Ali Fitzsimmons first discovered yoga through a modern dance class at the University of Virginia in 2005. From there, she experimented with various styles of yoga, eventually finding Iyengar yoga at Allied Yoga in Charlottesville, Virginia. Ali completed an apprenticeship under studio owner Shaaron Honeycutt and then completed a 200-hour vinyasa-iyengar training program through Yoga Works in Richmond, Virginia in 2013. Since then, Ali has brought yoga to children and teens through work with Department of Public Health and school systems, as well as older adults at rural senior centers. She has also partnered with Advantage Behavior Health Systems to bring yoga to female participants in an outpatient treatment setting. Ali believes that yoga can be for everyone and that it can improve health outcomes and quality of life no matter who you are. Yoga is a vehicle for self-discovery and human evolution.
Where are you from? I was born in Fairfax, Virginia, and have spent many years of my life living in the metropolitan Washington D.C. area, as well as Charlottesville, Virginia.
How long have you lived in Athens? I have lived in Athens since 2013, which is almost long enough for me to call it home now.
What’s your passion? I think I have 2 major passions. 1) Spending time outdoors, either alone or with good company, to move, explore, and see the environment. 2) Working with people to help them achieve a better quality of life.
Favorite book?Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan
Favorite movie? Birdman
Favorite restaurant? The Kimball House in Atlanta
When did you start practicing yoga and why?
I started practicing yoga when I was teaching children and teens diagnosed with Autism spectrum disorders in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2010. During this time in my life, I think that I really needed something that could challenge me to grow mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, while also allowing me to practice the art of self care in a safe and sacred space, free from distractions. I had been a long distance runner, recreational cyclist, and hiker for many years, and was in need of a more “medicinal” therapeutic practice that would allow me to stretch and sustain these other forms of movement. Yoga has been the one thing that I continue to come back to that gives me something more than what these others forms of exercise and movement offer—yoga reaches the heart, mind, and soul, and cultivates a more balanced and positive life experience.
What’s your favorite yoga style?
That is a hard question! I think that it depends on my state of mind and body. For example, when I feel either physically, mentally, or emotionally drained, I crave a juicy and peaceful yin class, especially candelight yin, which adds an additional element of sanctity via lighting and ambience. When my energy level is normal or on the high end, I want to ride the Rocket and challenge myself through a more rigorous Ashtanga-based practice. My original training was through Yoga Works, in Richmond, Virginia, and is rooted in Iyengar, which is alignment based yoga, and vinyasa. That said, at the core, I love a class that is well-rounded, intelligently structured, and philosophically driven.
How long have you taught yoga? What inspired you to teach?
I have been teaching yoga for almost 3 years now. I was inspired to teach simply because yoga can be for anybody, literally, regardless of your physical or mental health diagnoses, your body type, and your own thoughts/beliefs about who you are. In his book Light on Life, BKS Igyengar, describes his personal journey in life, where he delivered carefully structured yoga sequences alongside medical professionals to help people with various ailments reach an improved quality of life. Yoga has and continues to improve how I feel each time I step on to my mat. Knowing that yoga improves health outcomes is my greatest source of inspiration as a teacher.
What’s your advice to someone who is new to yoga?
Search for a practice and style that speaks to you. It’s exciting and fun to try different teachers and different studios. Maybe invite yourself to come back to some practices that that you initially question and allow yourself to sit with some of those initial doubts and thoughts about the practice. Why? Because each day on the mat is different. If you keep coming back to the practice and challenge yourself to keep an open mind and heart in your efforts, you will likely find a practice that speaks to you.
What is your favorite pose?
Another hard question. I would have to say that I love supported bridge pose with legs extended because it opens the heart while also releasing the hip flexors, which are always incredibly tight in my body (from running and cycling).
What’s your favorite class to teach at M3? Favorite to take?
I love teaching my Saturday Slow Flow class at M3. I have 2 favorite classes to take: Rocket and M360.
What do you enjoy most about M3?
The thing that I enjoy most about M3 is what it stands for: mind, matter, movement, and inclusivity. For me, M3 is a sacred space in the Athens community, that promotes and values diversity. I believe that there is a class for pretty much any body with any level of yoga exposure.