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A conversation with Amy Kreger-Boynton

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Maybe it's the yoga that keeps 33-year-old Amy Kreger-Boynton so flexible. As the health-and-wellness director for the YMCA of both Wilmerding and Braddock, she's often required to bend the laws of physics and be in two places at once, keeping the gyms staffed and safe, helping folks get onto sliding-scale fee schedules, handing out fliers -- and knocking on doors to let people know about the gyms.

How did you get to be a fitness maven? Are you a jock from way back?

Oh, no no no no no!! I had big Coke-bottle lenses, and when you wear glasses you will find that any object that's thrown, it's usually thrown directly at them. I had no hand-eye coordination, I was chosen last for everything in gym class. Gym was torture. I was a writer, I was an artist, you know, I was alternative. I was not a jock, hated the jocks, wished they would all perish.

Where did yoga come in?

When I was 13, I picked up a book on yoga. It said, "It's going to improve your balance." I thought, "I don't want to be a klutz anymore, I don't want to walk into a store and have my mother grab me by the shoulders and say, 'Don't touch anything.'" So I started studying yoga at 13 and I noticed that I felt better. Like if I had practiced yoga that day, I didn't get as tired, I didn't feel exhausted, I wasn't as depressed. What's making me feel better? Oh, it's the yoga.

So how did you make fitness your life's work?

While I was at CCAC, I took a class offered by a personal trainer. The class was an eye-opener. The idea of a career has always sort of revolted me, but somebody said to me, "If you're thinking about careers, you need to think about what would you do every day, the rest of your life, regardless of whether you were paid to do it." There was only one thing I would do every day for the rest of my life without getting paid for it, and that was working out. So it was kind of like a revelation -- not just like a light bulb but a floodlight!

What do people misunderstand about fitness?

I was watching The Biggest Loser the other day -- not by choice! -- and I was looking at the female personal trainer. I was like, "Is this the image that America has of what it means to be a fitness professional? Implants and liposuction-etched abs? How terrible, how tragic!" No wonder America leans back on the couch and changes channels. That's awful. The idea that fitness only belongs to really wealthy, really good-looking people is criminal. It is my personal goal to help people understand that regular workouts are as vital to preventative care as washing your hands, brushing your teeth, getting your shower in. Getting your workout in: It's just part of that routine.

I notice you're wearing pentagrams on your earrings -- are you Wiccan?

I was called to serve the Lord and Lady when I was 13. I am not Wiccan: I tell people that I'm a witch because they understand that. I would consider myself more of a shaman. I observe the festivals. I am independent. I am not part of a coven. I'm more spiritual than religious.

You were 13 when you discovered yoga, too. Is there a connection?

There is a spiritual component to yoga, but it's not really compatible with the Lord and Lady. The spiritual side of yoga is Hindu, and while I have no beef with the Hindu gods, the philosophy of yoga appeals to me much more than the spirituality. I think it was two rising elements that converged. The practice of yoga does not require a commitment to a religious devotion. To practice yoga simply requires a philosophy -- primarily nonviolence, reciprocity, do unto others ... pretty standard!

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