Sep 152014
 

Every time we time we come to our mats, we have a chance to take a pause from life, be present, focus inward, and breathe. I’m back at school now and I feel like I’ve already been thrown back into the craziness. I recently interviewed for an internship with Vineyard Vines and was asked how I would handle a particularly difficult or stressful situation. I paused a minute before answering. If I had been asked this question a few months ago I would not have been in a good position to answer it mostly because I would’ve been completely overwhelmed and stressed at the time.
But, what I’ve come to realize is that I, and think this holds true for a lot of us, often create my own problems. The stories we tell ourselves in our mind can make it seem like things are much worse than they actually are. Now that I have a pretty regular yoga practice in my life I have found new tools to use when my schedule gets hectic and classes get busy. So, I told my interviewer, the head of the human resources department, that I would first take a deep breath. Then I would look at what needed to be done, find out what I know and what I don’t to get a picture of what exactly needs to get filled in, and approach the project one step at time.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the big picture and feel so small compared to ten million things on the “to do” list. Yet, somehow we all always manage to get everything that needs to be done accomplished. It’s completely normal to stress about it all, but I think sometimes we stress because we feel like we should be stressed. We are capable of managing what is handed to us. When we look at what needs to be done and take it step-by-step, we realize that the stress really wasn’t all it. When we focus inwards on our mats we find a sense of stillness and clam. Our yoga practice, our yoga therapy, allows us to let go of some our stress and what I’ve found in the past couple of months, is that establishing a daily practice and taking time to delve into the teachings of yoga and spend time with good people has given me the tools the tap into the calm and level-headedness I’ve found on my mat and use it in everyday life. When we surrender ourselves to our practice, I think we can find a lot of power in what we discover about ourselves and use it tolead better, happier, calmer lives.

Sep 032014
 

As a beginner and young yoga student, I’ll admit I was really nervous walking into my first day of teacher training. I thought maybe I was too inexperienced and young to be doing the training, maybe I should wait a little longer, but no- I am totally excited to have a whole month dedicated to nothing but yoga- I am so doing this. 

I’m about to begin my junior year in college. My yoga journey began after a friend and I ventured into a bikram class. I began going here and there on the weekends when my schedule would allow. I tried some vinyasa classes and quickly realized how much I loved yoga. The following summer between my freshman and sophomore years I did yoga every chance I could get, feeling drawn to my mat. Initially, I saw yoga as something that would help me deal with the stress of school and become more flexible. I found an instructor whose classes I loved and as time went on I became increasingly curious as she kept throwing in foreign Sanskrit words, telling me to engage my bandhas, and to keep breathing. What is she telling me to do? What is a bandha and how in the world do you expect me to breath in this pose? I felt slightly ridiculous. I even fell in a warrior II pose- yep, I’m that clumsy. But, I laughed at myself and realized I was having fun while doing something good for my body.

When the fall came and the school year started, I had to put yoga on the side. I was a swimmer and yoga was the last thing I wanted to do after a hard week of practices. Yet, on the weekends I found that doing a morning class every now and then left me feeling refreshed and energized. I convinced my friends who had cars on campus to come try a class with me (I needed a ride there somehow after all), and soon they began texting me to go to yoga. After the season ended in the spring, practices eased up and I had some time to go to classes, dragging a few more people along with me in the process. The end of the spring semester began to approach and I needed something to do for the summer. I had applied for a few internships, but I was either too young and inexperienced (somehow it seems college kids are expected to have experience to get experience) or the internship was unpaid and too far away from home. I didn’t expect to find the teacher training. I was looking up the class schedule for a studio at home for the summer, White Orchid Yoga, saw the tab at the top of the webpage and decided to check it out.

I will forever be grateful that I did Ally’s teacher training. I wanted to learn about yoga so I could develop my practice more and so I could share it with other people. I knew the training would help me deepen my own practice and understanding of yoga and why, after hundreds of centuries, the practice has continued to enrich the lives of so many people. I had found a connection with it and looked forward to going to class on the weekends with friends. Doing the teacher training felt right and made me feel excited as much as it did nervous.

Ally is the type of person who brings out the best in everyone. She literally glows and her happy, positive energy is contagious. She embodies the ideals yoga strives to instill in practitioners and is encouraging, humble, honest, and intelligent. I think the quality that stands out most about Ally, though, is that she is the kindest person you could ever come across. She looks for the good reflecting the good within her. She makes everyone feel special and loved. Simply put, Ally is a beautiful person inside and out, and is an inspiration for not only blossoming yoga instructors or students, but for all people. If I have any success a yoga instructor I owe it all to Ally Ford.

But, aside from instilling in me a desire to teach and give me the tools to be a good teacher, spending time with Ally has also instilled in me a desire to be a better me. The first day we sat down to do chanting and meditation I literally sat there thinking, “there is no way I am going to get into this; this is weird.” Ally has an absolutely amazing voice though, so I enjoyed listening to her sing the chants. But when the time came for the room to be silent and meditate, I pretended I was actually doing it and waited for the time to be up so I could get up and move again.

By the third day though I realized I had a month to go doing this meditation thing, so I decided that if I was going to sit there I might as well make the most it. Along the way, I wound up learning quite a bit about myself and even began to like meditation.I feel like I’ve just unlocked a door and am beginning a lifelong journey. For this reason I am thankful I went into the training as a beginner. I was free from expectations about the training or even what yoga should be like. I was able to let it change me and grow with the experience. I found a whole new type of yoga and have fallen in love with Mysore-style Ashtanga, something that I don’t think I would have ever started had it not been for the training.

I even feel like I’ve found myself a little bit. In college, everyone always asks, “What do you want to be?” and “What do you want to do?” Even in life we are always looking to find something that defines who we are. What the training and yoga has taught me is that rather than looking outside to find answers, we should look within ourselves to find them. When I get asked these questions, I either get really stressed out or really annoyed. “I’m only twenty! How do you expect me to know,” I want to shout. I have ideas, I have goals, but I don’t have definite answers. I’m just beginning to learn about myself, about life and the thought of what the future holds used to really scare me because I don’t have some finite career path laid out for myself. I am an International Studies and Spanish double-major; there’s so much I can do with that, though I don’t know what I’m going to do with it. Rather than being totally freaked out about the unknown, I’ve become more comfortable with it and more excited about. I think I’ve gained the ability to see things a bit clearer now and what I see is beautiful because life is a truly beautiful gift and I think the ultimate goal should be to embrace every day, all the little things, to smile, to laugh, to cry, to give hugs, and let everything else come along the way. If we’re happy we’ll see happy and spread happy. I always have my yoga practice and the teacher training experience. The training may have only lasted for a short period of time, but it gave me some amazing foundations, some insights into myself and has opened the door to the wonderful world of yoga.

Aug 302014
 

My new children’s book has arrived and I’m honored to share it with you!photo (13)

“Garuda, The Eagle Who Soared With Ahimsa”

In this story, Garuda an eagle who would normally eat other animals decides to practice ahimsa and treat others with love. He goes on a journey to find friendship and ends up finding joy, love, and laughter and sharing some important messages with his new found friends. The entire story can be acted out in a yoga class for children and photos of the poses accompany the book, so it makes a perfect gift for yoga lovers or teachers of children’s yoga.

I hope this book inspires wonderful conversation amongst children and their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, and care-givers, and I hope you enjoy it as much as my family has.

Garuda Ahimsa





$15 plus applicable tax and shipping (unable to ship outside the U.S. via this link. Please email ally@allyford.com)

What readers are saying:

“What a touching story about making friends, being peaceful, and learning from others. This story will help young ones develop compassion for others via the action of non-harming (ahimsa). Well written with gorgeous illustrations,  Garuda will be enjoyed by children of all ages.” ~Jamey, Clearwater

“Your new children’s book was a hit with our boys! Thank you for signing it! We love the message and how cute it is. The kids were really engaged and wanted to act it out before I even suggested it.” ~Caroline, Clearwater

“The messages in Garuda are beautiful! My kids love the colorful illustrations along with the yoga poses incorporated that correlate with the animals and we’ve been reading it every night. I can’t wait to pass it on to my Yoga Mama friends. Thank you, Ally!” ~Emily, Shreveport

“Ally, I LOVE your children’s book. I’d like to reserve 5, please. It makes the perfect gift. I can’t wait to share it with my niece and nephew!”  ~Jade, St. Petersburg

Aug 252014
 

What Yoga Means…To Me by Stephanie (Ally Ford Yoga Teacher Training Student, 2014)
5:30 am – BEEP BEEP BEEP…snooze…BEEP BEEP BEEP…wake up, mind racing…get ready for work, pack lunch, rush out the door…drive 30 minutes, apply makeup, drink coffee…get to work, sign in, run to classroom…listen to my coworkers complain, while I make sarcastically negative comments…hug a kid, listen to problems…throw them on my shoulders, carry them with me…bell rings, end of day, speed home…run inside, quickly change clothes…hurry out the door, drive to the gym, workout for 2 hours (hoping to clear my head)…6:30 pm – drive home, fix dinner, pour a glass of wine…BREATHE…reflect on the day, consider the poor decisions I made, all the problems I want to fix, my lack of hope in humanity…pour another glass of wine…write my “to-do” list for tomorrow, shower, crawl in bed…try to sleep…I swear my mind races in my dreams, if I get to sleep!

In a nutshell, this was my day…everyday, 9 months out of the year, for several years. That was me, stressed and lost; scared to look in the mirror because I was too tired and afraid to change. So what started out as an added exercise class to relieve anxiety and and eye twitch, quickly became my safe harbor from a brewing storm. I immediately saw results, the calming of my mind (and eye), though it was just for an hour every couple of days, it was enough to keep me going back.

Today, after several years, yoga is the eye of my hurricane…the center, my center. It is a practice that reminds me that there is time to breathe, and I am not referring to the involuntary act of breathing. There is a time to purposefully inhale and exhale deep, fulfilling breaths. While in this “center,” I am able to forgive my fellow man, and myself. Because I am not overwhelmed, struggling to survive, I can see the good in others and consider the positive role I want to play in the life of others, my life and (really) the world. Yoga reminds me of my strength…the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual strength that we all can so easily abandon in a “storm.” Put simply, it’s the natural balance of life. The calm after the storm affords me time to reflect on what I have survived, assess the damage, and make the appropriate repairs. Yoga encourages me to release myself to the process and let go of any resentment or animosity…it teaches me to appreciate the struggle and all of my mistakes. It reaffirms my respect in the belief that “the world is unfolding exactly as it should.” It’s the knowledge that another storm will inevitably follow, and I will enter it with more peace and strength than before.

The eye is control, and the awareness of what is within my control…my actions, my beliefs, and my perspective. It is my time to surrender all of the control that was never mine to take. Due to this clarity, I am able to focus on my intentions and listen to the guiding voice within me. I actively participate in the process of learning to trust myself and be more flexible. It is bending a little more than usual with all people and things that I encounter, including myself. Yoga is the stretching of all of my judgements and expectations because we are all recovering from something.

There is an acknowledgment we all have for anyone who has survived a life-threatening storm, but there is something to be said for anyone who can stare the storm in the face and admit their responsibility for its creation. It is indeed the perfect mixture of pleasure and pain.
Most importantly, it is a journey! A personal journey of acceptance, without judgment. A journey combining breath, balance, control, focus and flexibility to create an empowering strength. I can honestly say, it is the only journey I have ever embarked upon unknowing of the finish line…and I am okay with that. A journey of LOVE!

Aug 202014
 

Lindsay Bomstein is a knowledgeable life coach and super mom who incorporates mindfulness both in her sessions with clients and at home with her children to help facilitate self-acceptance, increase patience and frustration levels, and more. In this interesting conversation she shares helpful and creative ways to introduce mindfulness practices to children. She’s a lovely soul who practices what she preaches. Check it out and let me know what you thought by posting a comment below.