In addition to teaching an incredible class, the mark of a great yoga teacher is the ability to lead and attract incredible talent to his or her studio. Ally Hamilton does both at Yogis Anonymous in Santa Monica -- she lines 'em up for her classes, and her posse of teachers could very well be one of the best in the biz, with MBG-friends Ashley Turner, Krista and Brock Cahill, Felicia Tomasko, Charlie Samos among many other all-stars.
Ally talks to us about how she got started with her practice and what inspired her along the way.
MBG: You began your practice at Columbia -- can you tell us more about what brought you to yoga?
AH: I was looking for something to replace the experience of ballet, which I walked away from when I was 16 after 12 years of dancing. I had tried other forms of dance, and pretty much every class at the gym, but nothing was really doing it for me. My best friend (Tracy Bleier, who owns Saraswati's Yoga Joint in Connecticut) had gotten into yoga and kept telling me to try it, but I thought it was just sitting and stretching on the floor, and that it would not be "hard enough" for me. Hilarious.
How would you describe your style of teaching?
I teach a sweaty, mixed levels vinyasa flow class with plenty of room to play with arm balances and inversions. I do my best to convey the idea that we are using the body as a tool to explore the relationship we're having with ourselves, and to examine our state of mind and our tendencies. Most people would agree the world could be a more peaceful place, but it's pretty unlikely if we are all at war within ourselves. I love the quote "Wherever you go, there you are", and think at the core of any spiritual practice is one idea, "know yourself". I think self-reflection is imperative, so that we can all be accountable for the energy we're spreading. I also believe there is enormous potential for healing through a consistent yoga practice, and that's what I'm most interested in...creating an environment where healing is likely to occur. I think it's a very powerful thing that we spend time on the mat, and that it's an internal experience, but that it ultimately leads to a deep connection with everyone and everything, and a deep desire to spread more love. I also encourage people who practice with me for any length of time to explore the other seven limbs of the practice.
Who has inspired your practice?
I've been really fortunate to study and train with some amazing teachers. Dharma Mittra, Baron Baptiste, Bryan Kest, Shiva Rea, Saul David Raye, Max Strom and Jorgen Christiansson have all had a huge impact on me, and many of them remain sources of inspiration. I'm also inspired by the people I teach with at our studio. Everyone has special gifts and insights, and I love being a student even though I've been teaching for 16 years.