How Does Yoga Teach You to Trust Yourself?

emersonAt its core, yoga is a listening practice. You breathe, but not the way you breathe all day, you breathe with awareness and intention. Your intention is to use your breath as a means of becoming present because your inhales and exhales are always happening right now; if you’re aware that you’re breathing, you’re also engaged with the present moment. You’re breathing deeply, which draws your attention away from the cacophony of endless thoughts, and into that realm of feeling and intuition. When you breathe deeply, you calm your nervous system, and create a foundation of steadiness and ease.

When you move on your mat, you do that consciously and with intention, as well. Hopefully the intention is to nurture and strengthen yourself, physically, mentally and emotionally. This means your practice will look and feel different on different days, and even if you practiced twice on the same day. It’s never the same Warrior I, because you are never the same warrior.

When you enter a pose, hopefully you do that with deep breath, and curiosity, and not attachment to the outcome, or the way the pose looks. The pose is just a tool, your process is the thing. You want to find that exact right spot, where it isn’t too much, and certainly isn’t painful, but where you’re feeling some nice sensation, and exploring it. You’re inviting your body to relax because you’re listening to it and working in partnership with it. So many of us do not have that respectful and compassionate relationship with our bodies. I’ve worked with countless people over the years who are at war within themselves, treating the body as a possession, or something to be feared, overcome, or controlled. I used to be one of those people. When you start to listen to your body, it will offer you all kinds of wisdom about who you are, how you feel, what you need in any given moment to feel safe, what lights you up, shuts you down, scares you or inspires you. When you treat your body with kindness, you ignite a conversation between your body and your mind that’s essential to your own well-being.

Whatever your tendencies are, they follow you onto your mat. If you’re hard on yourself in life, you’ll be hard on yourself on your mat, but you don’t have to accept that as the way you are. You could look at that, examine whether that mindset is hurting you or helping you as you move through the world, and feed that tendency or erode it. I used to think if I wasn’t hard on myself, I’d get less done, but I have found the reverse to be true. When I’m forgiving with myself, I relax and open. I rest when I need to, and then when it’s time to work, I have that much more to offer up, because I’ve filled my tank.

When you learn to work with your body, you grow in self-trust. If your body says, “That’s enough, that’s the right spot!” and your personality says, “Too bad, we’re going all the way!”, your body is going to tense up and hold on. You are failing to respect your own boundaries, and that creates a state of fear. If you have problems setting boundaries in life, or respecting your own or other people’s, this is something you can develop on your mat, as you practice. You can respect the signal to back off when your hamstring needs you to back off, and eventually, you’ll respect other signals your body sends you. If you have a pattern of letting people take advantage of you, that’s on you, not everyone else.

There’s no trusting yourself without self-respect; the two go hand-in-hand. For me, thinking about these things was not enough. In order to rewire my system, I had to be in my body, moving and breathing, while dealing with my mind. Shifting a way of being isn’t easy, especially if it’s ingrained, but it isn’t impossible, either. You just have to start. Ready?


Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

How to Live in the Now and Trust Yourself

montaigneThe mind just loves to time travel, have you noticed? Left to its own devices, it will pull you into the past, or send you into the future, often with feelings of regret, longing, sadness, fear or anxiety. Sometimes the accompanying feeling is a good one, like recalling something wonderful that’s happened, or feeling excited about an event that’s about to happen, but more of the time we’re sad about something behind us, or scared about something that might or might not be in front of us.

Have you ever revved yourself up for a conversation or situation that never came to pass? Yeah. Me, too, and that’s time we can’t have back. Ever gotten yourself heated over an interaction that already took place, even though you can’t go back and redo it? Yup, I’ve done that, too. Do you know that you can raise your blood pressure just by thinking about things that are upsetting? Your nervous system doesn’t differentiate very much in its response to things that are actually happening, versus things that are only happening in your mind.

Also, when you’re dwelling on some event from your past, or worried about some situation that could occur in your future, you are missing the main attraction, which is what is happening right here, right now. If you aren’t present, you also are not tuned into your intuition, which is a living, energetic response system that causes things like the hairs on the back of your neck to stand up when you’re in danger. If you’re too focused on your destination, you might miss the signs that something is off in the environment around you as you’re traveling. If you’re obsessing over a conversation you’ve already had, you might be missing the chance to connect with someone who’s standing right in front of you.

Last night as I was driving to the studio to teach, I turned up the alley to get to our garage and there was a little girl probably about seven, like my daughter, and she was doing a happy dance, full out, for no apparent reason except that it felt good to be her in that moment. Face upturned, eyes twinkling, cheeks flushed. Her dad was looking at his phone. Now, maybe that’s unusual, and I just happened to drive by in a moment when he was texting mom so they could all meet up, or maybe he’s missing lots of moments like that, I don’t know. What I do know is that I made eye contact with that little girl, and laughed with her and waved, because I wanted her to feel seen in her joy.

If you want to trust yourself, you have to be engaged with the conversation your body is always having with you. The body speaks in the language of sensation, and it is very clear in its messages. If you’re happy, you’re going to feel that energy coursing through your system, those relaxed shoulders and that openness across your chest, your arms relaxed, or wrapped around someone in a delicious hug, or holding an ice cream cone, or a mic, or a pen, or your fingers flying across the keyboard of your laptop–whatever it is that brings you pleasure. Maybe your leg will bounce underneath your desk like mine is right now, because you can’t type as fast as the thoughts are coming. Maybe you’ll notice your spine is long as you’re sitting in your chair, or that you’re sweating a little because there’s a sudden heatwave. There are a lot of things happening in every single moment, and your body is talking to you about all of them. A little breeze through the window going noticed or unnoticed, the way the neighbor is talking to her dog, the smell of exhaust as a truck goes by, the sound of a plane overhead, the taste of the cacao and cashew hemp-spread lingering in your mouth because you had a spoonful awhile ago. Those are small things, but bigger things include the feeling that something is not right, or that you’re feeling alone, or stuck or inspired or grateful. There’s so much we can miss when we aren’t paying attention. When you want to know what to do, believe me, your body is giving you information about what feels right for you. When you need to make a change, your body knows, well before your mind picks up the thread.

The quickest pathway to right now is your breath. Your inhales and exhales are always happening in the now, so when you simply allow yourself to become conscious of this unconscious process that is always happening, and therefore always available to you, you become present. You can become aware of the feeling of your lungs filling and emptying, your chest, rib cage and belly rising and falling, anytime, and anywhere. Right now, if you wanted to, you could close your eyes, and let yourself feel that, and if you took a few conscious breaths, I have no doubt you’d feel an immediate sense of peace, of relief.

The mind is full of ideas, and redundant, often obsessive thoughts, and it will spin you in circles if you let it. Culturally, we’re like a bunch of talking heads with all of our shoulds and fears and doubts and worries, and honestly, if you don’t learn to quiet that racket, you’re going to feel overwhelmed and besieged by life a lot of the time. It’s hard to trust yourself if you’re spinning, but it’s pretty easy if you can come to center. The funny thing is, you can do this in a crowded room, before a presentation, while you’re having a tough conversation, while you’re driving–it’s something you can learn to do throughout the day to slow things down, and open up to the story your body is telling, which is full of truth and wisdom. You have gifts to share that only you can, but it’s going to be very hard if you don’t have faith in yourself. If you want to start working on that, I’m ready to help. Try this short guided meditation right now:



Sending you love, and wishing you peace,
Ally Hamilton

How to Find Happiness When You’re Feeling Lost

pemaThe first way to find happiness when you’re feeling lost, is to stop looking for it! When we’re feeling hurt, scared, anxious, heartbroken, abandoned, rejected, insecure, envious or threatened, the trick is not to avoid the uncomfortable, painful and challenging feelings, it’s to embrace them. I know this might seem counter-intuitive. You might ask yourself, “How will leaning into my pain help me find happiness?” I’m going to tell you.

The greatest state of dis-ease, and one of the largest contributors to our stress, is being in one place, wishing we were somewhere else, or feeling one thing, and wanting to feel something else. The more we contract from our experience, the more we suffer. There are all kinds of ways we try to contract–we might numb ourselves with drugs, alcohol, food, shopping, or throwing ourselves into relationships. We might try to run from our pain by keeping ourselves busy from dawn until dusk. We might try denial on for size. None of that works, though. The minute you decide to avoid your pain, you’ve made pain your CEO. Now it’s in control, and your actions are determined by it. Screw that! If you want to be ruled by love and not fear, you have to embrace reality as it is, even when it breaks your heart.

The truth is, heartbreak is part of life, so is sadness, longing, loss, and in some cases, betrayal, abandonment or abuse. The deck is full of everything. You can decide that there’s something personal about the hand you’ve been dealt, or you can get busy playing with the hand you’ve got; trying to get different cards doesn’t work. Wishing with all your might you had the Queen of Hearts when you’re staring at the Ace of Spades won’t change a thing, it will just create more anguish, frustration, and heartache within you.

Also, forget about fair. Devastating things happen to incredible people every single day. You can do everything “right”, and still there will be some suffering. When you allow yourself to feel however you feel–lost, anxious, depressed, confused, jealous, ashamed, and so on–you liberate yourself. The feelings arise, they peak, and they subside; no feeling goes on and on for the rest of your life. The more you push down the feelings, though, the more they persist because they want to be acknowledged. Feelings are alive, they’re energetic, and like any living thing, they just want to be seen and understood. They’re ways for us to know ourselves more deeply, and to grow in patience and compassion for ourselves and our process.

Also, there’s the mind-body connection. If you refuse to deal with your feelings, they don’t just pack up and move on, they show up in your tight shoulders or hips, clenched jaw, stress headache, chronic illness, upset stomach, insomnia, lethargy, and so on. It takes a lot of energy to deny your reality, and that comes at a great cost to your mental, physical and spiritual well-being. Happiness cannot enter a false construct. Happiness arises from living in alignment with what is true for you. So if you want to find happiness when you’re feeling lost, allow yourself to feel lost! It’s very freeing to allow yourself to be as you are, and happiness follows from that freedom.

Sending you love, and wishing you strength and peace,


Ally Hamilton


Finding Peace in Life Starts Within Yourself

dalailamaLast week, I went to the local Post Office to mail some of my books to people who’ve been instrumental to its success, like my incredible friend, Dani Shapiro who wrote the foreword to the book, a woman who runs a yoga group on and wants to read it as a possible book for her group to discuss, and some family members in Europe who wanted me to sign it. Since I am basically flying by the seat of my pants these days, I ended up having to sign books as I was standing at the desk, with my list of addresses on my phone, and a bunch of bubble envelopes, airmail stickers, and so on. It took about fifteen minutes, because of course I want to think about what I’m writing inside each of the books, to each of these people. As I was going through this process (and asking myself why I hadn’t thought to sign the books at home, which would have been a quiet and sane place to do it), I became aware of a woman who was talking to one of the employees behind the counter.

I’d noticed her while she was on line, because she was strumming and tapping her fingers on the table while I was writing, and when I looked at her face, she seemed agitated. I was then interrupted by a man who saw the stack of books beside me and asked me if I knew another teacher in town whom he’d studied with for years (I did, small world), and proceeded to tell me how yoga has changed his life, and how he was a crappy father (his words), but is now an amazing grandfather (also his words), and then he showed me a picture of his adorable grandson on his phone. I went back to signing books and addressing envelopes, and the woman at the counter grew louder in her appeal to the person behind the counter. Apparently, her husband had moved out over a year ago, and yet his mail was still coming to their old residence, where she still resides. She said she’d been to the post office several times in the last year with his mail, he’d filled out the change of address forms, and still, his mail kept coming.

A woman got on line and saw my books and asked if I knew anything about yoga and osteoporosis, and whether I thought she ought to be practicing. Inwardly, I told myself I should come to the post office more frequently, with First Class Free cards for everyone. It is quite the yoga hub, who knew?

By the time it was my turn out the counter, the woman with the ex-husband and his mail had lost it. She was sort of talk-yelling that this wasn’t her responsibility, it was the responsibility of the USPS, and that she was doing them a favor by bringing his mail in. Another postal employee who was helping another customer asked under her breath if anyone had ever heard of anyone doing anyone a favor by yelling at them, but I felt for that woman. Obviously, it’s a painful situation, she’s trying to move on, and every day she comes home, and his mail is still arriving. I did wonder why she didn’t speak to her mailman or woman directly, or leave her or him a letter, but who knows? Maybe she did. She wouldn’t be standing there trying to get the situation resolved unless it was really bothering her, and while it’s never advisable to raise your voice when you’re trying to get someone to help you, frustration is a normal human emotion, and it gets the better of us all sometimes. People raise their voices when they don’t feel heard, seen or understood. I don’t know what happened, because she was still there when I left, but I sent her some love. I wanted to hug her, but agitated strangers don’t usually like that, so I just “thought” her a hug, and also sent one to the man behind the counter who was trying to help, and to the other employee who couldn’t see the pain beneath the frustration. Advanced yoga at the post office, probably happening every day. Check it out!

Here’s the thing. Yoga is not about putting your ankle behind your head, it’s about recognizing your own humanity, and the humanity of those around you, and seeing if you can cultivate some compassion and forgiveness for yourself, and everyone you encounter. That’s where the real flexibility comes in. Some days we do better than others. I happened to be in a good head space, I wasn’t in a rush, and I found it amusing and wonderful that so many people wanted to discuss yoga at the post office, so finding compassion for everyone there was easy. I’ve definitely had moments where I was the woman shaking my head at the person losing it, I’ve been the person losing it, and I’ve been the happy granddad, too. I mean, really, we are all so similar.

When I’m teaching, I will often give options and modifications so that everyone in the room has something to do. For example, I might put the class in a “funky chair” or “standing pigeon”, with different options and building blocks along the way for flying pigeon, an arm balance that requires core strength, upper body strength and lots of openness in the hips and hamstrings. Not everyone is going to end up in the arm balance, some people will take their funky chair to the wall while they work on balance, others will bring their torsos parallel to the floor and get a deeper hip release, some might play with clasping their hands behind their backs, some might use blocks under the hands to start to play with lift-off, and some will fly. Everyone in the room is in some form of a balancing hip opener. The point is not the shape you make, it’s what you’re bringing to the moment. It’s the quality you’re feeding as you’re in the balancing hip opener, or on line at the post office. It’s the same thing. Whenever possible, breathing consciously and staying curious is the way to go.

We’ll never control circumstances, what other people do, want, say, need or feel. We’ll never control the USPS. All we can work on is the way we show up, and that has so much to do with the time we take to know ourselves, to nurture ourselves, and to honor what is true for us. If you’re able to practice self-acceptance and self-compassion, you won’t rely on getting it from other people (though it’s awfully nice when you do), and you won’t feel the need to raise your voice to be heard, because you’ll already understand yourself.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton


How to Embrace Change and Leave Judgment Behind

artoflifeSo much of our struggle comes from our attachment to a picture of how things should be, or how life should look, or how we should feel, or what other people should want, say or do. So often, we should on ourselves and others, and end up carrying the weight of shame, or the feeling of alienation, both of which deplete us and make it hard to rise up. The truth is, there is no formula for life, no “one size fits all” for this thing, we just have to figure it out as we go along.

If there’s one thing we can count on, it’s that everything is always changing, and that includes our feelings, circumstances, other people, dynamics, the seasons, our needs, dreams and desires. You are not a static creature, and neither am I, and neither is anyone we know. What you wanted five years ago may not be what you want today. The way you thought life would look versus how it actually looks right now might be jarring, surprising, unsettling, or totally delightful. You can make your plans, in other words, but don’t expect life to bend to your will. Make your vision board if you want to, but leave some open space for surprises, twists, turns, betrayals, opportunities, jobs and lovers across the country, births and deaths. You don’t write every part of the story after all, you only write your own part, and even that is not entirely up to you.

I know people who make choices they regret, but then cannot live with the idea of hurting those they love. I know for myself, I would rather hear and accept the truth than live a lie, or be the unknowing recipient of someone’s pity or guilt. If you love someone, have enough respect for them to be honest about what is real for you, and trust that they, too, may have a different path full of things, experiences and people they never imagined. At the very least, know that if you aren’t honest, the foundation of whatever you’ve built will start to crumble, and the only way to save it or give it any chance of resurrection is with the strength of your own convictions.

That’s not to say that it’s an easy thing to hurt or disappoint other people, I think it’s one of the most difficult and devastating experiences we go through. The thing is, life is complicated and messy for everyone, and we don’t get a crystal ball. Most people don’t set out to hurt you, any more than you’ve ever consciously decided to try to hurt someone else. You can put yourself through the wringer, but in the final analysis, no one can hate you for how you feel. The thing is to communicate before you act. I think for a lot of people, the feelings arise and they try to push them down, until finally there’s an explosion, or they’ve done something in response to those feelings that they now have to live with, grapple with, or explain. That’s when things get really challenging. If you can talk to those closest to you as you’re shifting, changing and evolving, you open the doorway to true intimacy, whether we’re talking about family, romantic partners, or friends. People can’t know you and understand you, they can’t cherish you and honor you if you won’t let them behind the veil.

Sometimes change is forced upon us–someone we love needs to take a path we don’t understand, or someone we love has betrayed us, or we get fired, or find out our child wishes he or she was a different gender, or nine million other things that life can put on the path in front of us that we might not have expected, foreseen, or wanted. The more you can open to people and circumstances as they are, the more you leave room for life to flow. I know it’s tempting to plant your feet and grow your roots and make your stand and try to control this wild world with your calendar and your alerts and your deadlines and schedules, and things you do on Wednesday, and at the very least, where you place your mat when you come to yoga, but the truth is, you are not in control of this story, and neither am I, and neither is anyone we know.

We are all going to face surprises, heartbreaks and joys we never planned for and didn’t expect, and we are all going to make mistakes and hurt people with our humanness, and that is okay, it’s a part of life. I would say, whenever possible, communicate with compassion, don’t assume, don’t project, and try not to hold onto lists of ways you’ve been wronged, because all that stuff will weigh you down. Try to release your grip on the story, open to the gifts when they present themselves, forgive yourself and others, and allow the story to unfold. That way you leave room for the surprises within you and around you, and you grant permission to yourself and those you love to be wildly, imperfectly human, too.


Sending you love,


Ally Hamilton


Any Chance You’d Please Review My Book?

Dear Friends, Blog Readers, Subscribers and Other Creatures,

Yogas Healing Power-2It’s been just over a week since my book came out, and I am having such fun. I appreciate all of your support and enthusiasm, I was so grateful to see so many of you at the event in L.A. at General Assembly, and at both events in NYC! SF is next, but in the meantime, I’m wondering if any of you who’ve read the book already might be willing to write an Amazon review? Apparently they are enormously important and helpful. I’m doing everything I can to birth this little book into the world, and I really appreciate your willingness to help me. I’m one of those people who used to never ask for help. In my past, I’d rather drown than say I could use a hand, but I’m getting over that, because you all have been so incredible. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. If you go to the Amazon page and click on the one customer review that’s there (5-star, thank you!! :)), you will see the option to write your own review. A couple of sentences is great! Thank you in advance, and sending you love and huge hugs!

Ally Hamilton

3 Ways to Forgive Yourself and Stop Dwelling on the Past

glassofregretIf you’re human, (and I assume there are no zebras reading this post), then you can probably look in your rearview mirror and spot some choices you wish you could make over again, and differently. The truth is, most of us do the best we can as we go along, and that means most of us will probably fall short from time to time. Life does not unfold in a linear fashion, we do not get to hit the “pause button” until we’re ready, sometimes we think we’re ready for something only to find out we are wildly unprepared or had an unrealistic idea of what we were getting into in the first place. Also, sometimes we’re coming out of abuse or neglect, a dysfunctional family system, a crazy culture that expects us to edit out our difficult feelings, or we’ve developed coping mechanisms along the way that don’t serve our highest good at all. We may have stories we tell ourselves that are not true, ideas about other people that are based on our own misperceptions or lessons we learned that we have to unlearn, or a whole host of other difficulties that come along with being human. It’s an interesting and incredible gig, but no one would argue that it’s easy! You can lose a lot of time dwelling on the past, obsessing over decisions you cannot unmake, or feeling regret that won’t serve you or anyone else.

Here are three things you can do to lift the weight of regret from your shoulders, stop dwelling on the past, and free yourself of the burden of shame.

1. Embrace your fallibility and join the human race.

Welcome to the party, sport. We have all screwed up, some of us in big ways, some of us in smaller ways, but there is not a person on this planet over thirty who doesn’t have some questionable choices in his or her past. We learn as we go, and sometimes we hurt people because we are too young to know what we want, or too confused, or we wanted it then, but five years later we felt the soul being crushed out of us. If you feel badly about some of your past actions, please recognize this is because you have a kind, gentle heart. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t even be thinking about this stuff. If you have a warm and gentle heart, you are not an a$$hole, and that is fabulous. Please take a moment right now, place your hand over your heart, close your eyes, take a deep breath and say out loud in a firm voice, “I forgive myself for being human.”

TIP: If you’re at work, say it in a firm voice inside your head, but say it enough times that you feel it. If you exhale out some tears or other emotions, that’s great.

2. You are not Atlas.

Your work here does not involve carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. If other people won’t or can’t forgive you, that is on them, that’s a weight they’re choosing to carry, and an obstacle to their own freedom; at a certain point, you have to forgive yourself. Having said that, it never hurts to communicate clearly. If there’s something you feel you need to say to someone to make things right, go ahead and say it. Think carefully about your motivation, and how this might be for the other party. If you think you might disrupt someone’s life, or his or her tenuous grip on being okay, if you think the other person might still be healing from heartbreak, then it might be best to write a letter you never send.

TIP: It’s incredibly powerful to get things down on paper and out of your head, so don’t hesitate to put your thoughts in black and white. When you’re done, you can determine whether this is a missive that was just for you, or for you and them.

3. Be present.

It’s good and important work to know yourself, and that means it makes sense to examine the choices, decisions and behavior you regret, but you serve no one by marinating in that sad sauce. Once you’ve looked at your part in any story, owned what you can of it, apologized when necessary or appropriate, then there comes a time when you need to close the book on that story. Your life is not happening behind you, any more than it’s happening in front of you. The mind loves to hurtle back into the past, or careen forward into the future, but all that does is rob us of the present. Of course your memories and experiences are part of the fabric that makes you, you, and of course that makes them part of the tapestry that is your present, but how can you do a journey with your back to the road? That’s not a great way to navigate, or open to things as they are now, but it’s an excellent way to crash into feelings, things or people who are trying to get your attention in this moment.

Everything is in a constant state of flux, and if you keep looking back over your shoulder, you are trying to stop time and stop the current. Maybe your mistakes will help you travel through your present-day waters with more ease, strength and insight. Perhaps recognizing the bumps in the road will help you avoid repeating mistakes, so you can, at the very least, make better mistakes as you go. Your breath is an excellent anchor-point. When you become aware of your inhales and exhales, you’re directing your mind to focus on something that’s happening right here, right now. This is an excellent way to catch yourself when the mind wants to head in a downward spiral, when you notice obsessive thinking, or when you recognize you’ve already examined a situation to the degree that it’s productive.

“Svadhyaya” means “self-study”, and it’s one of the Niyamas. We want to understand ourselves and know what’s motivating our choices and actions, but we also want to embrace the reality that we’re continually evolving. Don’t allow yourself to continue to set your compass toward something behind you, because you’re failing to integrate your own metamorphosis. That’s not something you want to miss!

Sending you love and a hug,

Ally Hamilton