When I was young I had a severe case of asthma.
Throughout my childhood, I had many experiences (a house fire, losing our home and beloved pets, floods where we lost all our possessions, bullies, car accidents, heart break, a physically disabled father who was constantly in and out of the hospital, death of loved ones to name a few) that lead me to develop an anxiety problem at a fairly young age - grade 6 to be exact.
As I tried to navigate elementary school and high school, this anxiety caused my mind to race and also caused frustrating insomnia and at times, seemingly hopeless depression.
Occasionally, I became hijacked by my nervous system and panic attacks or asthma attacks would leave me worried and afraid. It was a scary and unsettling feeling, to lose control of my breath. Intense physical pain would come.
At times I was certain I was having a heart attack and dying.
Other times, I felt like my chest was caving in. Like an imaginary force was crushing my body and suffocating my lungs. These physical experiences of anxiety and panic would often trigger a full blown asthma attack.
More than once I found myself in the hospital with blue lips, face and fingers from hyperventilation and lack of oxygen. On time in my teens, I awoke from unconsciousness hooked up to an oxygen machine in an ambulance rushing me to the hospital. I also experienced heart palpitations that caused me to worry even more about what was happening to my body. I felt helpless. What I could do to prevent these types of attacks from coming on? I had no idea. The more I worried about it, the more unexpected attacks would arise out of seemingly nowhere.
Many people know what anxiety feels like, the way it controls the mind, produces pain, aches or nausea, the way it can create a sense of disconnect between mind, body, spirit, and the world around us. The isolation.
Under these conditions, relaxation is often a challenge; experiencing a sense of peace can be nearly impossible.
Once anxiety takes hold, it can manifest in a variety of ways—from panic and obsessive-compulsive behaviours to post traumatic stress, phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder. Today, over 18% of North Americans are affected with anxiety disorders, many of them children.
When I was in the midst of it all, I felt so alone, so isolated, but I now know that I was not alone in this battle.
My journey with yoga began in 2003 when I fell completely head over heels in love at my very first class. I walked out of that room as if I was floating on a cloud, I blissfully wandered back to my dorm room. I had never felt such peace. I had the best sleep that night, the best sleep I’d had in years!
I began to practice yoga daily because I loved the relaxed feeling it gave me as well as the sense of inner stillness and peace. The more I practiced the more I felt a much needed sense of balance in my life as well as emotional resilience. Not to mention a progressive reversal everything I was struggling with in my mental health.
Finally! I had found something that was relieving all of my anxiety symptoms as well as healing my asthma. It was an amazing feeling, learning the pranayama (breathing techniques) and feeling like I finally had control over my breath and my nervous system. I could feel my lungs getting stronger. It was incredible.
Over time I went from worrying every night as I tried to fall asleep to drifting off into a peaceful sleep easily and care free. I noticed the effects of this ancient science pouring over into every aspect of my life. I knew I was going to be a lifelong student of yoga and meditation. I made a promise to myself (taking the advice from a dear teacher) that once I had been practicing yoga for ten years, I would take my yoga teacher training and deepen my practice. This was a long time tradition of the lineage practiced at the studio where I first found yoga.
I studied under Randal Williams of the Kripalu Centre for Yoga and Health for my 200 hour training. In essence, the word Kripalu translates into ‘being compassionate’. Neither posture sequences nor instructions are standardized, so no two classes look alike. Because of the creative nature of Kripalu Yoga and being an art student myself, I found it was the perfect yoga teacher training for me. Randal, renowned for his yoga nidra retreats at Kripalu was gracious enough to allow me to be his assistant and I am so thankful for his mentorship and for introducing me to nidra, the practice that I am most grateful for in this world.
I couldn’t stop there. I was so passionate about everything yoga.
Learning about yoga and meditation became my favourite thing to do. I continued my education, branching out into yoga nidra & integrative restoration, intensive meditation courses, energy medicine workshops, chakra intensives with Seane Corn & Anodea Judith, and studied my 500 hour training in yoga psychology under Ashely Turner another 300 hours in classical haha tantra under Tiffany Nicholson-Smith. 100 hours in classical Ayurveda. Prenatal & postnatal, trauma informed yoga, aerial yoga, stand up paddleboard yoga… you name it and I’ve probably done a training in it! (Seriously though.)
Eventually, I began leading Yoga Teacher Trainings in the Amrita Yoga Tradition with Tiina Kiviven and am honoured to now be the co-director of the program.
The more people I met on this journey of learning, teaching and sharing, the more amazing humans would ask me to make recordings or post my classes online. I felt scared and nervous and procrastinated for a long time.
Eventually, the courage to start my Youtube channel arrived.
I’m so grateful that it did because it’s connected me to so many incredible yogis and meditators across the globe!
Nothing is more fulfilling than spreading the incredible benefits I have found in yoga with others. I was a person who struggled with debilitating anxiety. Today I am not. In the future, as life brings more challenges, I know that I now have the tools to get through it.
It has been over a decade since I’ve experienced a panic or asthma attack.
I’m eternally grateful to the teachers who have passed these tools down for thousands upon thousands of years. Tools that allowed me to completely re-wire my nervous system.
It brings me joy to spread these wonderful tools into this community. I am grateful that I get to do this work. Thank you for reading my story. I hope to see you soon in the comments or on the mat.
With all of my love, Namaste.
Such a wonderful story! So happy you are using your experience to help others
Thanks Love. Ox
What an incredible journey Ally! I am so grateful that you were able to build resilience amidst your struggles and turn all that juicy knowledge into a beautiful practice to help others, including myself!
Awe, thank you for reading my story Jayme 🙂 I’m grateful that you are a part of the community and so glad to hear that some of these resources are helpful for you. So much love to you. Ox
I love knowing more about your journey. You are a student of life and a great guide for those of us who want to learn more about yoga, meditation and restorative self care. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us.
Awe, thank you for taking the time to read this story Jennifer! I’m so grateful that you are a part of this online community here 🙂
Hi Ally! I did your 10 day meditation and prior to this self isolation I previously was suffering of loneliness. i just want to say that entering this self isolation with meditation as a defence tool has more then helped me cope with the current circumstances of our world. I have been living with regret and fearing the future and this has helped keep me centred an In the moment.
I just finished the COVID meditation and am feeling a new sense of purpose and focus. Thank you for sharing your time. You bring positivity in our world in this time of need but in a realistic way.
I am self isolating as well and by myself with my dog. Thought it would be nice to express my gratitude and give you something to read and jeep going.
That poem was a great focal point in this pandemic. Something to keep out sights on for we shall come out of this better then we were. We need to respect our mother nature….
hi Ally, I came here to your website from Insight Timer and your Annamyaya Kosha Rotation of Consciousness. I am quite a fan of the yoga nidra so i explore many different practices. Yours have a delightfully peaceful tone and pace, leading my mind and body to a profound peace and deep rest. I practice daily here in Colorado or South Dakota; the transformative nature of my resting peace has grown distinctly over the last 32 months. Thank you for the time and skill you send to out by these recordings; you bless. Blessings of peace! .Doc
Awe, I’m so glad to hear this Doc! Thank you for taking the time to journey over here and connect with me. Yoga Nidra has really allowed me to find that resting peace within myself as well, so life-changing!!! 🙂
Just found your Yoga Nidra today for the first time – transformative! Many, many thanks!!
Hi Ally! Thank you for sharing your beautiful story! I’ve been practicing with some of your Yoga Nidra videos on you tube for a couple of months, (Dr. Andrew Huberman pointed me in this direction encouraging each person to find a practice and ‘voice’ that resonates with them). I stumbled onto your practice and it’s definitely helping with sleep and other ongoing life stressors. Thank you again for all the wonderful work you are doing!