Jennifer Aniston’s LA yoga teacher of 15 years and life long friend Mandy Ingber shares what she has learnt is the key to a healthy life and how she teaches her celebrity clientele
Jennifer Aniston’s fans were in awe this week when some lovey dovey anniversary posts appeared on Instagram. Actor Justin Theroux and the Friends star were celebrating two years married, sharing a smitten yet subtle selfie despite being a notoriously private pair.
Jen looks undoubtedly content, and has previously put her youthfulness down to having a giggle with her hubby (although we think her good genes definitely play a part). ‘I’m lucky because Justin is the funniest person I’ve met, and we make each other laugh’, the 48 year old told Harpers Bazaar last year. ‘Laughter is one of the great keys to staying youthful.’
Aside from Justin, Jennifer credits her yoga practise for keeping her body and mind in check. One could say she is a long-term yogi devotee and enthusiast, training with teacher Mandy Ingber for over 15 years. ‘When I started doing yoga with Mandy, I noticed many things’, Jennifer testifies. ‘My legs getting leaner. My arms getting stronger, and most importantly, I noticed an inner strength’.
The purpose of Yogalosophy is to give your workout a purpose other than to have a great ass
The two have become more than just yoga buddies, but close friends, with Mandy, who has also worked with Kate Beckinsale for years as well as Jennifer Lawrence, working on Aniston’s mind-body connection. By following Mandy’s ‘Yogalosophy’, LA’s most prized teacher has observed Jennifer’s growth into a more grounded, empowered and confident person.
What is ‘Yogalosophy’, we hear you ask? In Mandy’s words, the purpose of Yogalosophy is to give your workout a purpose other than to have a great ass. Within a book and DVD series, it teaches mindfulness, celebration of the body and self love with the intention of incorporating it into not only exercise, but every day life.
It is reported that Jennifer even takes the DVD, Yogalosophy with Mandy Ingber, away with her on set and holidays. Like many other yoga hybrids popping up worldwide, the program combines traditional yoga poses with toning exercises, often with weight (not quite to the extremity scale of beer or dog yoga…). The routines, each around 35 minutes, were a creation based on the fact that Jennifer Aniston, as well as many beginners, wanted to feel like they had done a proper workout. Following this success, her 28 Days to the Ultimate Mind-Body Makeover book and latest Yogalosophy for Inner Strength: 12 Weeks to Heal Your Heart and Embrace Joy takes readers through daily yoga poses and hybrid workouts.
Despite her huge reputation and following as Hollywood’s yogi guru, and practising since the age of seven, Mandy tells Healthista yoga isn’t actually her favourite exercise at all. With a haunting history of mental health issues including eating disorders and a traumatic attempted rape, her growth into a healthy living advocate runs deeper than what meets the eye.
Mandy exclusively talks to Healthista about the importance of integrating self-love into every day wellbeing (and, of course, how she trains her celebrity clientel)…
Celebrity trainer secrets: Mandy Ingber
What do celebrities come to you for?
A celebrity might be looking to tone up, lose weight or shape up for an event. But what most people really want is to just feel comfortable in their skin. Often what they think is that if you lose weight, you’re going to feel more comfortable in your skin. That’s not always true. It’s really about finding inner peace and connection to your body and breath. That’s what I help people with. Celebrities are the same as everyone else and can feel very insecure about their bodies. We all need to learn how to love ourselves.
What yoga practise have you done with celebrities?
Kate Beckinsale was a yoga purist
With Jennifer Aniston, I would do 30 minutes of spinning, 40 minutes of yoga, incorporating some of my hybrid which is a yoga pose paired with a toning exercise. We would do some power yoga, vinyasa flow and then some yin yoga stretching, and then finish with the infrared sauna. We did that for 15-20 years, but right now I am taking a gap year from teaching. It’s been 20 years, so in this moment today I’m just taking care of myself and pulling back a bit.
With Kate Beckinsale, we did yoga about five days a week for around five years. She was a yoga purist [traditionalist] and we would do an hour of yoga flow.
I worked with Jennifer Lawrence before the second Hunger Games. We did a lot of balance exercise as I think they wanted her to improve on balance and agility which was important for the movie.
Do you think the celebrity body is achievable?
That’s an old idea. When I look around there are so many different types of bodies, shapes and sizes, even amongst celebrities. That really wasn’t the case when I was a teenager. The other thing is that each of us has a body that is our one and only, and for me, I really want my body to feel good.
So that said, a healthy fit body like Jennifer Anniston, or even like mine, is based on healthy choices which are absolutely attainable; A wholesome diet with low sugar and minimal processed food. My clients and I make sure we do daily exercise. I aim for seven days a week of training and normally hit five. Diet and exercise is key.
The moment you decide to see yourself as desirable, sexy and strong, your body changes
One of the best ways you can make healthy choices is to slow down and treat your body like the amazing gift it is. You are the sub total of the choices you make in any given moment, therefore having an amazing body ‘happens in the moment’. The moment you decide to see yourself as desirable, sexy and strong, your body changes. When you change the way you look at things, the way things look change. That’s not just a saying. I believe that to be true and it’s happened for me. When I started to look at my body in a different way things started to fall into place naturally.
How did your sessions with Jennifer Aniston make her feel?
She loves practising yoga and how she feels when she does it. In the beginning her body changed and she felt strong and healthy. She’s felt like her muscles are getting leaner and stronger. I know that she wants to be working with me right now – she just wrote to me and said she wants to do yoga with me so badly. I love her for that.
How long do you need to practise yoga for to start seeing and feeling a difference?
Some of my clients say just doing yoga once a week makes a difference. I don’t know if I want to put a limitation on that. I think you need to give things a good and fair try. I’d say if you give something three months that’s a good enough time, but if you practised yoga regularly you’ll notice a difference in the first month.
Reduced stress levels go a long way for shaping your body
What sort of results can you expect?
People say that yoga is wonderful because its about strength, balance and flexibility. Usually the results are a toned flexible body with good posture. Reduced stress levels go a long way for shaping your body.
What is the best yoga practise for calorie busting and building strength?
Vinyasa flow and hot yoga can raise the heart rate for cardiovascular activity, as well as spinning or hiking. For weight training, yoga is weight-bearing exercise/your own body weight. There is just as much strengthening. There are also hybrids like mine that incorporate weight.
No matter what you do, you’re burning calories. I do burn a lot of calories but I don’t think about burning them. It’s a counter way of looking at it. The best thing to think about when it comes to calories is restriction of what you are putting into your body. But I trust that I am doing enough activity to burn it off during the day. Yoga isn’t intensely calorie burning, but I find when you do the thing that feels right to your body you don’t really need to worry so much about burning calories. It just happens.
Is yoga useful for weight loss?
Yes, because most people don’t move their bodies at all! When you start moving and eating whole and unprocessed food, you start to lose weight – its a miracle!
What type of yoga do you suggest for flexibility, posture or toning?
It’s a process and you have to give it a chance
I don’t do or suggest one thing or another. I think you just have to try them and see what feels good for you. I don’t have a magic pill that you can take and feel a certain way. It’s a process and you have to give it a chance. There are so many different types of people and types of yoga, so you just have to give them a shot and see what works. I can’t give a definitive answer.
So is yoga your favourite exercise?
My favourite thing is my body and what it craves
No. Yoga is something that I’ve become known for because of the celebrities that have worked with me, but prior to that I was a very well known spinning instructor. I am a fluid person who really enjoys being physical and for me I don’t have a favourite. My favourite thing is my body and what it craves. My philosophy and how my training works is all about self love, so picking a favourite is like picking my mother over my father. I won’t say yoga is the answer to everything!
What does a normal day look like for you?
I do something each day physically. I’m not really stuck on what that is, I am very flexible. It could be yoga, spinning, dance or a hike. Today I am going to do a vinyasa flow hot yoga, but it could be any number of things depending on what I feel like. Right now, I do three spin classes a week, two barre classes, two yoga classes a week and three dance a week – I find choreography good for my brain. I live in Santa Monica and love to take walks by the ocean, and I love a nature hike twice a month with a girlfriend.
I’ve always been a physical person. I started off practising yoga when I was seven because my father was really into it. He’s always been a very good example of being physically active. When I was younger I would do all the high impact aerobics stuff, I grew up in the 80s when that was popular. I’ve always been a cardio person – my initial teaching started with spinning in 1996. I was a very popular spinning instructor. Then I decided to take some teaching training in yoga so I could become certified.
What is your philosophy on exercise?
My orientation towards exercise is not so much about what you do, but how you do it, meaning you do it daily and it’s an act of kindness and loving yourself. It’s not beating yourself. There is no set thing I believe people should do, and if anyone is telling you there is one way of doing things, they are probably trying to sell you something!
For me, my philosophy on exercise is loving your body into shape. My advice is just to do what you love. When you find what you love, you’re going to want to do it every day. If you don’t like anything yet, play the field. It’s like dating! Eventually you’ll find something you like.
Was there a time you realised self-love was important?
I grew up a perfectionist as well as anorexic. I suffered from a variety of eating disorders. To me, that’s really a form of suicide. Slowly killing yourself. I was always pushing myself so hard and trying to make my body look a certain way, be a high achiever – a type A personality. My career was going where I wanted it to as an actress, my body was the way I wanted it to be, the guy I liked liked me, I was making money and everything was so perfect. But I was very very stressed.
I was the victim of a violent crime… I could feel my survival instinct kick in and I fully felt that desire to be alive
At a certain point, the stress of holding on to everything lead to everything falling apart. Then, I had an incident happen to me which really knocked me to my knees. I was 22 and physically assaulted and attempted raped. My roommate was raped. Basically, I was the victim of a violent crime. When I was beaten, I could feel my survival instinct kick in and I fully felt that desire to be alive. In a way, that experience brought me back to my senses. The feeling of being alive and present became a top priority, and a sense of personal value.
That’s my goal – for people to celebrate and love themselves
I learned to love my body in a higher way. I gained weight and just started to accept my body as it is. I started speaking out about it. The self loving things I said to myself I would share with a room of people, 50-100, during my spin classes. I was able to empower all these people. Seeing the effect of that really changed me and I realised there is a lot of power in being body positive. That’s really my goal – for people to celebrate and love themselves, and that makes you want to move and exercise your body.
What does your daily diet look like?
My daily diet is varied. My history is that I was raised macrobiotically from the age of nine [a diet which attempts to balance the yin and yang elements of food. It aims to reduce animal produce, eat locally grown food and consume in moderation]. We became vegetarian prior to that. This restrictive lifestyle taught me how to think about food and lifestyle from a very early age. As a result, I have practised many different types of diets for lengthy periods of time. I was vegan for decades (when it wasn’t easy to be vegan – there was no dairy alternative in the ’70s and early 80s!). I went through phases when I would follow a raw diet, vegetarian zone, yeast free, vegan, pescetarian.
I found out that I had severe anaemia, as well as the MTHFR gene mutation
Bottom line, I have always had some version of restriction. One commonality is choosing whole, unprocessed foods. When you avoid eating foods that are packaged and are eating real food, you are eating optimally.
I have recently been informed about my body in a new way. I found out that I had severe anaemia, as well as the MTHFR gene mutation, meaning my body doesn’t methylate on its own and I have had to incorporate red meat into my diet after 40 plus years of no having eating red meat or fowl. I incorporate either red meat or dark meat turkey into my diet 2-3 times per week, which is all I have needed to get my blood back on track. I consume organic fruits and vegetables freely.
A typical day might be 1/2 cup to a cup of berries, green tea with honey and a cup of probiotic coconut yogurt for breakfast. Lunch will be a salad with as many greens and veggies: kale, radish, olives, avocado, shredded beet, carrot, sauerkraut, and 5 oz of salmon. I like sauteed yam, broccoli, spinach, bone broth and 4 oz dark meat turkey. I also drink fresh coconut milk and kombucha.
What do you enjoy as a treat?
I am currently really into the matcha green tea with coconut milk at Kreation. I am off chocolate right now because I am working with some auto immune issues, but that’s one of my favourites…dark chocolate. I also love dates.
Are there any foods you avoid?
Dairy, sugar and alcohol. I am currently avoiding grains because I believe they have an inflammatory effect on the body. I have always had some food restriction. It keeps me conscious. I am just not one of those people who can do whatever they want.
How does diet factor into your exercise and healthy living?
Diet is a huge factor. I think of diet as the nurturing, maternal aspect to health and exercise as the father energy. The foundation, and what you put into your body as fuel is essential. Everyone has a different type of constitution, so you need to learn yours. I was blessed with a very sensitive vehicle. Staying conscious is a gift, because I am constantly attending to myself. That requires a lot of self love!
Mandy Ingber, The New York Times best-selling author of Yogalosophy: 28 Days to the Ultimate Mind-Body Makeover and creator of the yoga-hybrid DVD YOGALOSOPHY, is a celebrity fitness and wellness expert. Her twenty years of teaching experience have attracted such clients as Jennifer Aniston, Kate Beckinsale, Helen Hunt, Ricki Lake, Jennifer Lawrence, Jennifer Meyer, and Brooke Shields. Mandy’s class has been awarded “Best of LA” in Daily Candy, LA Weekly, and Los Angeles Magazine.