What does your yoga practice have to do with self-love? Stephanie Birch talks about the process of showing up on the mat for herself, how it gave her purpose, turned pain into passion, and love into life.Read more
lucyPRO Julie Mitchell of Boulder, Colorado leads a double life as a high school science teacher and yoga instructor at Soul Tree Yoga. Her joyful embodiment of both means a little science slips into the studio and good karma makes its way into her classroom. Everyone benefits. Julie is a living example of how engaging with what you do results in making difference in the world.
What brought you to yoga?
I think it was accidental. I went to a class decades ago and I liked how it calmed my mind. Yoga helps you figure out who you are and makes you feel more comfortable in your own skin.
I’ve been teaching high school for 20 years and practicing for 20 years. As a high school teacher, you have to be on. You have to show up every day for your students. Yoga releases all the stuff that may be in my head and helps with stress relief. It allows me to just be in the moment for the student that needs me.
So you do yoga for your mind?
Yoga is definitely more mind for me. I do [consider it a workout] for sure, yes. I teach a pretty strong practice -- Vinyasa Flow -- and I prefer strong flow classes but I love the mind-body connection. A class that’s just physical isn’t my cup of tea.
So you said you incorporate a lot of small bits into your high school teaching, how do you do that?
We do what’s called a brain break. There’s this new study about how movement in the classroom helps students focus and relieve stress. When the kids come back from lunch, I have them do a couple deep breathing exercises so they can let everything else slip away and they can focus on the activity that we’re doing for the day. All 200 kids in my class, they all know I’m a yoga teacher, and they come to me when they’re stressed out and we do breathing exercises to relieve anxiety.
Do you teach your students yoga?
I have to modify a lot because I only have 10 minutes. So we’ll do a short sun salutation. They humor me. Some of them are way into it. And some of them just deal.
What prompted you to become a yoga teacher?
It was just a calling. I wanted to know more about the practice and because I was already a high school teacher, I had that teaching brain so it just made sense to teach. I love bringing yoga into the classroom and believe it or not, I bring my classroom into my yoga.
I teach earth science and geology so I’ll theme my yoga classes around the earth and whatever is happening like seasons, equinoxes. For example, the super moon just happened Saturday night, so I’ll go into what the super moon is scientifically as well as the metaphysical aspects and how the two complement each other.
What kind of yoga do you teach?
I teach and was trained in Krama Vinyasa flow so there’s a certain sequence I create to lead up to a peak pose. The Krama are the stages. It’s an intelligent way for the body to reach a more challenging pose safely.
Do you feel like you’re part of a community?
Absolutely yes. I teach and practice at Soul Tree Yoga. These women and men have become my very best of friends. We call it a tribe. It’s such an amazing community with so much support. All kinds of people come to the studio -- different ages, different abilities -- and we all come with the intention of giving and receiving love.
Do you do other workouts?
I run – of course in my lucy clothing. And I do yoga. Those are my main things.
Do they complement each other?
Definitely. About 10 years ago, I ran a marathon for the leukemia society. Because running is such a mental sport, yoga helped support that and offered stretching too. Running for me is a moving meditation. That’s how I calm my brain, I run. I’m not fast. I’m not going to win anything but I have to run. Yoga helps keep you safe because you’re stretching and supporting your muscles. It gives you tools to quiet your mind when you go on a long run.
What are your essential words of wisdom for women.
I would say just be true and be authentic. I guess for me, being a woman science teacher, I’ve been doing it so long, it’s now just a part of my personality. As women we’re so hard on ourselves, I think we could be more compassionate with ourselves. It’s okay to be strong. And it’s okay to be a woman and be slightly different. It’s all okay. Just be authentic.
What makes you happy?
Being in nature and being connected with friends and family. Interconnectedness and being in nature.
Does a cute workout outfit make a difference?
To me it totally does. We’ve joked that we got into yoga for the clothes. It’s the reason I’m not a bowler or a fly fisher woman. I like to look cute and when you wear something that makes you feel good, you are going to let your inner self shine through.
Fave lucy item(s) ?
I love the Hatha pants and I love the Perfect Core pants. And I do love some of the tops. I’m not a teeny person. I’m not fat but I’m not small. lucy is one of the few brands I can wear with clothes that are flattering but modest. And I do wear a few of the items to school -- a lot of the shirts.