Interview with Amy Ippoliti, 90Monkeys Co-Founder
Photo by Tony Felgueiras at 2015 Hanuman Festival
Amy Ippoliti is a yoga teacher, writer, and philanthropist. Through her teachings she bridges the gap between ancient yoga wisdom and modern day life. A pioneer for advanced yoga education, in 2012 she co-founded 90Monkeys, an online professional development school that has enhanced the skills of yoga teachers and studios in 43 countries around the globe.
Amy is a faculty member at the Omega Institute, Esalen, and Kripalu, and a regular presenter at the Yoga Journal Conferences, Omega Institute Conference, and Wanderlust Festivals. Amy will be teaching at the Hanuman Festival this June in Boulder, CO.
What inspired you to dive deep into the practice? How has your personal yoga practice evolved since you started?
At 16 I was disillusioned with the mean girls in my high school and the pressure to be in the “in crowd.” When my mother asked if I wanted to try yoga I jumped at the chance thinking there had to be more to life than popularity contests. As a young adult in New York City, I noticed that with regular practice I was less irritable on the subway and flew off the handle a lot less. The more I practiced, the more I wanted to learn. My practice went through many stages of expansion, working through injuries, and peaking in my late 30’s when everything I had learned and practiced hit a zenith. By that time I’d put in so many hours and gone through so many life challenges—I started to notice that yoga was helping me get through these struggles with more grace and ease. Now my practice is moving toward meditation and pranayama, and I only do the asanas that help free up my body. I’m not really pursuing asanas anymore. That said I still love helping those who do. It gives me a lot of joy.
What made you shift your practice more towards meditation and pranayama?
Most yogis, especially as they age, gravitate toward meditation and pranayama. All those years of asana have prepared the body to sit comfortably for long periods. Meditation and pranayama are rich with depth and insight. The stillness and quiet in some ways is more compelling, particularly with how much tech buzz we are exposed to these days.
What is your message as a yoga teacher?
I’ve always had a deep concern for the state of our planet beginning in high school as an earth and animal rights activist. Ultimately getting the message out about respecting animals and being eco-conscious was not that effective, so I became a yoga teacher. This way I could simply live as an example and hope that others would be inspired, and it worked! Now we know for a fact that people who practice yoga (and even more so yoga teachers) have a higher likelihood of living a green lifestyle with less meat consumption than those who do not practice yoga.
How does the dynamic between vairagya/non-attachment and abhyasa/practice play out in your personal practice?
One thing I’ve always tried to do is to find the sweet spot between having a consistent and disciplined practice and not being too hard on myself. If I miss a practice or take some time on the couch with a good movie or TV series it can’t be the end of the world! As a yogi it’s equally important to ask the bigger questions of life and go after a meaningful life as it is to simply enjoy life’s little pleasures. So sometimes you’ll find me getting after it on the laptop or on the mat, and other times, hopefully you’ll find me breaking bread with friends or going to theater.
What has been your biggest life lesson?
My biggest life lesson is to do whatever it takes to be happy. That means choose the people, the jobs, the activities, the stuff you surround yourself with, and the spaces in which you live, that bring a smile to your face and give you fulfillment and not to settle for anything less. Yoga is the thing that helped me most to do this for myself. In times of loss, grief, betrayal, and despair, yoga taught me that I have a choice in how I will react to my circumstances. Choosing happiness in every moment does not mean denying the difficulty, it simply means choosing the next step to get toward joy and well-being. After my first big breakup I took a sabbatical from teaching to “heal” and that definitely did not help! Staying connected to my work and staying in service has always been the better choice.