• Grace Yoga (GY): Julienne, you say you fell in love with yoga way back in 2005, as a student. What inspired you to become a yoga instructor and how has your personal practice changed since then?

    Julienne Hernandez (JH): The more I practiced yoga and learned the postures, the more I wanted to share what I was learning in my own way. An individual’s understanding of yoga is very personal and unique– it reflects each person’s own journey. I’ve had the honor of learning from such amazing teachers who share it from their own unique perspective and I felt I wanted to share yoga from my own unique perspective as well. Since becoming a teacher, the biggest change in my practice has been my increased self practice which I started through my teacher training and continue today through a Mysore style Ashtanga practice. When I practice on my own, I become both my own teacher and student. This challenges me to be much more mindful in my practice and be more focused on my body and breath.
    GY: What is your personal philosophy about where yoga fits in along your path to self-realization?
    JH: My yoga practice is a practice for both my body and mind as I’m challenged to focus my attention on my body and my breath. This aspect of challenging my focus also began to apply to my mind wherein as part of meditation, I am challenged to focus my attention on the present moment and simply watch my thought patterns, emotions and reactions to certain situations. Practicing to focus your attention (i.e. watching your body and thoughts) rather than just doing and reacting immediately is where yoga fits into my path to self-realization. How can one truly know oneself without watching one’s thoughts? I’ve found that it’s helpful to first watch and tune in from the outside in by training the mind to tune in to the physical body and then practicing to tune in within.
    GY: This month we are focusing on Yoga Sutra 1.13: Practice is effort toward a steady and tranquil mind. What are your thoughts on making yoga an integrative experience, finding peace in the joining of body and mind?
    JH: As I previously mentioned, I strongly feel that a yoga practice is for both the body and the mind. While the asanas have helped my body to build strength and flexibility, it is while I practice these asanas that I challenge my mind as well. Particularly as part of practicing the Ashtanga yoga method, I challenge myself to focus on three things during my asana practice: Breath (Am I breathing 5 deep breaths in each pose?), Bandhas or energy locks (Are uddiyana bandha, mula bandha and any other bandhas traditionally practiced with each pose engaged?), and Dhristi or gaze (Am I keeping my gaze focused on the traditionally recommended points for each posture?). From my perspective, the practice is to not let my mind wander (i.e. what happened during the day, what is happening around the room during my practice, what will happen after my practice) and instead keep it focused on the asanas, breath, bandhas and dhristi.

    GY: Please tell us a little about yourself: career, family, background and anything else interesting you would like us to know.
    JH: I practice Mysore Style Ashtanga with Deb Burkman, who is one of my first teachers and who studied with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (founder of Ashtanga Yoga). I am able to learn so much about yoga through my own learning and personal practice which is heavily influenced by Deb. Additionally, I love to travel (and took my first yoga retreat with Deb in Tullum, Mexico). In the last year, I have traveled to the Philippines, Indonesia and Italy and hope to complete my Eat, Pray, Love tour of the world and travel to India within the next few years. I am also currently planning my honeymoon to Mexico, Belize and the Caribbean so recommendations are welcome!