It's our absolute pleasure to introduce our first ambassador for Inner Fire, Julie Peters! I met Julie initially when we did our Yin Yoga teacher training together a few years back. Julie is a yoga teacher, writer, and teacher trainer, and owns Ocean and Crow Yoga (East Side Yoga) studio with her mom, Jane. She also has a Masters in Canadian Poetry from McGill University, and often performs her poetry at the Vancouver Poetry Slam and other venues. She writes biweekly column on yoga for Spirituality and Health Magazine ( http://spiritualityhealth.com/blogs/jc-peters). We are so excited to have her on board and feature her writings on our blog!
When did you start practicing yoga and why?
I first started back when I was twelve years old, when my mom brought me to a yoga class at the community centre. It maintained a space in my life throughout my teenagehood, and was instrumental in helping me heal from a long bout of anorexia. I've also been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and yoga has an abundance of tools to keep me connected to my body, loving my body, and consistently rinsing out what I don't need.
What got you hooked?
No matter what's going on in my life, my yoga mat is a space where I get to be strong, cool, beautiful, interesting, humbled, weak, free, trapped, digging, empty, full, and all the rest of it. With all the stuff that we can get caught up in in our lives, the yoga practice is a place to come home to and listen to your body's reactions to what's happening in your life. Really I think it keeps you honest.
I also have a Master's degree in Canadian Literature, and I was practising yoga pretty heavily at that time, especially when I realized how much better my writing and creativity were when I kept up a consistent practice. I've done some more research into this, and now I teach workshops called Creative Flow: Yoga and Writing which explores how yoga can feed into and spark your creativity. I also teach a Vinyasa Teacher Training called Teaching as Storytelling which uses the principles of narrative to create a structure for a yoga class. I've discovered the worlds of writing and yoga to be great friends, and for me they've become completely intertwined.
Tell us about your studio
When I first moved to Vancouver, I was shopping around for a good yoga class. I tried a few places, but East Side was the first place I really felt like I was being encouraged to be myself. The teacher (Coco Finaldi, a great friend of mine now) was making dirty jokes and being a real human, which I felt gave me permission to be a real human too. Now that I own the studio with my mom, Jane, we make an effort to create a space that maintains that permission. For example, our marketing materials include photos of our students, rather than just our teachers, to try to better represent the great range of people who benefit from the empowering possibilities of yoga. We are also, in part, a community space, and we offer creative workshops like Yoga and Life Drawing, Qi Gong, Yoga for Feminists, and, occasionally, the Pillow Talks Poetry Salon which involves sitting on the floor reading poetry and drinking wine. We want to be the sort of place you want to hang out because you feel that you are already good enough, that you already belong here, and just want to learn some things or reconnect to your body or your community. We're not aiming for some inaccessible ideal, whether that means a bikini body or eternally blissed-out enlightenment. We want our studio to be a place where this can be your yoga, and you get to decide what that means to you.
Our company name is Ocean and Crow, which brings together the majestic flow and beauty of the ocean here on the West Coast, as well as the edgy, intelligent, darkly beautiful city birds that have become an emblem of East Van. We're a very East Van sort of a place.
What inspires you?
My mom! She's been an amazing business partner, and it's been awesome to work with her at the studio. She's also rocking her yoga practice, and I think it's pretty cool to see her doing Crow pose and Headstand. My students inspire me to no end, they are fascinating people doing very cool things in the world, and I feel very lucky that they are willing to come and put their bodies in my hands for a little while while I am teaching. I also keep fingertip deep in a range of books of poetry that I like to bring to class every now and then.
What advice would you give someone wanting take their practice to the next level?
Private sessions can do amazing things for your practice. There's nothing like working one-on-one with a teacher who can really see the habits you are in and help you figure out what you need to do to explore poses in new ways. Workshops and progressives, especially if they are a small student size, are a great way of getting a new perspective as well. Consistent practice is so important, but we can sometimes get stuck in a rut when we are always doing home practice or always with the same teacher or whatever it might be. Busting out of your comfort zone can be humbling, but man can it teach you some things.
Tell us a little known fact about yourself
I am a bellydancer in my secret life, and when I first moved to Vancouver, my whole plan was to be a bellydancer funded by my work as a bartender. Things don't always work out the way you expect them to!
Here are some lovely photos of Julie in her beautiful studio at East Side Yoga.