& the Creator of YOGALOSOPHY
Mandy is a celebrity fitness and wellness expert, New York Times best-selling author and creator of the yoga-hybrid DVD Yogalosophy. Trusted by long time clients like Jennifer Aniston, Kate Beckinsale and Jennifer Lawrence, her award-winning classes and programs invite every woman to adopt a yoga approach to life.
I had the chance to interview Mandy, pick her brain on all things yoga and find out more about her upcoming book, Yogalosophy for Inner Strength. Do not miss her beautiful thoughts on strength, self-love and committing to consistent self-care.
Let’s start with your story. How did you find yoga and how did it transform your fitness journey?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles and my father was actually the one who first showed me yoga. He was a health nut and a cyclist and introduced me to a lot of other different things like macrobiotics at a young age. I say that maybe the reasons that you start something are not ultimately the best, healthiest reasons—but sometimes they just motivate you to get started. For me, yoga was really about connecting with my dad, trying to compete with his own fitness regime to get his attention, essentially. When I was a kid, we would watch this instructor Richard Hittleman on PBS. My father was really into Iyengar yoga, so I wouldstudy from the Light on Yoga Iyengar book. That’s really how I got started and I was never expecting that I would become an instructor. It just kind of happened. Growing up as a teenager and young adult in the 80s, the culture was so externally driven. I actually had to work really hard to come to a place of loving my body into shape. My body started to fall into place naturally when I started to speak well of myself and share that with others.
Beautiful. What’s unique about your approach to yoga and fitness?
I started off as a spinning instructor before I was a yoga instructor and I think part of my popularity had to do with speaking positively and being body positive. A lot of people are doing that now, but I really started it in the 90’s. People would come to my spin classes and say “It’s like yoga on a bicycle!” And I kind of did the opposite when I came to yoga. It was an energized approach for the person who maybe felt like yoga was too Zen, or they didn’t know how to relax into it, or thought it was too easy or boring. I tried to mix it up and bring a little more playfulness and levity to the practice. Also, I created a hybrid which was a yoga pose paired with a toning exercise, which is what I teach in my first Yogalosophy DVD and 28-day mind/body makeover book. It’s more bite-sized and user-friendly than the traditional Sanskrit yoga approach. I know when I was a kid I felt a little intimidated by my father’s practice and by this whole new language. I really wanted to offer people the feeling of being able to be a yogi without having to fully learn a new language. The same with teaching spinning actually. I wanted people to feel like athletes without having to devote their entire life to training. It really is about integrating the mentality of a yogi or the mentality of an athlete into all that we do.
I love that. So now that you’ve gone from being a popular celebrity instructor to a full-fledged brand, what business advice would you give your younger self when you were first starting out?
I think it’s always hard to look back and say, “Oh, I would have done this differently,” especially when I think I’ve done pretty well with the plan as it was. My advice is not to worry so much about the results, but just to follow your passion. I think that’s really the crux of being an entrepreneur. I have a tendency to neg out a little bit, being fearful of things and worrying about how they’re going to turn out, but what I found is that if I simply put one foot in front of the other and follow my heart that the next right thing always seems to pop up.
Wonderfully said! What does your brand Yogalosophy mean to you?
The name and the brand, to me, is about integrating all facets of myself and loving all of myself. Yoga itself is the integration of the masculine and feminine, of the dark and the light. I want to go even a step further and say it’s all of who I am that gets to be integrated when I bring yoga into my life, which means it’s not just my up cycles, it’s my down cycles too. That’s kind of what my new book is about. I think we get so attached to being at the top of our game and being super successful, that a lot of the time when we go through low points we don’t accept ourselves—even though those are the times when we source so much wisdom and creativity. For me, as a teacher, I learn a lot of my lessons from my down cycles. There’s nothing I can’t use, no event that I can’t take and spin around into a positive. So it’s just about accepting and loving life as it is. I want people to feel that way about themselves—to love all of who they are and not just the acceptable part. To me, that’s what it means. It means observing yourself through that whole process and making a great life out of it, meaning a rich life that has it all, light to dark.
Wow, amazing. Will you tell us a bit more about your new book? What inspired it?
Well, I’ve been through so many different heartbreaks recently. And I’ve been not only going through difficult times myself, I’ve also been helping the people I work with in their own lives. I’m sort of like a doula in that way. So with this book I wanted to share a lot of the techniques and tools that I’ve used to help other people get through transitions, especially now with this transitional time for so many people. I really wanted to offer that up. As I was saying about allowing ourselves space to be in the down part of the cycle and accepting that we’re not always at the top of our game—once we accept that, there are actions that we can actually take to get ourselves into more positive thinking. That’s what I share in the book. I also share my own struggles and I have excerpts from other women experts in the book who share their own stories and remedies for self-love and care. I feel like the world is kind of going through a lot of change right now and could use a little help with taking proper actions for self-care.
We can’t wait to check it out. How do the yoga routines fit in?
The routines in the book are geared toward overall balance. There’s a mood-boosting routine. There’s a calming routine. There’s a bouncing back from heartbreak routine. There’s an inner strength routine. And there are also playlists and recipes and journal activities!
Fabulous! So the new book is called Yogalosophy for Inner Strength—how does yoga help us develop inner strength?
It teaches you to be with yourself in the face of discomfort. It allows you some detachment so that you can see your process more clearly. Being able to detach yourself from your emotions and even your mental chatter allows you to see things like, ”Where do I go when I hit my edge? When things really start driving me crazy, where is my mind going? When I think I can’t make it through to the next level, where does my mind go?” When you stay in the discomfort of a difficult pose and you hang in there and you breathe through it, you actually breathe through that place where you thought you couldn’t go past. Then you get to see that inspirational part of your brain that brings you through and says, “You know what? This isn’t pain. This is just the sensation.” Or, “This feeling is actually the feeling of my body getting stronger.” You start to find those inspirational voices. For me, it helps me with not only my yoga practice, but with my business and my relationships. It allows me to separate from the part of me that wants to quit.
What are some of the physical health benefits of yoga?
The medical world recognizes yoga for reducing stress, relaxing your nervous system and lowering your risk of heart disease and cancer. It allows you to sleep deeper and have more energy. It also helps with the digestive system, hormones, the endocrine system and the nervous system. All of that functions more optimally. And of course yoga creates flexibility, which is essential to healthy aging. As we age, we want to develop more supple bodies. We want our joints to be well lubricated and able to move easily. Plus balance becomes more important as we age too.
From what you’ve seen, how does practicing yoga influence someone’s relationship with food…or does it?
Sometimes it does transform it for the better, sometimes it doesn’t. What I think it does really well is slow people down. It gets you present. When you learn to slow down, you become more attuned to what your body really, naturally wants. It gets you into a space of wanting to eat more nourishing foods that are just wholesome. I have noticed that. Also, certain poses, especially twists, are really great for digestion. A lot of the yoga exercises are geared towards targeting and detoxifying the internal organs in a very specific way. I think that definitely helps the body function better. However, if you’re just doing that and then choosing to eat chicken McNuggets afterwards, that’s not going to go down as easy. But I do think the mindfulnes aspect of it is a huge part of why people get into good shape when they practice yoga. I think a lot of times we choose those sort of fast foods out of old habit. Yoga resets people’s habits a little bit in terms of mindfulness.
That makes total sense. For those of us who are new to yoga, where should we begin? What advice do you have as we come up against that voice that says: “There’s no way my body can twist like that!”
I think that’s such a great question because we all feel like that in the beginning whenever we’re trying something new. The great thing about right now is that yoga is so beginner friendly. Everybody is trying it. There are so many great classes for beginners and I think that a lot of studios are now more interested in the beginner than ever. I suggest searching for some basic classes online and I definitely recommend letting the teacher know that you’re new. There’s so much variety in yoga—the hard part is finding the yoga that works for you. Try six different classes and teachers. It can be almost like taking yourself on a date once a week and just testing it out, because you might not like one yoga class, but then another one might be great.
Do you compliment your yoga practice with other workouts?Is it possible to be in great shape with just yoga?
It is—there are a lot of people who only practice yoga and are in great shape. There are some yoga classes that are extremely challenging that I can barely do. But I personally believe in balance in all ways. I’ve always practiced multiple modalities. As I mentioned I was originally a spinning instructor. I love spinning. I also like walks, hiking, barre classes, dance classes, lightweights, hot yoga. For me, it’s just a matter of moving your body daily for an hour. I think mixing it up is great because it keeps me interested and it keeps me fresh, but if you are the kind of person who likes to be consistent and do one thing and yoga is your thing, absolutely. But, for instance, a yin yoga class, which is just a stretching class—that’s not going to get you into the best cardiovascular shape. But there are cardiovascular types of yoga like a Vinyasa flow class or a power yoga. That’s going to work your heart a little bit more. Even if you do practice just yoga, you might want to mix up the styles of yoga that you’re taking.
What are the benefits of a one-on-one session versus a class?
Back in the 60’s and 70’s, there were no yoga classes. It was all one-on-one. Because everyone’s body is so different it’s great to have someone tell you what to do exactly for your body structure, but I really like a yoga class because I love to lose myself in the group. I think that you can pick up a lot from watching other people in different positions. You get a whole range of ideas of what different bodies do. And I love the idea of people taking classes from a variety of teachers because different teachers have different levels of experience, and also learn different things from practicing.
Fab! Okay, so many of us look at celebrities and think they must have something we don’t. We at Divine Living of course don’t buy it. As someone who works with A-listers, in your opinion, what does it take for a woman to demand that level of health and wellness for herself?
What I always tell people is no matter how famous you are, no matter how in love you are, no matter how much money you have in the bank—and thoseare all great things that we all want to have—but no matter what, we’re all to some degree on a level playing field when it comes to our bodies because we all have a body that we have to take care of. The celebrities that people admire, they still have to put in the work just like anybody else. Now I will say that I think that the difference is, when you’re a celebrity it’s kind of like everyday is your wedding day. All eyes are going to be on you. So there’s not room to get in and out of shape the way a lot of people do. I think that consistency is a big part of what these ladies have going for them. My private clients, they schedule in time to work with me and take care of themselves like it’s an appointment or an important meeting. I think that the same kind of commitment on a daily basis is really important if you want to be in that kind of shape. You have to commit to it. While the average woman might not be able to pay me to come over and do that with them, what they can do is schedule it in their book to do their workout or to go to their yoga class. The reality is that you can’t really shortcut your way out of it. We all have to do the same stuff.
This twelve-week wellness program includes five exercise routines for strength, happiness and cardiovascular health, as well as meditations, recipes, playlists and rituals designed to support the healing of the heart and build lasting resilience.