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Encouraging Vulnerability One Yoga Class at a Time: Ally Maz

I met Alex Mazerolle (who commonly goes by Ally Maz) on the sunny, sandy beaches of Playa Maderas, Nicaragua in 2016. We shared anecdotes and bonded over the things that make life so interesting.

I was particularly struck by Ally’s passion-led career, and her relentless vision and goal to empower young women with the tools to love themselves through movement and conversation, and help them combat their struggles with eating disorders – a journey that she has been through herself. After taking one of her afternoon yoga classes on that same trip, I knew Ally was the real deal. 

Since then, Ally has been working on publishing her first novel, has worked alongside Lululemon as a Global Ambassador, and is the brains and brawn behind the Girlvana Yoga – a platform for teens with a mission to raise consciousness through yoga meditation and raw conversation, and it’s big sister Ladyvana, a similar platform for self-identified womxn. Not to mention, she’s building an online empire, all while being a wife to Bill, doggy-mom to Butcher and making killer spicy margaritas. 

So Ally Maz, tell us what you do? 
First and foremost, I’m a yoga teacher. I am also a writer, a mentor, and consider myself an entrepreneur. 

What made you want to do what you do? 
So Girlvana – my yoga company, is very much tied to my purpose and mission in my life. I wanted to empower the next generation of women and I wanted to give the tools of yoga and meditation to 14-year-olds, to equip them to find their voice and have a deeper connection to their bodies and to their mental health. We have had to postpone in-person meetings in light of [Covid-19], but we have two meetings a week on IG Live. Our members share what it’s like to be in quarantine as a teenager, what it’s like to – for example – miss their graduation, be on Zoom calls for school and how they’re managing their mental health through it all. So that’s been really cool. And then I mentor privately too; I work with teens specifically with eating disorders. I’ve honestly got a 24/7 hotline for teenagers, a space for teens to talk about their feelings and what’s coming up and then using yoga and meditation to help them cope.

Amazing. You give so much in really deep ways, how do you fill up your cup? 
It’s honestly taken me so long to figure out what that ratio looks like for me. I’ve been teaching yoga for 13 years! I’m on all the time, so my recharge is solo time. What that looks like is getting myself in the bath or getting into nature – those are my two churches. 

What advice would you give to somebody looking to incorporate yoga and wellness into their daily routines? 
Find a teacher that you like. I think it takes the right teacher to connect to the yoga itself. It’s like being in high school and learning a subject you didn’t particularly like. But if you have a teacher who resonated with you, or you cared about, and they cared about you, you probably try a little bit harder or learn something that same way.

I know it’s a bit different now, but I still think there are virtual communities that are starting to feel like home for people. Find a place that is inclusive. Wellness looks so different for everyone, so just try to find what works for you versus blindly following some routine that feels counterintuitive to your being. 

How did you turn your passion into a career? What were the steps? 
I came to yoga by way of being an ex-professional dancer. It was all in the movement space, and I found yoga as a way to heal my body. I was dealing with an eating disorder and injury and was burnt out. I was living in LA just as a backup dancer, felt burnt out and yoga really was a way for me to heal physically, mentally and emotionally and I caught the bug and wanted to learn how to teach. So the first thing I did was a yoga teacher training, and then I started to teach yoga and taught anywhere I could, whether that was to my mom in the backyard or with my friends; I just started slowly to whoever would take me, and whatever time I could teach.

I had like the shittiest time slots, at 6:00 in the morning or 9:00 at night. When I started my business, it was really out of a need to serve a younger generation. It was knocking down every door of every principal, school counsellor, high school teacher, anyone that I knew, dance studios,  girl guides and started offering my services. So the teaching came first, then I was like, oh I have to build a brand around this. And thought, well teenagers need to think this is cool. And this was 10 years ago, so I made stickers and created this marketing collateral. But it was really so organic. I was so driven by my passion, and not that I didn’t create anything fancy, but it was my passion that led to the rest. And then I caught up with the brand side, to make everything look a little bit more polished. 

Can you share three tips for being successful in this career?
1. Be a student of yoga, and remain a student.

2. Take care of yourself. Really find that balance of self-care, because it’s so easy to burn out because it’s such a physical, mental and emotional, and spiritual discipline. I have definitely burnt out a lot over the years, so it takes a lot of learning to know how to properly take care of yourself. This doesn’t feel like a sacrifice to me, but I have to go to bed early. Like I can drink, but I’ve got to hold my shit together because I have to show up.

3. Be genuine. People know what’s real. They can feel it. It only resonates when you’re real with people, especially young people. They can spot the bullshit from a mile away. So just your ability to be real is the most important thing.

Tell us a secret about your job.
It’s a common misconception of people in this space that they have it all figured out and I never feel that way. People will say to me, ‘you must be so fit. You must be happy.’ That’s never been the goal. I just live a very real life. And that also means real sadness, real fear, real love. I’m human and I feel all the same things everyone else feels. I think the only difference is that I am able to take a lot of those lessons and teach them, but it doesn’t necessarily always mean that they’re landing for me.

Oh gosh, that’s so, so good. Anything that’s exciting coming up?
My book is going to be out in June 2021. I just saw the first concept pages of design yesterday. Things are really coming along, so that’s a little bit more future-forward. I’m interviewing Elizabeth Gilbert, I’m going live with her on Instagram for Lululemon’s first book club. 

Um, major. Big Magic changed the creative trajectory of my life. That’s pretty rad.
She’s so good. Freaking out. But other than that, I’m working on launching a subscription-based yoga video platform because I want to be able to just create more, so that’s something that is like slowly coming into play. And other than that, it’s just doing weekly Zoom classes, which have been so great. And we’ll see what the future brings. 

And that we will. You can check out all things Ally Maz on her Instagram and on her website

Danai Mushayandebvu

Danai is usually scrolling through Instagram in search of new restaurants, things to do and places to be. While she has no formal dance training whatsoever, she hopes to be part of a professional hip-hop troupe someday. You can follow her escapades @dnizzler