Featured Passionista #9
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting Julia, you would know that she exudes a peacefulness and tangible sense of gratitude. You would also know her passion is undoubtedly yoga (the yoga mat that is seemingly attached to her kind of gives it away). She is a fifth-year International Relations and Political Science Double Major at UBC who is currently hosting yoga classes at the Global Lounge for all those willing to give it a stretch. Ya’ll better check it out before this lovely lady makes her way to Goa, India for the ultimate yogic adventure in January (which also happens to be the month she gets her teaching certificate)! Go Julia!
T: What is yoga to you?
J: This is a hard one…Are you going to quote me verbatim? Oh god, Tarini. I tend to ramble.
[After a bit of a laugh…]
You can’t describe yoga or give it a definition without teetering on dangerous relativism. To me, it’s more than an escape; it’s more than the physical practice of asana. Yoga has taken on a really spiritual dimension but not in the way that it’s Hinduism or Buddhism or any one religion. This provides me with a space to be more in touch with my core. It’s gotten me through a lot of things. What I learn on the mat are things like how to let go of your day, learning gratitude for people and things, acceptance, and learning that it’s ok to fall down. Learning handstands and inversions can seem scary but its play. Learning all these things and having that a part of my life has changed me as a person. I’m an A-type person – I’ll admit it! You know, I was that person in high school – in every club. Yoga has allowed me to channel all that energy onto my mat. It’s just space to express and take things in.
T: I love your thoughts on taking what you learn on the mat and transferring that into principles for life. What inspired you to take this up?
J: Well, I’ve been practicing for 7 years now. I went to school on Main Street and the first studio I went to was called Open Door Yoga. I passed by it every day and one day just decided to try a class – after that I was hooked! What’s weird is that it wasn’t a person that led or introduced me to yoga. It was curiosity. It was also partly because I wanted the physical aspect of it at first, because I can’t play sports for shit. And I was self-conscious about that so I thought yoga could be a physical practice I could be good at. It’s become so much more since then! It was a long time ago but yeah, I remember going to class at 7am and then literally running across the street, getting my kilt on, heading to school!
T: Tell us a bit about the Africa Yoga Project that you are supporting here at the UBC Global Lounge. What drew you to it?
J: I’m really interested in yoga fundraisers in general and building off the idea of using the transformative power of yoga to ignite social change. The Africa Yoga project is changing lives in Kenya, and has a really robust teacher program where instructors find livelihood through it- it’s fun. It adds another dimension to people’s lives.
You don’t need the Lululemon pants to practice(although Lululemon is cool!) but you can still be a part of the yoga movement from across the world. I’m also looking into doing these yoga classes for “Off the Mat and Into the World” – I like the idea of yoga impacting different regions of the world. And also the fact that I’m doing it at the Global Lounge, I didn’t want it to be just a class. I wanted it to be something more.
T: What is it that keeps you grounded?
J: Yoga. And I know it’s cheesy, but my boyfriend. He is my soundboard and my lifeboat!
T: Is there a person who has played a really defining role in your life?
J: The teacher or guru in yoga is a huge part of the practice. Two of my favourite teachers – Reno Muenz and Clara Roberts-Oss have been great inspirations. Outside of that, my grandmother for sure. She was a History and Arts teacher in the Philippines and she really is where I get my passion from. Her vivaciousness and her zest for life were incredible. When she passed away four years ago, it was only then I truly realized what an impact she had on the lives of those around her.
In terms of public figures, Vaclav Havel…and Brandon Boyd! ‘Incubus’ has been one of my favourite bands for years and Brandon Boyd is my male muse. He’s a surfer, a song-writer, and just an amazing artist!
T: How do you ensure that everything you do connects to your core belief and value system?
J: I’m not aware of it all the time – I think it’s hard to be conscious of my core values but through yoga, I’ve been better at the practice of self-awareness. I once saw my teacher do this pose called ‘birds of paradise’ – it’s a crazy pose. The first time I saw it, I was like, ‘I’m going to do that’! This pose is in my practice now, but the first time I tried it, I totally bailed on my mat. And my teacher said: “It’s ok to fall”. So to me, it’s about knowing my limits – when you can’t do something, you can’t do it. It’s also about knowing that if I do step out of my values, it’s ok to fall down and fail. The important thing for me is having that space to check in – to look inwards, reflect, and go back.
T: [Can you see why she inspires me?] 4 things that are on your bucket list
1) Visit Riga, Lativa where my boyfriend spent most of his childhood. There is this one beach he always talks about so I want to go there and see what it’s all about!
2) Ok, this is dorky but I want to do a giant genealogy and trace back my roots like 500 years
3) Travel to all seven continents
4) Do an entire yoga practice upside down
T: WOW. An entire practice like that?! Crazy! But incredibly cool. What’s one thing that always makes you laugh?
J: When I see someone holding the door for someone else, but that someone else is so far away that they have to run so the person doesn’t hold it for too long. For some reason, that always makes me laugh! It’s so stupid! And sometimes I hold open the door for people just for that reason…it’s so awkward.
T: What is your big dream?
J: I want to be able to integrate all the aspects of my life that I’m passionate about. International issues and post-conflict societies and affecting change on a professional level whether it is through working for an international organization or a policy making think tank. I also want to be teaching and practicing yoga every day wherever I am in the world. I dream of yoga in my life and the ability to do something I love for work. And I don’t want to have to call it “work – I would enjoy it so much that it would be my craft. Oh, and I want my house to have a studio with lots of natural sunlight, and open space!
I want time to draw and paint and hang pictures on my wall. I want to be happy. I want to have a family. Hopefully, my kids will be yogis too! I want to have a great family support network and be surrounded by the loves of my life!
[She gives us another big smile]
T: Ok. Fill in the rest. I want to see…
J: An interdisciplinary world (in the academic sense) and the gift of yoga as a personal vehicle to happiness, to inner strength, and inner peace.