“High Energy Yoga” – with Julia Stephens

Dr. Fox interviews his own yoga teacher, Julia Stephens. In this episode, they discuss her high-energy approach to yoga, and the balance between exercise and mindfulness that people can experience practicing yoga.

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Julia Stephens is Dr. Fox’s primary yoga teacher, and she specializes in an intense, high-energy yoga practice focused on delivering a great workout in addition to the meditative benefits of yoga. Stephens grew up in Germany but moved to the U.S. at 19. She explains that she started yoga around 13 years ago, and says “I started pretty late, but better late than never.” At the time, Stephens was taking high-intensity interval training (HIIT) classes and ran into a yoga class at her gym. She was also working in real estate in New York, and says the competitiveness and stress of that field was one reason she wanted to try the class. However, she found that while she liked yoga, she wanted a more challenging workout.  

High-Energy Yoga Practice 

Stephens explains that in her class, the sequence is always the same, which allows students to focus on improving over time and keep track of their progress. She says that “it’s accessible for everyone,” and that students can make modifications according to their ability or to accommodate injuries. Dr. Fox adds that he finds yoga is like golf, because “you’re playing against yourself.” He says “I don’t feel bad if I can’t do something that somebody else in class can do, I just feel good if I can do something that I couldn’t do yesterday.” 

Stephens also prioritizes learning her students’ names so she can acknowledge and encourage them though “shout outs” in class when they’re doing well. She also likes to create a playlist with regular students’ favorite songs so she can play music she knows they like during class.  

Exercise and Meditation 

Stephens says that prior to starting yoga, “I was more into exercise, there wasn’t really the mindful side.” However, she explains that “when you’re doing yoga, whether it’s athletic or a slow flow or a meditation, you are actually focusing on your breathing,” and “that alone awakens the mindfulness. When she’s teaching a class, Stephens explains that she will call out when students should inhale and exhale. Dr. Fox says that this is “encouraging the awareness of your breath at the time that you’re doing the poses that are very challenging.”  

Lessons from Yoga 

Stephens says that she encourages students to remember that “you’re not as strong as you will be tomorrow” and to “take it one breath and one day at a time.” She says that from her own practice, she’s learned to be more patient. “It takes time to master, and there’s never full mastery of any pose anyway.”