Chapter 1 / Collective
Ally Maz and Ashley Brodeur
Intro by: Hannah Chew
We all lead busy lives, and it can be a struggle to find a moment to slow down, disconnect and be present with yourself and those around you. Ally Maz and Ashley Brodeur are both talented entrepreneurs who look to yoga as a way to live their most open, free and positively impactful selves. We are inspired by their use of yoga as a tool for personal growth and desire to share this gift with others.
Ally – a community builder at her core and founder of multiple yoga initiatives, such as the renowned Distrikt Movement, and Ashley – founder of Feelosophy Yoga, which uniquely integrates the power of human touch to complement this practice, sat down with us to chat about their personal journeys through yoga, and how they are using this movement to inspire deeper connection with those around them.
These amazing women encourage us to delve into yoga and its abilities to connect, heal, and teach. Read our interview with Ally and Ashley below, and learn about ‘Feelvana’ – their upcoming retreat in Panama this October.
OCIN: You’ve both found a connection and a career through yoga and sharing the practice. What got you into yoga and what was the moment that pushed you into pursuing this as something more for you?
Ally Maz: I went to one class when I was 20 and I knew that I was destined to teach. I come from an extensive dance background so the movement felt familiar but the way it was taught felt so sacred. I felt for the first time I was honoring my body through movement instead of punishing or forcing it. I had a direct experience with myself that was incredibly spiritual. I knew I had to learn more.
Ashley Noelle: Similar to Ally, I sought out yoga at 16 after a dance injury. I remember hating the process of my first class, yet left feeling lighter. I kept coming back for that, to have a brief moment when I didn’t feel like I needed to hold the weight of the world or my life. While I still have my days of struggling through the practice, yoga has been the most potent constant in my life for the past 12 years.
OCIN: If you could explain in three words what yoga in the moment makes you feel, what would that be? How has this movement played a role in shaping your growth as a person and your lifestyle today?
AM: Connected, compassionate and awake. Yoga has been in my life for thirteen years now and has served as the foundation of my deep inner growth. It has been my anchor as I have navigated adulthood, relationships and entrepreneurship. It is the one thing that brings me back to myself no matter how far I have strayed.
AN: Present. Free. Alive. Movement gives me space to actually be in my body and my experience. Not to perform for anyone, but to move for me. That practice has been weaved into my life – the idea that my life does not need to be a performance for others, but I can make choices for me. Where I live, my career path, my relationships are for me.
OCIN: You’re heading on a yoga teacher training retreat in Panama, called Feelvana. What is it about being surrounded by nature and the water, that you feel becomes integral to this experience?
AM: Learning how to teach yoga can be such a deep and challenging process. To me, the ocean and jungle provide a healing backdrop to the transformation that occurs. Whether you feel stuck or completely broken open, you can dive into the water and feel cleansed and revived. Nature has always provided me with clarity and understanding and is the perfect space for self reflection and inquiring deeper about life.
AN: I took my teacher training in Brazil. While at times it was challenging to be away from home for so long, it is rare we get a chance to truly disconnect to reconnect. Nature has that powerful duality, where I can disconnect from the noise and busyness of life and then reconnect to myself. Having nature as a part of a YTT (Yoga Teacher Training) gives participants a chance to experience that duality and forces everyone to stay present and not check out when the training gets challenging. A swim in the ocean is more soothing than zoning out on Instagram.
OCIN: Feelvana leads with such a powerful vision – “Yoga as a tool to heal, inspire, and create change change for yourself and your community”. Why do you feel yoga is the vessel to inspire this change?
AM: I think yoga is very personal. When you study all aspects of yoga, not just the physical, it wakes you up on all levels. You can longer stay small or ignorant. You must show up for your life knowing what you have learned from yoga. It holds you accountable on all levels.
AN: Yoga represents union. I think now more than ever the world feels fragmented and disjointed. As Ally said yoga is personal. What I notice in yoga is a reflection of the world around us. For a while in my practice I felt very contained to my mat, lacking the freedom to express fully in my poses. When I reflected on this I noticed I felt the same way about taking up space in my own body in this world.
OCIN: What impact do you want your work to leave on the world around you? Can you share with us a story of an ultimate feel good moment that your work inspired?
AM: My mission with yoga has always been a tool to inspire womxn and girls to find love and acceptance for themselves. Once we can do that, we can share our voices and our unique expression with the world. Over the course of the last nine years with Girlvana, I have been able to witness radical transformation with the teen girls I work with. Seeing teens enter a yoga retreat feeling depressed, anxious, and/or suicidal, and leave with the desire to live, to love themselves, and to show the world who they are, is incredibly profound.
AN: I am very passionate about human touch as a vessel for human connection. I do not feel we have been taught to both give and receive touch, yet it is such a primal need. To feel another person creates a deep level of connection and it does not need to be sexual or reciprocated. Through this work and Feelosophy, I have heard stories of people diving into their own relationship to touch. Women who have experienced sexual assault have finally felt safe in their bodies with touch. Partners feel open to communicating their needs. Teen girls feel seen and no longer express the desire to self harm.
Being self-aware is the ultimate way to support your self and other people... it allows us to uncover the parts of ourselves that is ready to be seen.
OCIN: OCIN exists to connect humans to our most open, free and positively impactful selves to motivate awareness and kindness towards ourselves, our earth and our oceans. How do you think we can be better at supporting each other into really living into this self everyday?
AM: Simply put it is about showing up for ourselves first. When we can do that we can show up more fully for others and the environment around us.
AN: I am in the work about shifting the narrative from self-care to self-aware. Being self-aware is the ultimate way to support yourself and other people. Being self-aware can be uncomfortable and takes discipline but it allows us to uncover the parts of ourselves that is ready to be seen.
OCIN: What’s next for you both in 2019?
AM: More Girlvana, Ladyvana and Feelvana events around the world!
AN: Feelosophy hands on trainings, Portugal summer retreat. Feelvana collab retreat hopefully!
Join Ally and Ashley at Feelvana – https://www.feelvana.com
*Guests of the retreat receive a special OCIN discount*