Sharing Strength through Movement and Meditation
Mandy Ingber knows something about the experiences that break our hearts, how to find the inner strength that allows us to straddle the chasm of our challenges, and how to move in order to heal the body, the mind, and the emotions.
These are lessons she learned the hard way over a lifetime. Throughout much of her life, yoga has played a role in both the heartbreak and the healing. She says that yoga represented the breakdown of her family. It’s a story she tells in her latest book Yogalosophy for Inner Strength.
Sometimes our heartache can span generations; this is certainly the case for Mandy. Her grandparents were Holocaust survivors whose parents and siblings were lost in the war. Mandy’s mother Chava Luba was born into a displaced children’s camp in Germany, and after emigrating to America, endured all the intricacies of a non-native speaker. Mandy’s father Lloyd was a renowned lawyer, whose interpersonal relationships were challenging and complex. As early as age 29, Lloyd’s back would go out, forcing him to lie still for a month at a time. At the urging of his friend and gym buddy Dirk Benedict (of Battlestar Galatica fame), Lloyd engaged in a disciplined Iyengar yoga practice, started cycling, and ate only macrobiotic food (prepared by Mandy’s mother).
Mandy recalls, “For me, my dad was sorta self-obsessed. I was always looking for ways to connect with him. So, that’s how my practice started. I would practice on my own from the B.K.S.Iyengar Light on Yoga book from the time I was a kid.”
Lloyd’s fellow students included yogis like Erich Schiffmann, Ganga White, and Chuck and Maty Ezraty. He enrolled in teacher trainings, and the family had a yoga teacher, Keshava, throughout the 1970s. Mandy’s practice progressed privately with Keshava. The 80s brought her devotion to the gym, aerobics, and yoga. The first public class she enrolled in was around age 16 with the late Urban Yoga Institute co-owner Billy Porter. Soon thereafter, she continued classes with teachers including Alan Finger, Chad Hamrin, Baron Baptiste, and Bryan Kest. “I like the group energy of a class,” explains Mandy, “I love the feeling of being in a room full of people who are collectively bringing an energy. You might not even connect with a person, but you’re all breathing in and out with each other, so you become this one entity.”
During her parents’ tumultuous divorce, Mandy sought shelter in the safety of physical activity and the pursuit of a career on stage and screen. She starred in the original Broadway cast of Brighton Beach Memoirs, as Carla’s daughter-in-law on the long-running TV show Cheers, and sang the now infamous rap in the cult classic movie Teen Witch. When her friend and colleague (My Sister Sam star) Rebecca Schaeffer was brutally murdered by a stalker, Mandy’s relationship to the spotlight shifted. She jokes that she became her own sugar daddy, using the savings she accrued as an actress to change her life. “I learned a lot about trusting and not looking outside for approval, about finding my own inner strength essentially. That’s when I started teaching.” Mandy’s passion for both spinning and yoga inspired her to teach both disciplines. As she describes her spin classes, “I became a kind of motivational speaker on a bike.”
Participants were drawn to her honesty, encouragement, wisdom, and humor. Not surprisingly, she acted as a spinning shepherd to seekers during turbulent times. “Many people, both celebrities and the average person, have come to my class during times of transition: break-ups, people that are going through radiation for cancer, divorces, moving, job changes. While I was teaching group classes, around me the whole music industry changed, the financial industry changed. People were going through transitions.”
The most famous transition was when Mandy publicly served as private confidante to Jennifer Aniston during one of the most sensationalized break-ups in pop culture history. The rest of her celebrity client roster rivals the Oscar nominee list and includes Aniston, as well as Jennifer Lawrence, Helen Hunt, Kate Beckinsale, and Brooke Shields.
Throughout her teaching, she says, “I just started writing down the things I was using.” That writing resulted in Mandy’s first book, New York Times bestseller Yogalosophy and her latest, Yogalosophy; 12 weeks to heal your heart and embrace joy. It is a workbook to guide readers through change and transition. Mandy says, “Yoga is not just about asana and the practice; it’s about bringing it into our full selves.” In her books, Mandy discusses the transformational potential found while moving the body in asana, and she also includes practices such as journaling, listening to inspirational and uplifting music, and choosing supportive and nourishing food. She shares her own journey in the pages, as she does when she teaches groups and individuals. Mandy says, “I’ve learned that sharing myself, my healing process, and my pain is helpful to people, and so I encourage others to share too.”
When asked about her non-negotiable practice, Mandy quickly mentions meditation. She reflects, “I can’t just isolate it to when I’m by myself, sitting in the perfect position, the incense is going, and the Guru Gita is on in the background. Everything in my life is a meditation. It’s like a muscle, it’s like going to the gym. When you go to the gym, you lift the weights everyday, you get stronger. It’s the same with sitting. Then that muscle becomes stronger and stronger, and then everything we do—even in this moment—there’s a meditation occurring. This is the integration of the practice that truly allows us to heal our heart. In every moment, even this moment.”
Learn more about Mandy and Yogalosophy at: mandyingber.com (Instagram @MandyIngber Twitter @msmandyingber)
Jeff Skeirik is a Los Angeles-based photographer: rawtographer.com
Hair and makeup by Jeannie Jeffries using Kevin Aucoin Cosmetics and Schwarzkopf Professional Hair: jeanniejeffries.com