Yoga's Healing Power: A Workshop And Discussion With Ally Hamilton
One of my favorite humans that I’ve never met is coming to San Francisco to teach a yoga workshop and talk about her first book, Yoga’s Healing Power: Looking Inward for Change, Growth & Peace, and I can’t wait!
Meet Ally Hamilton: yoga teacher, writer, life coach and co-founder of Yogis Anonymous yoga studio in Santa Monica, California. I randomly stumbled across Ally’s writing on her blog two years ago and have been hooked ever since. Her raw and honest words always give me perspective and can carry me through to the other side of any struggle I may be facing.
I was so inspired and moved by Ally’s writing that I added “Take a yoga class with Ally and give her a huge hug” to my bucket list shortly after I came across her—and I am so thrilled that I will finally be able to check that item off my list on September 30, when she visits The Pad Studios in San Francisco to teach a class as well as promote her book, which was released on August 8. Click here to sign up for her workshop and book signing. And by the way, The Pad Studios is offering our awesome SF Yoga Mag readers a discount. Enter SFYOGA - all one word in caps - to receive $5 off!
How to Apply the Eight Limbs of Yoga to Your Modern Day Life
Sometimes the yogi, in this fast-paced modern world we live in, forgets—or maybe doesn’t even know—that going to class and practicing asana, or the yoga posture, is just one eighth of what yoga actually is. The yoga pose is just one of the eight limbs of yoga, according to ancient text, the Yoga Sutras, believed to be written 1600 years ago; and in her book, Yoga’s Healing Power, Ally breaks down each of the eight limbs and teaches us how to apply them to our modern day lives.
Each chapter dives into different topics that relate to each of the eight limbs of yoga and concludes with journal exercises, a yoga practice and guided meditation. I am two-thirds through the book and love how she makes understanding the yoga path simple and digestible while lighting the way for some deep reflection. She also writes about her own life in an honest, vulnerable way that I really appreciate it. I’ve always been a fan of self-discovery, the practice of mindful and conscious living and her book provides some amazing tools for that.
I reached out to Ally to find out what to expect at her upcoming workshop, what it was like to write her first book and more.
What can yogis expect at your upcoming workshop at The Pad Studios in SF?
AH: We’re going to practice, sweat and laugh together, but we’re also going to talk about the eight limbs of yoga, and how and why they’re so relevant to our modern, busy, stressful lives. There are a few other philosophical concepts I want to share, which have been enormously helpful in my own healing process. We’ll talk about these things together, and I’ll also do a short reading from my book, followed by a book signing. It’s going to be really fun, appropriate for all levels, and for anyone looking to make a shift in her or his life.
What was it like writing your first book?
AH: It was intense and great and challenging and confrontational and very rewarding! I’d gotten very used to a daily writing practice because of the blog (blog.yogisanonymous.com), which I started in 2010, but with the book, there were deadlines and an editor, notes from the publisher, and so on. It’s a very different experience from writing a blog post for a few hours, feeling good about it, and hitting “publish”! Also, I wrote about deeply personal experiences and chapters from my own life, and those sometimes intersected with the stories of other people close to me, such as family members. I didn’t feel I could, or wanted to, write a book about healing without pointing to what it is I’m healing from, otherwise it comes across as preaching, and that’s not something I ever want to do.
What was your greatest challenge? And what did you learn?
AH: I think that was the most challenging part for me—my desire to not hurt anyone with my writing, but also to write from my heart and my own experience. I learned that the best way to handle it is to write your first draft without worrying about anything or anyone. You can always go back in and edit later, but if you try to write and edit yourself simultaneously, you’re likely to combust spontaneously.
If your readers could take away just one thing from your book, what do you hope that would be?
AH: We all have pain and experiences we’re healing from—the longer you avoid your pain, the longer you suffer. Better to dive in, face it head on, learn, grow open, and bring that awareness into all areas of your life. It makes everything simpler, and it’s the only way things flow.
What would your advice be to any aspiring yogi writer?
AH: I think sometimes there’s a pressure (real or imagined) that if you’re in the “spiritual community,” if you’re a teacher, or someone who works in healing modalities of any kind, that you’re supposed to be positive and light all the time, or that you aren’t supposed to express your vulnerability. I would say, the more you share from an honest and real place, the more you give other people permission to do the same. It also opens the door for so many people who feel alienated or alone in their process, like everyone else has this great, Instagram-perfect life, and they are just sucking at this whole being human thing. In my opinion, if you’re a yogi and a writer, you want to write with compassion and honesty, and in a way that’s going to make people feel their humanness without fear or judgement.
What really inspires you in life?
AH: My children top the list. There’s nothing like living with two small people to inspire you to try to show up as your best self every day, to figure out what went wrong when you blow it, and to try to do it better the next time. They also keep me present. There’s really no tomorrow or yesterday with kids, they are all about the right now. People who practice with me inspire me to offer up the tools that have helped me shift patterns and habitual ways of thinking in my own life that have blocked me, because most of this stuff is so universal. They inspire me to stay engaged, and really, it’s such an honor and a privilege when people unroll their mats with you. It’s a deeply personal process, you want to feel like you’re in a safe space, and that trust ought to be rewarded with the deepest respect and focus and passion you have to offer as a teacher and a person. This is going to sound very “yoga teacher”, but nature inspires me. My writing desk faces out a bay window, and I love seeing the trees sway in the wind, seeing the sunlight stream through the window, feeling the breeze and watching my curtains blow gently around, and there’s nothing that comforts me more than sitting by the ocean.
If you are having an "off" day what are you go-to quick-fix tools to help yourself turn it around?
AH: I’ve had a daily seated meditation practice since 2001, and that is my go-to place if I’m having an off day. Some days I need to hit the cushion a second time. I always feel better after my yoga practice, and if I’m still down, I grab my kids and head to the beach. Hard to not get it together there.
What is your current favorite yoga pose or sequence?
AH: I’m always a big fan of hip-openers. I love pigeon pose, it hasn’t let me down in twenty-five years. I also love kapotasana, such a deep heart opener. As far as favorite sequences, I love a good Series C, and I like to see where it takes me on any given day.
Come Join Me in Ally’s Class
When we are busy, stressed or trying to keep up with everything that goes along with living in the Bay Area, taking some time for ourselves to roll out our mat, set our thoughts aside and become present while moving our bodies in a yoga class can be just what we need. But what happens when we roll up our mat and head back into the world? Are we carrying our yoga with us? Because this is where the real yoga kicks in.
If you are interested in learning more about yoga beyond the mat—as a way of life—come join me in Ally’s workshop on September 30. I can’t wait to finally meet her and give her that hug I’ve been saving for her for two years. Sign up for the workshop here!