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August 30, 2010

So You Think You Aren’t Changing the World? ~ Amy Ippoliti

My Journey Into Yoga Part 1: The Beginning

A shout-out to the days before sticky mats. We hope you enjoy this tickle of a post from Amy Ippoliti. ~ Angela, of elephant.

It was 1986. I was an exercise-obsessed 16-year-old working at the front desk of a New York City fitness studio in exchange for unlimited classes. My mother and I used to go to classes together in an too-keen attempt to stay thin, fit, and healthy.

On the day they added a yoga class to the schedule, my mom took notice right away and asked me if I wanted to go with her to see what yoga was all about. At the time we both knew yoga to be totally far-out, and way fringe, but I was open to anything and agreed to try.

The teacher’s name was Oonaja Malagon, and she was not at all like the other fitness teachers at the studio. To me, she was super cosmic, mystical looking, and way mellow. I was intrigued. Back then in the 80’s, most yoga was all “flow n’ glo,” meaning you would be instructed to come into something like warrior 1 pose, hold it (flow), and then immediately drop into child’s pose (glow) to rest from the “effort.”

At the end of the practice, Oonaja lead us through a guided body scan for savasana. I was lying next to my mom on a towel (this was before sticky mats!) and drifting off to the soothing sound of her voice, as she meticulously encouraged us to relax each part of the body. “Relax your jaw…relax your neck…relax your shoulders…relax your solar plexus, relax your abdomen…”

And then…

“Relax your genitals…”

I woke up.

And more, “Relax your anus…”

Oh my god.

I opened my eyes and turned to look at my mom. I mean I was 16, so in my head I was doing the Beavis and Butthead thing: “She said anus, heh heh heh.” And my mom was holding back laughter. We got such a kick out of it after class, (and to this day actually) having never heard anything like that in our fitness classes before!

Needless to say, we loved Oonaja, and loved yoga, and I kept going to Oonaja’s classes, eating up all the asanas, the self-inquiry, and mostly the feeling of engaging in a connection to something bigger than myself, which was helping me make sense of who I was in the world.

One day Oonaja disappeared and I have never seen her since. Thanks to social media and google, however I just friended her on Facebook and plan to message her with some long overdue appreciation.

It’s funny how many of us think we do not make a difference in the world with the small things we do each day…or that the seemingly fleeting interactions we experience have much merit. Yet, there is no question that both my mother, who urged me to join her that day, and Oonaja, who was my very first yoga teacher, helped to set me on a life long path, a path that as a teacher myself, is now planting seeds in others lives, for generations to come.

No matter what you do, your very existence is changing the world.

Stay tuned for Part Two of this story…

I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories of your own “yoga firsts,” so please leave a comment below.

Amy Ippoliti is an author, teacher, leader, do-gooder, and entrepreneur, Amy enjoys bridging the gap between ancient yoga wisdom and our modern lives. She has been studying yoga since 1986, and became one of the first certified Anusara Yoga teachers in 2000 after being to drawn to Anusara yoga for the artistic, heart and community centered teachings. Amy apprenticed closely for many years with Anusara founder John Friend on his national tours, and currently chairs the Anusara Yoga Curriculum Committee. Amy is widely recognized for her down-to-earth teaching approach, lucid instruction, and for assisting her students in achieving personal breakthroughs on and off the mat. Visit her blog or find out more at her website.

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