in the past because of my appearance and being overweight wasn't there. Because I've been working SO hard for the past year that all of that just disappeared. Plus, because I've been doing Mandy's routine on a somewhat regular basis (combined with my own weight training and hardcore cardio workouts), I could not only hang, but do almost everything in the class. The ab routine was KILLER and most people groaned their way through it. So even though that was quite challenging, it was nice to know I wasn't the only one who struggled to make it through.

It felt so great to be able to do these moves that I had never been able to do before. The energy of the group class was amazing. And as always Mandy was inspiring and funny! Her musical choices literally made people burst out laughing (Purple Rain especially). By the end of the class, I felt fantastic- strong and happy and sad that it was over. As I walked out of the class, I thanked Mandy and left with a huge smile on my face ready to finish my day.

For any of my Chicago friends and co-workers reading this, Mandy's going to be doing another free yoga class at Lululemon in Chicago. More details here. Just scroll to the bottom. I promise you, you'll be in for a huge treat and your body and mind will THANK YOU for setting aside this time. You will feel happy, inspired and strong. Don’t walk- run there!

I'm hopeful that Mandy will begin teaching more in the Los Angeles area and that we'll all get to benefit from her tremendous gift. But in the meantime, I will be satisfied with her amazing DVD. Full review to follow in the next few days!


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