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Aug 262015

IMG_4907I recently read a thread in a Facebook discussion group insinuating that yoga teachers who post photos of themselves in difficult poses online weren’t examples of good yoga teachers or examples of good role models. And another colleague recently posted that they were taking a break from posting yoga selfies because they just didn’t feel authentic. It seems photos of yogis in poses can be misconstrued as “yoga posing.”

From the inception of the first book on Hatha yoga, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, yogis have been demonstrating poses and other “special powers” in public in order to drive an interest in yoga practice and studies. It is well known that as recent as the 1930’s and 1940’s the great guru, Sri T. Krishnamacharya gained many of his students through public demonstrations, including Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, the guru of Ashtanga Yoga. In Ashtanga Yoga there are six sequences, each building in difficulty. During a conference I had the honor of attending with Jois at his shala in Mysore, India, a student asked if advanced postures were necessary to be considered an advanced yogi. He responded, “First series is for everyone, second is for teachers only, and anything more is for demonstration only.” Clearly, he supported demonstration, and millions of people can thank the power of yoga demonstration for introducing them to, or heightening their interest in the practice.

Of course, with the advent of the Internet and social media yoga demonstration is now being delivered through a much more readily available means, affecting a greater number of people. And it’s not only modern day yogis who are using this method. You’ll find many videos and photos of more traditional gurus and yoga teachers online as well.

So I ask, what’s the harm? I have personally always found it inspiring when a yoga teacher or student demonstrates an advanced yoga posture, and a beautiful example of what could be possible with consistent, safe practice under the watchful eye of a teacher. And, while I didn’t understand this in the beginning, I now realize that these advanced postures are not necessary to be a good yoga practitioner. Some people in the discussion group expressed fear that those with no yoga experience may attempt these difficult postures upon simply seeing a photo and injure themselves. While this could happen, I don’t feel it’s a strong argument to edit the posting of yoga poses to simple or foundational postures. Once, my seven-year-old swallowed a fishing weight we found on the beach trying to reenact a trick he saw in a magic show where the magician made a playing card come out of his mouth. But I’m not going to stop taking him to magic shows, or demand that magicians stop doing tricks that others may try to copy. Frankly, anyone could get injured performing a simple yoga pose or mimicking a stunt or trying any number of other physical activities they see anywhere.

I haven’t taken a poll but I’m sure if I did I’d find that a vast majority of people are actually drawn to yoga through online photos and videos. To me, this is a wonderful thing because I believe the more people who practice yoga the better, even if they do begin with a more physically focused interest. My yoga journey started as a purely physical one 16 years ago when I was really inspired by a strong practitioner who lifted their body off the ground with ease. But as my experience deepened, I became interested in the broader philosophy, namely the study of the eight limbs including the Yamas, which are ethical codes of standard for how we treat others. I’m constantly trying to invite these into my life and I know many other practitioners are doing the same, making the world a more gentle, loving, connected place.

For those who are concerned that the individuals in these photos are not setting a good example, my question is how do you know? I think that if you did some research on many of the popular online yoga teachers today you’ll find that they are very dedicated individuals not only to Yoga but to mindfulness, clean eating, developing a positive self-image through self-love and acceptance, and Karma Yoga through philanthropy for others and our environment. I’d be happy for either of my children to find a role model with those attributes.

There was a time in my life when I wasted energy on judging the actions of others. But yoga practice is helping me turn the lens on myself and become more aware of how I am conducting myself in the world. The first Yama is ahimsa (non-violence or non-harming) through thought, word and deed, and from experience I am acutely aware of how harmful negative thoughts and especially words can be, how redirecting negative energy into positive energy is profoundly healing, and how these yogic practices help me break down the barriers between myself and others to experience the ultimate Yoga (Union).

So the next time I see a photo of fellow practitioner demonstrating a pose in a yoga selfie, rather than judge, I’ll delight in the fact that more people are diving into this life-changing, healing, connecting practice. And if you are the yoga practitioner judging others, fostering or perpetuating negativity, rumor, or gossip, I ask you who’s the “poser?”

Post away my brothers and sisters! In fact, I’m going to post a yoga pose selfie right now.

Aug 112015

MariBAdjust - Copy - CopyAre Physical Adjustments Appropriate For Led Class?
By Ally Ford

As an Ashtanga Yoga student and teacher, I very much enjoy receiving and giving hands-on adjustments in all classes. A touch can be worth a thousand words when it comes to communicating alignment to a student. But what level of adjusting is appropriate for a led class? Lately, I’ve witnessed and experienced a certain level of adjustments in led classes that didn’t seem appropriate, and urge other teachers to use caution.

With the explosive growth of Ashtanga Yoga, a very hands-on style of yoga, physical adjustments in class have become more popular. Adjustments are used on the part of the teacher to help a student understand their body, how to safely approach postures, to feel better in poses, or to aid a student in reaching a potential they may not have seen or deemed possible themselves. These adjustments can be quite strong or aggressive at times, and this level of adjusting is built on a relationship developed slowly, over time, and when practicing with a teacher regularly, traditionally six days per week. In this setting the teacher knows the student, their body, and any history of injury or other special considerations. Most importantly, it is a relationship built on trust. With this in mind it is the teacher’s responsibility to keep students safe, not necessarily bend them in all manner of positions to impress or sell them on yoga or on them as a teacher.

In led class, it can be difficult to develop these types of relationships, simply because teachers are guiding the class as a group as opposed to taking as much time as needed per posture per student, as would be the case in a traditional Mysore-style Ashtanga setting. In addition, the group moves to a rhythm in a led class and it is the responsibility of the teacher to keep the count consistent, holding postures relatively equally on each side. For this reason, heavy, or deep adjustments should be avoided in led classes.

Recently, I’ve witnessed teachers aggressively adjusting students into postures just because the student could “get there,” not because they knew the student had been working on that posture daily over weeks or months, or in fact if they had ever been introduced to that posture any time previously. Aside from the relative safety of the student, when a teacher pauses for too long to adjust a body in a led class, it can completely throw off the count, pace, and rhythm, making it difficult to hold poses equally on each side, and making it difficult for others to focus.

It is of utmost importance that teachers remove any personal agenda from giving adjustments and use them only when it will truly serve the student. Even the “simple” adjustments like adho muka svanasana (downward facing dog) or paschimattanasana (seated forward fold) should be approached with caution and can be just as effective with a lighter hand. Remember that a light touch can be a powerful tool to bring awareness to a student’s body and practice, and that adjustments in led class should be an aid, not an interruption.

Aug 092015
SAVE THE DATE! Spring Equinox Detox 2016 in FloridaAFIndexBG1200Feathered2.jpg
Thursday, March 17th – Sunday, March 20th
Spring is an opportune time to cleanse, reset and restore your energy and health. This 3 day, 3 night retreat will provide just that opportunity with 2 daily yoga sessions, including Mysore-style Ashtanga in the morning and gentle and yin practices in the evening, journaling, meditation, swimming, hiking, and most importantly, clean, healthy juicing and eating to detox and de-stress!
Guest speakers to be announced.
This event will sell out as there are limited spaces available. A non-refundable deposit of $500 is required to reserve your seat, with full balance due by February 15th, 2016.

Mark your calendar, and stay tuned for location and full details coming soon! 
Aug 072015

Practice Mysore style Ashtanga 6 days per week followed by traditional Sanskrit chanting and meditation. We’ll chant the Yoga Sutras, Baghavad Gita, and other traditional chants. Afternoons will include philosophy discussions on the principal messages of the root texts of yoga, including the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras, followed by asana lab addressing pose alignment and how to safely apprDSCF0270-225x300oach the poses in the Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series.

This is a one-month, 200-hour program for which you’ll receive a Yoga Alliance registration, however if you are interested in certification or authorization in Ashtanga yoga specifically, you must travel to Mysore, India to practice with Sharath Jois.

Our teachings are rooted in tradition. You will learn:

  • The history of Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga
  • Methodology of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga
  • Pose Alignment and Benefits
  • Functional Anatomy
  • Teaching Principles

Dates: Oct. 3-28, 2016 (Sunday – Friday)


Sunday: 7-9am Mysore Practice

Monday -Friday: 7am-9am Mysore practice; 9:00-10:30am Chanting; 1pm-3pm Philosphay Discussion; 3-5pm Asana Lab/Adjustments


A. Full One-month Program: $2950, plus text book fees. $500 non-refundable deposit required to hold your space. ONLY 20 students accepted. Pay IN FULL by Aug. 1, 2016 and save $200 for total tuition of $2750. There are four books required (click to order).

B. Drop in for chanting and meditation daily: $15 ($10 for Ally Ford Yoga graduates)

C. Drop in for weekly chanting and afternoon sessions available: $250 per week

  • Week One: Sun Salutations and Standing Poses
  • Week Two: Seated Poses
  • Week Three: Finishing Postures and Inversions

D. Drop In for the 2-Day Functional Anatomy Workshop , where we will address specific foundational postures from the Ashtanga Primary Series and which muscles and body systems are affected. Dates TBD.

Apply here.

Jun 032015

Announcing my next 2016 200-hour Yoga Alliance Accredited Yoga Teacher Training Course at Pure Yoga and Fitness in Clearwater, Florida

Ally Ford Yoga Teacher Training,

Ally Ford Yoga Teacher Training

Saturdays and Sundays 9:00am – 5:00pm

February 6-7
March 5-6
April 2-3
May 7-8
June 4-5
July 9-10
August 6-7
September 10-11
October 1-2
November 5-6 Completion

Tuition: $2950 including course manual. There are four texts required for this course you can order here: http://www.allyford.com/products/
Pay in full by December 1st, 2015 and save $200 for Early bird tuition of $2750. $500 non-refundable deposit required to hold your seat.

Apply here. Complete the online application BEFORE paying and wait for acceptance email. Click here for study program overview and information.