I’m so happy to finally be able to publish a new interview for Living Yoga, my blog series about inspirational yogis and yoginis from all corners of the world. And it’s an even greature pleasure that I was able to convince the wonderful Alison to answer my 8 questions about yoga and mindfulness.
Born on the beautiful island Saint Lucia, Alison has lived in many countries such as Venezuela, Jamaica and England, and now calls Canada her home. She’s a full time mom of two teens, full time researcher, full time PhD student. She loves nature and outdoors, but can’t decide whether she prefers water or mountains. Although she was born near the sea, she feels inspired by the mountains. In the rare hours she has some free time at her hands, she finds joy in the little things such as reading a book or practicing yoga.
Alison, how and when did you find yoga?
I “practiced” yoga on and off for years, dropping in to classes, using DVDs and watching TV programs etc. In October 2014, I joined the Yoga Tree studios community in Toronto. This is my yoga family. I’ve also made some wonderful friends at studio. They are real people with really big hearts. It really is my home away from home. Yoga is now one of the core areas of my life and my self development. For me, it’s not only about the practice of asana, but also about learning how to be myself, how to be patient, how to treat both myself and others with loving kindness; it reminds me when to bend and when to stand tall.
What’s your favorite way to practice?
My body gravitates to yang, dynamic styles of yoga. I crave it. I love vinyasa flow and ashtanga practice! The word “flow” itself defines me and my attitude to many challenges in life. Yin and stillness challenge me because I have “monkey mind”. It’s hard for me to sit and do nothing, or at least I think I’m doing nothing. I need both styles for harmony. I love to practice in classes and share positive energy but sometimes, I like to roll out my mat at home and settle into a comfy malasana:-).
What or who inspires you?
It sounds cliché, but my mother’s loving heart inspires me; my son’s courage and resilience inspire me; my daughter’s loyalty inspires me. These are qualities I continue to cultivate.
How do you integrate yoga into your daily life?
I connect with my breath all day, repeating my mantra as a touchstone, or focusing on something in nature as my drishti: a tree, a flower, or watching a cloud change shape. My mantras are simple. For example: “I am” or “Receive” or “Breathe freely”. I try to remain connected to the ones I love and be relentlessly kind, always. I choose harmony over balance. This is my yoga.
How do you find stillness of mind? Could you share your no 1 tip for cultivating mindfulness?
I do a guided meditation every morning through my favourite app: @calm. Throughout the day I pause for 30 seconds and breathe. I actively cultivate the pause. For the first hour of my day, I do not engage with technology and electronics. I move quietly around my home after my meditation, getting ready for the day, making tea, watching the sunrise, checking in with how I’m feeling. Rituals calm me. I try to honour that first feeling and tap into gratitude throughout the day. It isn’t always easy, but it beats letting negativity take hold.
What makes a perfect yoga class in your opinion?
I love good cues and music with a good beat to accompany my flow. Honestly, some days I’m so tired I feel no resistance. I don’t try to achieve a pose. I let the pose find my body. On those days, when I’m really exhausted, I give in and savasana is bliss. In that little rectangle (my mat is called Brisingr which is an old Norse word meaning healing fire), I find peace, not perfection. In my mind I am some kind of peaceful viking warrior with inner fire. Can you tell that I love dragons and dragon poses?
What is the biggest lesson you have learned through yoga?
Let go. Let go of fear. Don’t be limited by expectations. Be open to fall and to fail, but do it beautifully:-) and accept it with grace.
If you could give new yogis an advice, what would it be?
I would tell them not to be intimidated by what they see, whether it’s in class, on social media etc. Before you try yoga, it is, after all, about what you see because yoga is very visual at first blush. I would tell them to tune in to how they feel. Try different classes. Try different teachers until you find what lets your soul breathe. Drink lots of water and keep a smile in your heart. Most of all, have fun!
You can follow Alison’s journey on Instagram @hearth.and.soul