A Lifetime of Gratitude: An Interview with NGY Teacher Aly Long by Director of NGY Teachers Kelli Mae Willis

I’m sitting down to lunch with NGY Teacher Aly Long, my colleague, teaching partner, and dear friend, on a weekday afternoon. Before we begin eating, Aly pauses to bless her meal, closing her eyes, breathing deeply with her hands together in front of her heart in reverence. It’s something I’ve always admired about Aly; no matter how busy we are or how chaotic the environment, she always pauses to practice gratitude.

After a few moments, she opens her eyes and hugs her daughter, who is sitting in her lap. They’ve just returned from a free NGY Storytime class Aly led at the local library. The class had around 100 attendees, so Aly’s daughter is needing some extra closeness after sharing her mama with so many other children. “My heart is so full of gratitude right now,” Aly says, squeezing her little one.  

Aly is always working and serving her children and her business, so pinning her down to write a blog is challenging. Instead of having her sit alone at a computer to tell her story, I’ve decided to interview her for this month’s Why Kids Love Yoga blog. What follows are the juiciest bits of our conversation about what keeps her going as an NGY Teacher.

KM: Tell me how you got started teaching Kids Yoga.

Aly: We had just moved to Olympia. I was checking out preschools for my son, and I took a tour of the Olympia Community School. At the end of our tour, the woman asked what my work had been before I had children. I told her I was a massage therapist and Yoga teacher. She said, “Oh! Would you like to teach Yoga here?” I told her I had attended Kids Yoga classes but had never taught them myself. She said, “Well let’s try it and see how it goes!”

I don’t remember exactly what I had prepared or how it went, but I do remember it being really fun! I wasn’t sure the kids would enjoy it, but they did! The school thought is was great. I just fell into it – sometimes I feel like that’s what happens in my life. I agreed to teach Yoga for the children, preschool – 4th grade, for the rest of the quarter.

KM: So tell me about the moment that you recognized that Kids Yoga was something you were passionate enough about to make your life’s work.

Aly: I feel like whatever we are supposed to be doing is going to happen. In 2007, I spent several months in India with my guru, Amma, at her ashram. When I came back from India, I decided to take a Yoga Teacher Training. I was also trying to decide whether I would continue with a spiritual life, or become a householder. I got a very clear answer at the ashram that I was supposed to have children.

I go to see Amma once or twice every year, as much as I possibly can. I saw her the summer of 2016, after I had already been teaching some Kids Yoga classes. In her programs, she always gives a talk. During this talk, her theme was how we need to find our own way to contribute to the greater good. She said that teaching Yoga, especially teaching Yoga to children, was the greatest calling. I felt like she was speaking directly to me.

I had gone to the event in a place of questioning. Do I want to keep teaching Yoga? Do I want to teach kids? Should I go back to bodywork? Is this the best way that I can serve the world? Sitting in meditation with her, things became clear to me. I felt, Wow! I just got Amma’s blessing! This is actually what she’s asking me to do, and this is my way to serve. There isn’t a better path or a greater way to contribute. It allowed me to settle into this life that I love. I started crying…and I remember I just felt so grateful. It couldn’t have been clearer.

KM: Do you have a practice you bring to your teaching that keeps this experience in your mind?

Aly: In almost every one of my classes, I share the chant “Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu,” which means “May all beings everywhere be peaceful, happy and free.” When we chant, I feel like it’s my direct connection to Amma, my higher self, the divine, and my contribution to peace on earth. It’s a prayer for peace for everyone. I think of all the beings in the world, the children I’ve seen suffering, and I am offering peace to the world.

KM: Can you think of a memorable time you sang that chant in one of your classes?

Aly: I use the chant myself to find stillness in the movement, which as a parent I am always needing to find. I remember in one class, I asked the children, “What was your favorite part of Yoga today?” A first time student said so sweetly, “I really liked that song.” I asked her, “How does it make you feel?” She said, “I felt it here,” as she put her hands over her heart. She was quite young, and afterward she gave me a big hug. I think that was the only class she ever came to.

It’s amazing to work with children. Children are so intuitive, they know so much. To watch them drop in, to see them express themselves, their creativity, their understanding of something greater. We’re so blessed, Kelli Mae. We’re so blessed that we get to witness this. I feel so lucky. In fact, I’ve been feeling so grateful lately that I’m doing 30 Days of Gratitude in November on my social media business page. There are so many ways I feel grateful for living my Yoga.

I was so moved by our conversation, on my way home I called NGY Founder Jodi Komitor to share the experience. We decided that NGY should take up 30 Days of Gratitude along with Aly! Every day in November, we’ll be posting photos and stories from NGY Teachers sharing why they are grateful to teach NGY classes. Please check out our stories and join us by sharing your own gratitudes!

Aly Long
NGY Teacher for 2-7 yr. olds
Olympia, WA
Email Aly

Aly Long has been practicing yoga for almost twenty years. She studied in India with her Guru Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi), also known as the hugging saint. Aly also studied yoga, meditation and thai massage. After returning in 2008, Aly completed a 250-hour Yoga teacher training in Tucson, Arizona. She received another 100 hour Yoga training in Olympia, Washington. Aly has been blessed to teach people of all ages. Most recently, Aly has completed and assisted the NGY Teacher Training for 2-7 yr. Olds and TBoKY, and will complete the NGY 8-13 Training this December. She currently teaches kids and adults in and around Olympia, WA, and is working towards her 95 hr. RCYT certification.

Aly loves to practice Yoga and meditation, dance, hike and enjoy nature. She loves being a mom and spending time with her two beautiful children. They are her greatest teachers!

1 Comment
  1. HelenJackman 3 years ago

    Good post. It is good for kids if they practice yoga. Yoga replenishes mind as well as body. I always asks my kids to practice yoga at least for an hour.

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