Ally Hamilton is the founder of YogisAnonymous.com, an online yoga studio. She is a popular international yoga teacher and life coach whose passion is to empower everyone to live their best lives. Ally is the best-selling author of Yoga’s Healing Power: Looking Inward for Change, Growth and Peace and Open Randomly: Fortune Cookies for the Soul, and her work has also appeared in the Huffington Post, MindBodyGreen, LA Yoga Magazine, and Belief.Net.
HOW HAVE YOU COME TO LOVE / APPRECIATE YOUR BODY?
It took a really long time for me to get to a place where I love and appreciate my body. I fell into the typical trap most young girls and women do in our society, and for years I thought my value as a person was based on my appearance. I think it’s accurate to say I was struggling with anorexia for much of high school, and continued to have a difficult time developing a healthy relationship with my body and with eating in a nurturing and sustainable way for years after. I was constantly restricting my food intake and never feeling like I was thin enough, pretty enough, good enough…until I’d finally had enough with all that. When I started a consistent yoga practice, things began to shift. I started to think more carefully about what I was eating and also why I was eating. The “what” was an education - I had never thought about food as a way of nurturing myself and giving my body some good fuel. I spent a lot of time experimenting with what worked for me and also thinking about the impact my food choices had on the environment around me. I’ve been vegetarian for years. I spent about eight years as a vegan, no butter, no eggs, etc, but when I got pregnant that just didn’t work for me so I started eating a little dairy and occasional fish. It’s an ongoing process, we change, and sometimes we need to change what we eat to support ourselves through those changes. I think what you feed yourself is incredibly personal and I don’t ever tell anyone how or what to eat. We have so much shaming in our society - people shame each other over everything, and I think women take an especially hard beating in that department. I think the most important thing is to consider food as a part of your philosophy. If you’re feeling good about yourself you’ll want to feed yourself well. I don’t eat anything with fifteen syllables or ingredients I can’t pronounce. I go organic for almost everything when possible. I see how I feel when I eat certain things and go from there. It’s also good to notice when and why you’re eating - are you hungry? Lonely? Bored? Sad? Longing? I will say that my relationship with my body changed a lot when I got pregnant. I don’t think that’s the only way to recognize how amazing the human body is, it’s just for me, personally, I looked at my body and its capabilities with a whole new respect and even some awe.
WHAT IS YOUR SOUL'S PURPOSE, YOUR UNIQUE GIFT TO THE WORLD?
I think I’m good at making an ancient practice relatable and accessible to people who might not think they’d be interested in yoga. I’ve learned and grown so much from my yoga practice, it’s the foundation of every amazing thing in my life and I have a lot of passion for sharing the tools that have helped me create a life I love, pursue my creative endeavors, overcome unhealthy patterns in so many areas, mother in a way that feels really good to me, and experience a happy, healthy, fulfilling relationship. I think you know what your gifts are and how you ought to be spending your time when you find yourself immersed in something so much, you sort of forget yourself. I’ve always loved to write - I started my first memoir at age nine, though thankfully that one will never see the light of day, haha. I continued to write throughout all my schooling and eventually did an English major at Barnard College (though I kept swapping English and Psychology as majors until I finally had to declare). During my senior year at Barnard, I took a yoga class that kicked my ass and kept me going back for more. After I’d been practicing yoga for a few years, I realized things were starting to shift for me and I was feeling these new feelings that I was eventually able to identify as joy, gratitude, and peace. Psychology has always fascinated me - the way a mind works, the things a person says or does, the stuff that motivates us, scares us, shuts us down or opens us up - all these things have always held a great interest for me, so it’s really no surprise that this is the stuff I find myself devoted to each day. My yoga practice helped me in so many ways; of course I want to share the philosophy, tools and ways of thinking about things that helped me make huge and meaningful changes in my life. I have a yoga-and-wellness website called YogisAnonymous.com (https://yogisanonymous.com/practice) and there are over 8,000 yoga and meditation classes there with new ones added every week. We started filming classes back in 2010 as a way of spreading yoga to people and places all over the world. In Los Angeles we have yoga studios on every corner, but it isn’t like that everywhere! I also began to realize as a mother of two young children who was also trying to have a fulfilling creative life and run a business, it isn’t always easy to carve out a couple of hours to practice in a day! So the site sprung out of this desire to make yoga accessible to everyone. There are my own classes, and the classes of an extraordinary group of teachers I’m thankful to call friends as well. I lead online wellness programs regularly, and I do one-on-one wellness coaching. I’ve written two books, one based on the blog I began in 2010 that’s part of the site - that book is called, "Open Randomly: Fortune Cookies for the Soul", and it’s a collection of sixty of the most popular blog posts that have to do with getting to know yourself, understanding why you do what you do, figuring out how to shift tendencies that don’t work for you, healing after heartbreak, creating boundaries, and so on. I wrote the blog for people who might not know anything about yoga (other than thinking it’s some crazy practice you do in a bikini on a yacht with your ankle behind your head - thanks Instagram!), and the other book, “Yoga’s Healing Power: Looking Inward for Change, Growth and Peace” breaks down the yamas and niyamas (yoga’s shalls and shall nots) and how they tie into our hectic, modern, pressure-filled lives in practical and profound ways. (Both available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Book Depository and wherever books are sold). I’m working on my third book now, this one is a memoir, but not a continuation of the one I started in fourth grade.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON SISTERHOOD? WHAT DO YOU WISH OTHER WOMEN WOULD REMEMBER?
I think women supporting women is something we ought to be able to count on. I get really bummed out when I see women tearing one another down. There’s enough room for everyone - someone else’s success does not mean that person has now taken your spot! Women can be amazing toward one another and they can also be brutal. Subtle shaming is still shaming. I see moms do that to each other all the time, in real life, and over social media. Everyone is doing the best she can. If someone makes a choice that differs from your choices, that is not a judgement against the way you’re doing things - it just works for her to do it differently. I wish women would stop pressuring each other in every realm. I even see it and experienced it myself with childbirth choices. I wanted a natural childbirth with no intervention, I wanted to be doing yoga throughout my labor, I wanted soft lights and my doula there rooting me on, I wanted dolphins frolicking in the ocean behind me, but guess what? I had a traumatic birth experience with my son and it was touch-and-go for both of us throughout my labor. I’m thankful there was intervention and a happy outcome. When women post about their natural childbirth experiences, I celebrate for them - it’s wonderful they were lucky enough for it to go that way, but when I start to see this sort of smugness about it, that is really disappointing. You can make all the plans in the world, but you aren’t in control of things like how your birth will go, or the tides of the ocean. We all just do the best we can and rise to the occasion when things don’t go as planned. I feel like we women need to support each other and lift each other up, especially now, and in every area. I am lucky enough to have fabulous, loyal, intelligent, passionate, and insightful women in my life, and I’m so grateful for that. I want my daughter to grow up in a world where she feels supported and safe to pursue her dreams in the same way her brother does. I feel like we’re on our way.
WHAT CHARITY/CAUSE WOULD YOU LIKE US TO HELP PROMOTE?
I’m a big fan of Glennon Doyle and everyone involved with Together Rising https://togetherrising.org/
Every time I feel heartache about something happening in the world, in our country, or in a particular community, these folks are already on it, raising awareness and funds to alleviate suffering. I can’t say enough good things about this organization - if you’ve been looking for a way to turn your despair into productive and powerful action, please check them out and get involved!