An Exclusive Interview with Amy Loftus – CA Based Yoga Instructor
1) How and when did you get introduced to Yoga?
My mom did yoga, and I remember mirroring her in halasana at a very young age-maybe even about age 3. During my adolescence, my aunt became a very serious practitioner and eventually a teacher. She urged me to go see Erich Schiffman when I moved to LA in 1997 and that’s really where it all began for me; “going deep” as she puts it.
2) According to you, what is a healthy Yoga routine and how often one should practice it?
Well, I can really only speak for myself and for me lately 3-5 times a week 70-90 minutes on the mat means I’m feeling well. There have been periods where I practiced 7 days a week, and periods where I practiced 1. It is up to the practitioner to do the deciding. I will say even to sit in a chair and consciously breathe once a day is a practice. To do downward dog once a day-that’s a practice. Because what I see sometimes is a sort of pretend practice made up of ordering props and clothes, and the subscription to the yoga magazine and talking a lot about yoga and making it to the advanced class once a month, and I call doing downward dog once a day and keeping it to oneself a deeper practice than that. And by the way, I can probably spot the pretend practice because it’s how I was at one time.
3) Would you like to share any kind of meditation with our readers to increase their energy level and mood?
I am a big believer in stopping what you’re doing and dropping into pranayama to restore energy. I also believe breathing deeply can radically and rapidly transform negative emotion into constructive experience or awareness. I teach Vinyasa now, but when I was trained to teach Hot Yoga (Bikram) I learned to do Kapalbhati, which is a repetitive blowing, through the mouth or nose while engaging Mula Bandha (root lock). Of course most importantly is filling the belly on the inhale and sharply pressing the navel to the spine on every exhale. Normally this is done at the end of class in Vajrasana however I tell my students to do this in traffic-why not? If you can direct your awareness inward and transform your agitation, you’re participating in sending a healing vibration out into the city, instead of just more negative emotion. And let me tell you, we need that here in LA out on the 405! I am all for bringing yoga into daily life all day long. If you’re doing advanced poses perfectly, and walking into your office and yelling at your assistant, yoga has not made it into your life yet. You’re really just a gymnast.
4) Can you brief us about some poses or breathing exercises that help us to maintain a healthy body?
I am a big fan of trikonasana and all twists. Twists are wonderful for digestion, which is a major part of our overall wellness. Lots of headaches, fatigue, and other simple maladies can be traced back to poor digestion and dehydration. Inversions of all kinds are extremely beneficial to the circulation system and to building and maintaining a healthy immune system. Headstand and shoulderstand improve blood flow to the endocrine glands. Yoga masters call it the squeezing and soaking system. When the chin is tucked in shoulder stand for instance, there is gentle pressure on the throat “squeezing” out stale blood and upon release, soaking the area with new immune cells and flooding it with blood and regulating function. I could actually just go on and on….
5) What are some of the benefits that you have enjoyed through Yoga?
I give yoga all the credit for keeping me off conventional medicine. I take 1,000 mg of vitamin C when I remember. That’s about it! I simply remain healthy. I get an annual clean bill of health, year after year, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I had a cold. In my early twenties, like so many are, I was definitely a candidate for anti-depressants, and the panic attacks and anxiety absolutely vanished through breathing exercises and yoga. Of course this took years, but it worked. Yoga is not a quick fix. It is a long term solution. That is why so many reach for the pills. They don’t want to do the work. They want to be a mechanism and not a human. I say keep those bottle of pills full and use them for percussion instruments-make some music with them and go to yoga. Yoga has given me the gift of accepting myself for being human. I have sat in hip openers and released deep grief, sobbing. I am not ashamed of that. I openly share that and encourage my students to do the same. It is part of the human experience. Now that my life is more stable, I would say I now experience a sense of increasing awareness of my own path and life, and an ability to forgive easily. I call it becoming a Jedi, for those Star Wars fans out there. I’m finding my inner Yoda.
6) Can you tell our readers about some of the techniques to increase the health benefits of Yoga?
I would say becoming mindful of your water intake is crucial. I believe in drinking half our weight in ounces of water daily. I also suggest removing sugar from your diet COMPLETELY. I believe white processed sugar (and organic cane juice or whatever else you want to call it, believe me, it’s just sugar with a new name) is absolute POISON. It is an anti-nutrient that keeps your body from absorbing minerals from the healthy foods we eat. And once you release it, there is absolutely no craving. It is the CAUSE of many illnesses including diabetes, if you ask me. But any doctor working will never agree because it is such a lucrative business they have been trained to believe that in moderation it is fine. I feel that is almost like saying that heroin in moderation is fine.
7) Do you think Vegetarianism is an important part of Yoga practice?
I think eating consciously is important. I really want to be a vegetarian, and I have been before, but I eat fish and fowl sometimes because I was raised on meat and I feel my body requires animal protein. I do believe there is a direct connection between sugar intake with eating animal protein. There are so many hidden sugars in everything that sometimes I attribute needing fish to having eaten sugars in things without knowing it. I like Kathy Freston’s theory: “lean in”. I do not suggest going to extremes. I think even to begin thinking about it is a good way to get started. To just open to the idea of being a vegetarian. I will say making your food your medicine is the way to go. Lots of fresh, whole foods that GREW in the ground.
8) What was the Yoga scene like in the early days in America and how is in the present scenario?
Well, I wasn’t around when it came on the scene, but I can tell you now, even in the past ten years, it’s boomed. I love it. I finally feel like I belong in the world somewhere. Because I used to feel like a real oddball.
9) Based on your experience as a Yoga teacher, what do you think makes a good teacher?
I think a good teacher is a student first. I learn a lot from my students. And I think a good teacher remembers they are simply delivering a message that is very, very, old, and much larger than them. A good teacher provides prana, and wouldn’t dream of allowing their own trip or drama to drain the prana of their students. And nobody wants to talk about it out loud, but I do: I consider a good teacher one who keeps dating and class separate. I was under direct instruction from my teacher, Diane Avice du buisson, to not invite a romantic energy into my classes because it is always at the expense of the student or students. I have chosen to follow this instruction for seven years and counting. In Los Angeles anything goes, and I see this happening sometimes. I just simply avoid teachers who are still experiencing what I consider to be a weakness in that department. And if a student expresses romantic interest in me, I just say, “time to find another teacher! Because I believe if you’re going to yoga for any other reason than to practice, you’re stunting your own growth”.
10) Any special thought that you want to convey or share to our readers?
Protect the practice, and the practice will protect you