The two women had been Ally Hamilton’s yoga students for years, but she had never met them.
They live in Norway and access her guidance online, where she uploads several new studio sessions each week. But on a recent trip to Santa Monica, they decided to attend a class in the space they have come to know well from afar.
“It’s a really common occurrence now,” said Hamilton, who co-owns Yogis Anonymous at 1221 2nd St. “It’s truly one of my favorite aspects — getting to meet people who have been practicing with me for years, seeing them in person. I have been interacting with them, but not in the flesh.”
As she has taught yoga classes to Westside residents since opening her local studio about seven years ago, Hamilton has utilized the Internet to share teachings with a much wider audience. Not only is she able to expand her business imprint, but she can also build connections with more people in more places.
It’s the same philosophy that drove her to publish a book, “Yoga’s Healing Power,” which was released earlier this month and which is available in stores and online. Much of the material originated as content for her blog, a collection of her ruminations on all things yoga.
“I was connecting with people every day, and somebody who read the blog came into the studio and said, ‘You know, I’m a literary agent, and I think you should write a book proposal — I’ve been reading your blog,’” Hamilton recalled. “There are a lot of people looking for those genuine connections.”
The book marks the latest expansion of Hamilton’s yoga universe.
Born and raised on the Upper West Side of New York City, she moved across the country in 2001 and landed in Santa Monica about three years later. In 2009 she and then-husband Dorian Cheah opened Yogis Anonymous.
At the time, online yoga classes weren’t nearly as common as they are now. And Cheah figured Hamilton’s sessions could be streamed on the Web to people who aren’t local residents or who can’t afford paying for in-person classes.
“We basically opened two businesses at once,” she said, “and I don’t think we understood we were doing that. It’s really two different animals. There’s the brick-and-mortar Santa Monica studio with a great local community — I couldn’t love it more. And then we have this global community, and I don’t think I understood how amazing that was going to be until the first time we put a class up. I didn’t realize how powerful that platform was going to be.”
Hamilton’s online classes, which have been picked up in places like Maine, France and Hong Kong, are intentionally realistic. It’s just her leading her regulars, who have consented to being filmed by the cameras that are placed in her studio. She said she sometimes forgets that there’s a microphone pack on her hip.
“We don’t make it perfect and glowy with everyone in white,” she said. “It’s very raw. It feels like a live class. [Online participants] want it to feel like they just walked into a studio.”
Hamilton teaches nine classes each week, a few of which are posted on the Internet. She receives notifications when users comment on her video site, making it easier for her to connect with them.
“You have this virtual world with the Facebook page and the streaming website, but it’s real connection and real community that’s happening locally and globally,” she said. “It’s so meaningful to me to get to connect with people in these different ways.”
Photo credit: James Vincent Knowles