Meet Julia Clarke! Julia is our Creative Manager at Eagle YogaFest and has been teaching with us since our inaugural year. YogaFest founder Yvonne Schwartz sat down with Julia recently to talk all things Yoga.
YS: You’ve actually been teaching with us at Eagle YogaFest since it’s very first year. What’s your favorite thing about it?
Yeah I feel like I got grandfathered in! I’ve said since year one that Eagle YogaFest is my favorite yoga festival and it’s true. I come from a pagan country where we have a lot of traditional festivals of small, tight knit communities coming together. Today’s big national festivals where people come from all over the world are joyful and exultant no doubt, but actually getting to come together once a year with my own friends and neighbors and be in a celebration of everything the practice of yoga has done for us is really powerful. Eagle YogaFest is just such a sweet, inclusive experience for me.
YS: So speaking of being from a pagan country….you started practicing yoga in Scotland when you were a child. Was there a big yoga scene in Scotland back then?
JC: No! I think the universe brought me and yoga together against many odds. I grew up in quite a Bohemian part of Glasgow, and I have a mother that was at University in the 1960’s and was interested in yoga and meditation so I just kind of grew up immersed in it. She had a yoga teacher come and give lessons to an after school group I was in probably around 1991 and I loved it straight away. I can remember taking a class with her a couple of years later in a primary school gymnasium and being absolutely certain that I wanted to be a yoga teacher one day.
YS: So, awesome that you’ve been practicing for so long. But what do you say to people who haven’t had that background and might want to come to your class but feel intimidated?
JC: I think one of the biggest mistakes we can make when starting out with yoga is expecting it to feel good and easy, because then when it challenges us we can think that we’re no good at it! I fully believe the power of yoga is that it gives us a concentrated yet hopefully supportive space in which to witness, and ultimately transcend, our suffering. It may be difficult and intense in the moment but it gives us a valuable skill that we can use off the mat. So let’s get on our mats and suffer!
YS: One of the new classes you’re leading at YogaFest this year is Sunday Salutations. What’s that all about?
JC: One of my teachers, Shiva Rea, really instilled in me the potency of Surya Namaskar, or Sun Salutations, as much more than just a series of repetitive movements to warm up the body for deeper poses. The word “Namaskar” is usually translated as “salutation” which is a bit irrelevant linguistically for us, but if you break the word down it really means “to recognize the essence of oneself,” so if you are offering a Namaskar to the sun you’re actually honoring the sunlight that is in the cells of your body, representing the metabolic force that is the very momentum of nature. It’s much more powerful than just a warm up. She’s taught me that Namaskars can be offered also to the moon, the earth, the ocean. So in this class we’ll experience the evolution of Namaskars and feel different types through lots of fluid movement to wake up those Sunday morning bones!
YS: You are also leading our first teacher’s immersion this year with Kirsten Cooper. Tell us more!
JC: Well, Eagle YogaFest is unique because it focuses more on what I call “the Lunar Arts” of yoga, or the therapeutic side of yoga, than any other festival I’m aware of. This has been an important aspect of study for both me and Kirsten. I’m an Ayurvedic practitioner, so my whole approach to yoga is understanding how we use opposites in practice, diet and life to create balance, while Kirsten is all-too familiar with using yoga therapeutically to recover from surgeries and injuries sustained during her previous career as a professional skier. Her area of expertise is very much the on the anatomical and physiological side, whereas my great love is the more subtle aspect of energetics, so we thought we’d make a good team! The immersion will focus on giving yoga teachers skill and tool in cultivating classes that balance the nature of everyday modern life rather than just going with a “one-sequence-fits-all” approach.
YS: What are you focusing on in your personal practice these days?
JC: I’m opening a yoga studio, so my current practice is simply about giving my mind a rest and staying connected to the pulse of what has driven me to go down this crazy road! My practice always follows a long hike or bike ride so generally i’m drawn to backbends which reopen the front of my body, then deep long hip openers and forward bends. But as a mountain girl i can never resist throwing in a few handstands and forearm stands for strength and focus!