Julia and I met in 2008 when we were both associated with Madison Pilates. Julia was practicing Massage Therapy, while I was studying to become a Pilates instructor. Eight years and a few life changes for us both later, Julia continues to broaden her knowledge base and integrate more ways to help people. I am lucky to have her back in my life and am looking forward to her sharing her deep knowledge and wise words with us. I asked Julia a few questions so you can get to know her too.
What drew you to yoga?
When I started yoga (long ago), I felt the practice was a complete, all-in-one, holistic spiritual practice. A one-stop-shop for spirituality and bliss. I thought this for many reasons. First of all, yoga made my body feel great. I loved the stretch and pull, and moving myself in ways I never imagined possible. When I was in a backbend, I remember feeling my hair with my toes. This was both unnatural and thrilling. But yoga also made me feel great about my body. Since I was the girl who was always picked last in gym class, I never felt like I had physical aptitude. In yoga, it was different. I felt powerful and embodied. Yoga boosted my ego and I felt fearless. I believed the health benefits of yoga were practically limitless. I thought that yoga would physically align my body to prevent injury and by opening and clearing energetic pathways, I would prevent disease. If only I could do the poses in absolute perfection, boundless health would be mine. But my strongest attraction to yoga was the spiritual side. Asana was a deep meditation for me. I thought that if I could connect to my body deeply enough, I would open a pathway to the Divine. In those early days, I swallowed the yoga hook completely.
What drew you to Pilates?
The short answer is that yoga led me to Pilates. As my understanding of the body grew, I began to see some of the holes in physical benefits yoga. For example, many of the people who are attracted to yoga are very joint lax (ed note: joint lax is looseness or instability of a joint). For them, bending and stretching is the last thing they need. Their bodies crave strength and stability. My body was the same. Like many yogis, I began to hurt over time. Eventually I ended up with a severe disc issue and yoga couldn’t help me. However, when I started doing Pilates, my body knit together in a way it never had. I could wake in the morning without pain.
This was startling and intriguing. Could it be true that yoga isn’t the answer to everything?
With Pilates my body feels great. Strong. Whole. Lifelong aches are disappearing. Chronic pain is mostly gone. With Pilates, I could throw cement blocks out of my car into the dump and know that I could walk the next day (yes, I did that!). It’s been a long time since I had that much physical confidence. Once I began to see a holes in my yoga paradigm, it all began tumbling down. I learned about yoga’s true history (it’s not an ancient Hindu practice). I learned about yoga’s true potential for healing (there is little evidence that it can prevent disease and often creates injury). At first this was upsetting but in the end, I took the best from both. Pilates and yoga are great counterparts. Yoga is still but Pilates moves. Yoga favors extension; Pilates–flexion. And significantly, yoga increases flexibility and Pilates builds healthy strength and alignment. Yoga, Pilates, and meditation are my mind/body triad. Yoga still excels for mind/body work. The focus and attention of the asana calms the mind and nervous system. Pilates is an excellent physical practice, especially for loose, bendy bodies. And meditation helps me connect with the Divine.
In the end, you could say my classes are yoga-informed Pilates, or Pilates-informed yoga.
If you need to stretch out, what do you like to do to take care of your body?
My current, favorite practice is to do a combination (ed. note: Pilates) tower and chair routine. The roll-down and push-through bars create so much spine articulation that the exercises feel like a massage. The chair requires strength and stability. So even though I’m not technically “stretching,” I finish with a very stable, integrated increase in motion. I feel fluid and graceful.
You have training in many modalities, massage, yoga, Pilates, and more. Can you tell us a little bit about some of the main benefits that you see in these?
This is hard to answer. Each modality brings its own unique benefits to the body and mind. It’s like turning a crystal and trying to decide which facet is the most beautiful. Everyone’s body is different and each injury, trauma, or illness heals in its own way. The beauty of having experience with so many aspects of health and healing is having a big toolbox. If a client doesn’t like one modality, I can suggest others.
Any advice about dealing with daily stress?
If I had to pick a single technique for stress, it would be meditation. There are many techniques for managing stress, from getting more organized to saying no to stressful commitments. Massage, art, journaling, getting in touch with nature, and talking with friends are just some examples of things that help us feel better when we’re stressed. Breath-work and working with the posture can help reset your nervous system. But meditation goes straight to the source. By bringing yourself to the present moment, you can both reduce the drama of stress and increase your capacity for dealing with it.