An Interview with Julie

  1. What is your personal mantra?

One of my favorite personal mantras that I constantly repeat to myself is “I don’t know”.  If you go through life thinking you have things figured out, it prevents you from learning, and there is always something new being revealed at every moment. The Universe is constantly teaching and opening up new doorways. Saying “I don’t know” takes the pressure off. We don’t need to have all of the answers. That’s not our job, and that’s not why we’re here. I believe when we stay curious and let go of the need to figure things out, we can open up fully to the experience of the present moment and allow the Divine to manifest itself through us.  Magic happens when we surrender and say “I don’t know”.

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  1. How did your passion for yoga start?

When I was about 16, I was searching through my mom’s workout DVD’s and I noticed something new: Power Yoga for Flexibility with Rodney Yee. I had never done Yoga before and was excited to try something new. I immediately just felt “at home” while doing that sequence. I was attracted to the sense of peace and calmness I felt. Rodney Yee’s voice is so gentle and soothing, and I felt a deeper connection with my body and soul, than I ever had with any of the other workout videos. I loved it so much that I went out and bought more of his DVD’s and practiced Yoga regularly at home. What started as a physical exercise, snowballed into a spiritual awakening. I began reading spiritual books, and I wanted to research and learn about all of the different religions and spiritual practices around the world. I had an urge to change my diet, and started buying natural and organic foods. I wanted to understand myself, others, and the world around me at a much deeper level. However, even though I was very passionate about Yoga, it was something I kept to myself, and my practice was mostly alone at home, or occasionally taking a class at the Gym. It wasn’t until I was 25, four months after my second son was born, and that I walked into an actual studio and took a class. It was my first Hot Yoga class, and it was challenging! I had a difficult time keeping up with the rest of the class, but I felt great afterwards. I started attending more classes and workshops, and realized the importance of having a community of like-minded individuals to practice with.

  1. As a yoga teacher, what is the most important thing you want your students to take away from your class?

My main intention when I teach a yoga class, is to provide students with a safe place where they can explore their bodies. Our bodies are always talking to us, but unfortunately, it’s in a language that is foreign to most. Yoga practice is about starting a conversation with the body, so that with time, we can begin to understand this language. As we connect more deeply to our bodies, this enables us to connect more fully with our inner spirit. The main purpose of yoga, is connection. Yoga comes from the Sanskrit root yuj meaning “to join” or “to yoke”. The time devoted on the mat to connect our minds with our bodies, leads to a deeper connection with the entire universe, and all other beings. 11170358_961832503835805_3547940919100759554_n

  1. How has yoga changed your perspective on life?

Yoga has helped me to stay open. Before Yoga, I was much more rigid and structured. Yoga has taught me to resist less, and to flow with the currents of life without clinging onto expectations. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set goals or hold a vision for yourself. It’s very important to have purpose, but we must fully surrender and trust that the universal currents will take us exactly to where we need to be. Growing into our life’s purpose requires an equal amount of surrender and effort. I used to push too much when I first started practicing yoga. I’ve learned that pushing actually slows down the progress. When I slowed down, relaxed, and started paying close attention to what I was feeling in my body, I noticed that doors started to open. From there, another door would open, and then another. It was like a snowball effect.

  1. What are some of your self-care rituals?

The absolute most important self-care ritual for me, is spending time alone in nature. I use these moments in solitude to meditate and unleash my creativity. Sometimes I practice yoga, or take pictures. I love to walk quietly and observe all the animal visitors that appear. Every creature has something to teach us, and I love to reflect on these 14516426_1283646021654450_446994513006616374_nlessons. I consider it a special gift from Spirit and a powerful tool to help us connect to our Higher Selves. A very important part of self-care is learning when and how to say “no” without guilt when life starts to get too hectic. It’s not easy to do, because I want to attend everything and be there for everyone all the time. However, that’s not possible, and it’s not healthy. If I need a break, I will schedule in some time for myself so that I can rest, eat healthy meals, and recharge my soul. When we take care of ourselves, we have more to give to others.

  1. How would you describe your style of yoga?

My style of yoga is moving and practicing in ways necessary to create balance within. On certain days we have more energy to release from the body, so a more challenging and strengthening practice is needed. On other days, our bodies will benefit from a more gentle approach. I design my classes with a variety of options so everyone can feel comfortable to choose what will be best for their body on that particular day. I like to offer challenges and play around with working in elements of impossibility in a way where students can gently lean into a pose that intimidates them.  When we stay present and calm in those moments where we want to check out and run away, we develop a whole new level of growth within our being. These are the valuable lessons we take with us off the mat and into our daily lives.  When a challenge arises, don’t be afraid. Face it in a gentle way with full faith and confidence in yourself! This is presence…. and this is how we grow into empowered individuals!

  1. What was the best advice you ever received?

The amazing teacher I trained under, Suddha Wexler, from Chicago Yoga Center, used to always tell us to give our practice medium effort. Meaning, we want to work and feel the sensations in our body, but we don’t want to overdo it either. This advice really resonated with me and I apply it not just in my yoga practice, but in my daily life as well. It’s a helpful way to keep balance in all 14492456_1286254341393618_814534339879282651_nthings. Medium effort is a very healthy way to go about life. Even today as I was teaching class, I reminded everyone that taking breaks when needed are always welcome in my class. In fact, I encourage breaks. Don’t overdo it, because if you overdo it, then you won’t want to come back to class. The most important thing is to come back and be consistent. Keep practicing regularly. It doesn’t matter if you can do the whole class or not. What matters is that you come back, and really start to experience all of the benefits that yoga has to offer.

  1. What was your journey like when becoming a yoga teacher?

Teacher training was a life altering experience in so many ways!! First of all, I discovered that I had been doing a lot of poses incorrectly! A thorough understanding of alignment helped me get so much more out of my practice. My yoga shifted from doing poses, to BEING in poses. These subtle changes in my alignment helped my body to open and strengthen much more efficiently, and I saw my practice change drastically. Also, the amount of time I spent practicing increased by a lot. I can honestly say, since training, I practice some sort of yoga just about everyday. Consistency is one of the most important factors in seeing transformation. It doesn’t need to be an intense practice everyday. Just some sort of movement to make you feel good. There were so many poses that I could not do. I studied and I kept practicing. A lot of these poses that seemed impossible, I can do now. I learned that what may seem impossible, can very well be possible with the right amount of effort and faith. When training was completed, I felt so nervous to start teaching. I wanted to run and hide, and I knew that if I tried to put it off, it would never happen. I forced myself to get out and start teaching right away. The first yoga class I taught…. Wow, was I terrified. I’m a speech communications major and have gotten in front of people tons of times, but this felt different. I was so nervous, but I did my best. Each class got a little easier. It took a while to let go of the fear. It’s a very vulnerable feeling to put yourself out there in front of a group of people. I learned how to shift my focus away from myself and how I look, and focus 100 percent on the students. Because, really, it’s not at all about me. It’s about them. When I am focusing on the amazing people that are moving and breathing together in that room, there is no room to feel nervous.

  1. Have you felt pressure to look a certain way as a yoga teacher?

15380339_1359278637424521_6768219346404121223_nYes, mostly in regards to how I teach. There can be some judgmental folks out there in the yoga world who attach to a particular style and think it’s superior to others. It’s pretty ironic, because yoga is supposed to be about non-judgement, but that kind of stuff happens with any group. It’s human nature and all part of the earthly experience. I’ve learned to stop worrying about what someone else thinks about my style of teaching. I find value in all philosophies, but I’ve found that for me, intuition is the best guide. Everyone has the right to find what works best for them.

  1. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be? Why?

New Zealand!! It looks like such an amazing place. There are so many places I’d like to visit. If I could, I would live my life as if it was one long never ending journey, traveling from place to place. For now, staying put feels necessary to give my kids a sense of consistency. Who knows what the future holds…. maybe someday I’ll make that dream happen. For now, I am so grateful to live where I do now, surrounded by so many amazing people.

Instagram: @julie.stanford

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