Heart Therapy in the Water

ToeSox ambassador and international yoga instructor, Amy Ippoliti, has a deep passion and commitment to marine conservation. She has trained hard and traveled far to bring awareness to the importance of saving the whale sharks. We caught up with her for a Q&A session to learn more about her experience.

Did you get to touch the sharks? What do they feel like? We purposely did not touch the sharks out of respect. It’s important to avoid touching or grabbing any marine species for many important reasons. What was your reaction when you saw them? Were you afraid? My reaction was pure joy – I couldn’t wait to be in the water and wanted to hug every single one! (I restrained myself). Initially, out of caution and reverence, I used snorkeling gear and fins to sync up with their rhythm and get used to how they moved so as to minimize clumsiness. Over time I was able to free dive and move around these sharks effectively without fins How long can you hold your breath under water? It depends on how much I’m moving. When you exert yourself, more oxygen is required so you have to come up for air more often. If I am swimming to keep up with a whale shark or a manta ray, I can go for about 30 seconds. If I am completely still – over a minute. I am working on improving these numbers through training. How did you train your lungs for this? How did your yoga practice help you? I had a breathing practice (pranayama) where I’d use a timer holding my breath in and holding my breath out as long as possible. I had hit a plateau but then things really shifted after doing test shots with Taro Smith in the water. I’d get back to my cushion for pranayama and see vast improvements in how long I could hold the breath. At the pool I swam “underwater laps” trying to swim up to 50 meters at a time underwater without taking a breath. I’d do it with fins on (much easier) and fins off. My yoga practice helps me deal with fear, uncertainty and intense circumstances in general, so my yoga practice definitely helped me get through the full on endurance that was needed to be in the water for up to 7 hours a day. What’s the hardest yoga pose to do in the water? Oh, there are so many that are hard to do! Hanumanasana is really difficult without resistance – you can’t get the legs to split! Also Dhanurasana (Bow pose) is challenging because your lungs act like little floaters that lift your chest toward the surface. You end up flipping onto your back instead of your tummy. Then water goes up your nose, which is no fun. Did you repeat a mantra during this experience? Every morning on the boat as we made our way from the harbor to the open ocean, I chanted a number of mantras. It was my way of calling out to the whale sharks. I believe that is why we found such large aggregations of animals each day!