• Grace Yoga (GY): This month we are focusing on Yoga Sutra 2.42: Contentment brings supreme happiness. What are your thoughts on how this sutra intersects with your yoga practice?
    Julie Stewart (JS): I think it's really interesting! Happiness is so fleeting and elusive sometimes. I think we easily get trapped into believing that "I'll only be happy when..." some future milestone is reached. If we strive for contentment, we instead focus on finding balance and peace while navigating an ever-increasingly complex world.

    GY: A lot of us re-dedicate ourselves to our practice in the new year. What is your personal philosophy about maintaining a yoga practice with a busy lifestyle?
    JS: Practicing yoga, to me, is like practicing anything. It takes time and a level of intentionality. Sometimes, even just thinking about practicing yoga helps me feel better. Asana practice is just one part of a whole, including elements of self-care and community-care. I think it's an important element to my own health and wellness, and it's something that I can incorporate into my daily routine with a little creativity. For me, the act of adjusting my body to become more comfortable, relaxed, and present is practicing yoga. If I want to practice in an active way, I simply make time for it. The benefits of a consistent practice are innumerable.

    GY: As a teacher and a student of Yoga, you are exposed to so many facets of Yoga as a practice. What inspired you to become a yoga teacher, and since becoming a teacher, how has your practice changed?
    JS: I started yoga as a sophomore in college. My first class was Ashtanga, and as a former dancer, I felt right at home. I remember looking to the teacher to signal me with their eyes and cues that I was doing it "right." I wanted to be perfect and controlled- I would later realize that this was a pretty detrimental characteristic of mine, haha. I branched out, and soon found myself a "yoga home" at a little studio in Cambridge MA called Soni Yoga. It was a hole-in-the-wall type place, one room, lots of incense, tapestries, and chanting. We practiced Hatha. I felt completely invigorated and simultaneously blissed out after every class. I didn't care how I looked in the poses- what mattered was how I felt. I started a deeper journey than I could have anticipated.
    After years of regular practice, dabbling in lots of different lineages, I landed a job working full-time at a wonderful studio in Virginia called Honest Soul Yoga. I grew as a yogi physically, mentally and emotionally. Being at this studio healed me in ways I didn't know I needed. As I became immersed in the lifestyle and the culture, I got to know a lot of teachers. I practiced with them and learned from them. When the opportunity arose for me to become a teacher myself, I decided in an instant to do it. After a year of training to teach, I found a strong desire to help yoga students experience radical self-acceptance. Complete, total, unwavering, and unflinching. That kind of acceptance is hard work. I'm still on my journey, and I hope to help others on theirs.
    My practice has changed almost entirely since I started. I don't evaluate my own poses in the moment. I'm not conscious of how I look. I aim to be completely in my body, and to practice safely. My practice is less about the poses and more about how I feel while doing them, and is much more about meditation than it ever was in the beginning.

    GY: Please tell us a little about yourself: career, family, background and anything else interesting you would like us to know.  
    JS: I’m a Boston-born girl in my early 30s. I just moved to the Bay area from Virginia to reunite with my fiance, Stephen. And to reunite him with our cat Luna. They're basically inseparable. It's stinking adorable. Family is incredibly important to me, and I will not hesitate to show you pictures. I have a background in early childhood development, history, speech pathology, and now I do internal marketing for a local club. I am currently looking into becoming trained as a doula, as well! I suppose you can say that I move where my interests take me, and I've been lucky enough to follow them to the extent that I have. I believe in the soul, I believe in transformation, and I believe in people. I love teaching yoga, and I am so thankful that I get to teach it here at Grace Yoga.