Far from regretting the change, she says it was the best decision of her life. American Lauren Imparato has spent years teaching yoga in the frenetic city of New York city using her I.AM.YOU. method. She will be leading the master class at the FREE YOGA BARCELONA by OYSHO event on 6 October.
When did you start practicing yoga? And how did you get into it?
I was working for a bank and I was running 100 kilometres a week. One day, walking through Manhattan with my boyfriend, I noticed that my legs were enormous compared to his. Double the size to be exact. I couldn’t understand it: I was running every day, I was swimming, playing basketball, eating well… Yes, I was working hard but that couldn’t explain what I was seeing under my shorts. When I said something to him, my boyfriend suggested I try yoga. I didn’t say anything and we carried on walking, but it got me thinking. I had tried yoga a few times with my mother in California, but I’d never been regularly. The next day I decided to try it out. I left work and I thought that if I didn’t like the class I’d go running instead. I drank a double espresso (I’d read that it helps you sweat… although it’s a very bad idea), and I put on my basketball kit – huge shorts that hang down to the knees and an XL T-shirt – and I went to what I consider my first real yoga class. I won’t bore you with the details of my first experience, but I will tell you that it nearly killed me. It was going so badly that I faked a cramp and left after 40 minutes, dripping with sweat. The following week, still aching from the intensity of that class, I went back. This time I survived, and I returned three days later. Then the following day I was back, then the next and the next… Very soon I was doing yoga seven days a week.
What changes did you start to notice when you began practicing yoga? How did you get hooked on it?
After doing yoga every day, I began to feel incredible. In fact I’d never felt better. My legs slimmed down, my abdominals and my arms strengthened and all the injuries I had suffered over the years playing sports and overworking disappeared. I had more energy than normal (even though I already have very high energy levels), and I felt like I was floating through the city, at work, in my life… I bought a yoga mat and I began to take it with me wherever I went: to the country, on business trips, to the beach… My daily yoga had become an addiction!!
When did you decide to become a teacher? How did you get into it?
In 2008 one of my teachers suggested that I take a yoga teaching course. At first I thought she was mad. Yes I had thought about it, but as something for the future. Then came the financial crisis and I decided to take the course as a hobby. One of the assignments of the course was to teach friends during the week. We set up a group of five people in the loft conversion where I lived, but after a couple of months my loft was full and not just with friends. I realised that I really enjoyed teaching people to feel better through their own efforts and to celebrate who they are, both inside and outside. I realised that teaching yoga in the I.AM.YOU way that I developed – a mixture of the physical, philosophical and real – was what I had to do.
How did you train?
Practising. Studying. Practising. Studying. Practising. Studying. Repeating.
What is I.AM.YOU yoga exactly? When and why did you develop it?
On 15 April 2009 I left my job at Morgan Stanley, even though I had just been promoted! On 1 May I.AM.YOU was born. I.AM.YOU. is a lifestyle brand and a yoga studio in Manhattan based on yoga, nutrition and music. I.AM.YOU. offers courses in NY as well as around the world, it has a blog, etc. It’s about something traditional yet modern, funky and elegant, rock ‘n’ roll and academic, physical and philosophical… I started it because it was something I had to do. People need a portal, a solution, a way to learn how to be the best they can both inside and outside, in harmony with their working lives, religion and urban lifestyle.
What kind of people practise I.AM.YOU yoga?
They are the kind of people who love life: who love working, going out, learning, sweating and listening. They come to the studio for yoga reasons or for nutrition reasons, for detox programmes, wine tasting, music, or sometimes for everything! They are urban people who enjoy living life to the full and they enjoy every second. They are people who don’t want to miss out on anything in life, but who at the same time want to continue improving as people, both for themselves and for the world around them.
What benefits do you see that yoga has on your students?
The list is never-ending and could fill pages, but I believe the most important benefit is the opportunity that yoga gives you to explore yourself from inside – perhaps your most hidden inner core – and learn from this point outwards. Sometimes this is something that is simply anatomical and physical, other times it is more psychological, philosophical or spiritual, or even cultural or musical. I.AM.YOU. offers a 360 degree experience that enables you to identify what you need at that precise moment, at any time and in any way.
Have you ever regretted leaving your banking career for yoga? Do you miss anything from that part of your life?
I have never regretted it and I don’t miss any of it at all! My days are longer and strangely they are much busier than before, but there is no substitute for what I am creating and offering to people. Nothing can compare with seeing, feeling and hearing how yoga, through I.AM.YOU, helps people to feel better in every way.
Have you taken part in other events like to FREE YOGA BARCELONA by Oysho?
In New York I gave master classes to thousands of people in Bryant Park, and I was with Dharma Mittra in Central Park at the class he gave for 13,000 people in 2010, although I have never been able to teach yoga in such an organic event in Spain – a country that I adore.
What do you think these types of events give to people who take part in them?
FYB by Oysho gives people an opportunity to have fun that perhaps they would not have thought possible, to learn in an environment they don’t associate with learning; spending time with their friends sharing culture and the city, tradition and modernity.
Apart from yoga, what other things can contribute to a healthier and happier life?
Love life. Enjoy it. Share it. Nothing can give you more than a passion for life – not even a huge dose of vitamins, exercise, yoga, vegetables, massages or holidays. As my grandmother and best friend Chata says, “Love life and it will love you back”.
Free Yoga Barcelona by Oysho
October 6th – Arco de Triunfo de Barcelona
Free inscriptions: http://freeyoga.es/