Q & A with Ally Hamilton: Balance, Backbends, Hip-Openers & Strength with Ease
I met Ally through Jason, where I meet a lot of my quality wellness friends actually. She has this amazing sense of ease about her that I actually incorporate in our 'guiding' at Strala. We're about 'finding the ease' whether the pose, situation, or movement is challenging or easy. If you can find the ease in yoga you'll find the ease in life, as how you are in yoga is how you are in life, and vice versa.
Ally is the embodiment of the values, attention, clarity, ease, and grace that I'd want in a yoga teacher, and a friend.
TS: When I first took your class, you had us building into forearm stand in lotus (which I hadn’t tried before). But with your careful instruction, I folded right into it without tension or stress. You have such a great way of guiding people inward. Do you have any secrets you can share on how you embody this sense of ease while remaining strong?
AH: As far as trying to balance the strength with the ease when it comes to the asana practice (or life ;-)), I have just found that the more relaxed I am, the more likely I am to find some balance. It's easy to get attached to a particular outcome (balancing in an inversion or arm balance, or trying to direct a relationship without letting it flow), but the more we grip, the less we breathe, the less we open. So when I'm teaching, I'm always trying to create an environment that feeds curiosity, and that allows people to just explore. I think it helps to remember that the poses are tools we use to examine the kind of relationship we're having with ourselves, to notice the way we show up in a challenging moment, and to hopefully use the opportunities on the mat to train the mind to be more loving and compassionate. If you have to face-plant over and over again to understand that, then that's just part of the path :)
You have New York City roots -- can you tell us a little about your time here and how you feel about NYC?
I was born and raised in NYC and I LOVE it. I grew up on the Upper West Side, and there's something about walking through Central Park, or down Columbus Avenue, or heading to Soho for the afternoon, or over to Lincoln Center, that just feels right in my bones. Now that I live in L.A. (which I also love), I have sort of a passionate love affair with NYC whenever I'm home. I also get to see my family and some of my closest friends, and it's even sweeter now that I bring my little monkeys with me. I feel like I get to introduce them to this amazing, vibrant place, and see it all again for the first time. Pretty rad.
Your day-to-day life is full with your busy studio, online yoga business, and your little ones -- what are your secrets for staying balanced and centered?
I do have two little people. My son Dylan is 5 years old, and my daughter Devyn is 2. They light up my heart and my world, and they keep me seriously busy. Being a mom is the greatest gift in my life, and the most advanced yoga practice I've ever done. My third baby is Yogis Anonymous (where you have to come and throw down a workshop, Tara!!), and we have a great time there. The community is awesome and warm and so fun and loving. And we do stream live classes from the studio almost every day, so we also have this global community of yogis tuning in, which is really amazing. It's definitely a very full plate, but it's a plate full of love, so I just do my best every day. I love that you think I get "everything done"! I used to be really Type A, but after 20 years of practicing yoga 6 days a week, I'm 93% recovered, and way more forgiving of myself. I also just feel so blessed, so I would say that's at the center of everything.
What do you like about heart-openers (backbends) hip-openers, and inversions?
There's an amazing energy when you open up the front side of your body, when you're living your life with your heart wide open. And I like to complement heart-openers with hip-openers, because the hips tend to be the place we store the stuff we're sitting on (those "shadow" emotions -- rage, despair, loneliness, shame, fear, doubt, jealousy, old relationships), and it takes SO much energy to repress that stuff, or to feed an old story. Anything along those lines will deplete a person of their energy, and their ability to shine as brightly as they could, to really lead with their heart. So I like to pair them up. I also love teaching inversions because I think it's a safe way for a person to examine and overcome fear (safely!)