Sara Ivanhoe is a bright star in the yoga community. Her DVDs, "Yoga for Dummies", "Yoga Live", and "Crunch Yoga", have sold more than four million units nationwide. She's part of the ensemble of instructors for "All Star Workouts" on FitTV, and she helps Dr. Drew on the VH1 program, "Celebrity Rehab".
LoveToKnow Yoga caught up with Ivanhoe between her travels to ask about her pursuit of a yoga philosophy degree, how her students inspire her, and her latest DVD.
Sara Ivanhoe Interview
Please tell us a little about your yoga journey.
I actually did my first Sun Salutes in high school, so that planted an early seed. I was lucky to have that practice when, in college, I started to face the same challenges that many young people do in terms of unhealthy lifestyle choices. I knew I needed to find a way to stay healthy for a lifetime, and yoga was already my practice, so I dove in.
The more I did yoga, the more I wanted to do it, learn about it, and eventually pass on what I had learned. It was a natural progression for me.
Yoga wasn't "cool" when I started teaching; I had to convince gyms that they should have yoga available at all. It was a funny time, and now it's interesting to watch the way yoga has grown. So fun to see people take to it and jump on the path. The more people do yoga, the better for all of us!
You've recently completed a yoga philosophy program. What did that entail, and how has the knowledge expanded your practice and your teaching?
LMU is a legitimate scholastic program. We study Sanskrit, the Vedas and all the yogic scriptures. It is essentially half of a master's degree, and if one were to do it full time, it would take a year. I was working, so it took me five years!
It's hard to know how the knowledge helped my teaching, as it is just a part of me. Mostly I would say that an idea gets planted, one gets excited about a certain aspect of the scriptures, and then it becomes part of a class theme.
I really recommend this kind of study to people who are feeling creatively challenged in their teaching. The scriptures remind us that yoga is not a physical practice, but a spiritual journey. We use postures to take us there, but the postures are not the goal. Studying yogic philosophy can make your yoga practice so much deeper and encourage you to practice when you are feeling resistance.
How do your students encourage you?
For some reason, even if I'm having a terrible day, I can start to teach a class and feel better. More than doing yoga, the act of teaching gets me out of my own stuff and puts me into service mode. Being there for others really helps me feel better.
The thing about students that is so amazing is how much they really do want to be seen for who they truly are. They really do want to be open, loving people, even someone who comes in constricted and tense, doesn't know me, and might be cranky. They can start to practice and open up. It's a testament to the magic of yoga.
What continues to surprise you about your practice?
The best surprise is that even if I take time off, days, weeks, even months, within a few minutes of doing yoga, I feel better.
The best part of yoga is that it can make anyone feel beautiful. If someone is overweight and out of shape and they get on the treadmill, they will feel sick from the exercise until they get back in shape. But with yoga, someone who is out of shape can practice, and within minutes, feel beautiful, no matter how they look. This, to me, is the best.
You often lead students on retreats. Why are retreats important, and what can students hope to gain by attending?
Retreats are important as they give the practitioner time to really get deep in the practice. When we do yoga and then have to bounce back into our normal lives, we stay a bit on the surface. It takes time to get in deep, so like anything else, spending a good chunk of time on something allows us to get in there.
I'm actually headed to a retreat to the Ojai Eco Sanctuary when this interview posts. Great place.
You've been featured in and produced a number of yoga media, but your latest DVD, "Yoga on the Edge", is a self-produced effort. Please tell us about it.
After having done studio work for years, I wanted to create a video experience that was a little more spontaneous, a little more alive. I felt constricted by the rehearsing and parameters of trying to create a "perfect" DVD. Instead, I wanted to create something that was deliberately imperfect.
"Yoga on the Edge" was created to be spontaneous and fun. I just had my friend point a camera at me and with no plan at all, I just started practicing. I make mistakes, fall out of postures, and I left all of that in when editing so people would know that I'm a real person, too, and it's ok to just be human in the practice. The important thing is to breathe and enjoy the moment, and hopefully the DVD conveys this.
You're a regular blogger on Health.com. Why did this opportunity appeal to you, and how do you hope to connect with readers?
When Health.com reached out to me to create a regular yoga blog, I was excited and honored. They are a great magazine with outreach and credibility, but mostly I was intrigued that they understood the importance of a regular forum for yoga. The popularity of yoga has really grown in the last several years, and people want it to be an integral part of their lives, not just a passing fad.
What is your biggest "guilty" pleasure?
I eat dark chocolate every day at about 3:00 p.m. I kid myself that I need the antioxidants, when what I really need is the anti-depressant qualities of chocolate. It's unparalleled! So delicious!