Julia Lopez Brings Compassion & Empowerment to the Yoga Mat

Throughout the next few weeks, we’ll be announcing Alive + Well’s lineup of talented yoga instructors. Yoga coordinator Hannah Williams searched high and low throughout the Austin metro area to assemble an incredible team of instructors. In keeping with Alive + Well’s mission to be a community for all, Hannah’s guiding star was her goal to provide a diverse array of yoga classes to accommodate every yogi and yogini–no matter their age, skill level, or particular interest.

Without further ado, we’re thrilled to introduce our yoga instructor Julia Lopez!

Julia Lopez
Julia Lopez, Yoga Instructor
Tell us about your background as a yoga instructor & areas of focus

The foundations of my yoga classes are simple: empowerment and compassion. I began my teaching career leading sweaty Power Vinyasa classes, but over the years (and through additional advanced trainings in and out of the yoga world), I have broadened my scope to draw from Yin, Restorative, functional movement, personal training, and meditation techniques.

In your opinion, what role does yoga play in health and wellness?

Yoga asks us to examine ourselves both honestly in the moment, and also with unwavering compassion. Only when those two ingredients are present can a wellness program truly be considered healthy for the body, mind, and spirit.

What most excites you about teaching yoga at Alive + Well?

There is no definitive prescription for ‘wellness’, and I am excited to be a part of an organization that recognizes that holistic health requires access to a wide variety of wellness techniques and tools.

Who/what inspires you?

I’m inspired by my husband.  He has never asked me, or anyone, to be someone other than who they are.

What’s your favorite indulgence?

Oh I have many! Travel, sleeping in, lazy days on the couch, and I never say no to coffee.

Aside from yoga, what’s your favorite self-care habit?

Cooking dinner at home.

 

Sylvia Noha
Sylvia Noha, Yoga Instructor
Tell us about your background as a yoga instructor & areas of focus.

My family and I moved from Germany to Houston 14 years ago; I was a homemaker for 10 years and enjoyed that time profoundly – watching my family settle into their new surroundings while keeping our heritage alive. I was a casual yogi during that time, but became serious about yoga with our move to Austin four years ago. Since my three children didn’t need me that much anymore and going back to full-time volunteering wasn’t an option, I realized that a more dedicated practice was filling a void that came with that transition.

I found a little studio with a wonderful community; completed my teacher training in the fall of 2014; and knew that what I wanted to do for years to come was to teach my students to discover their possibilities and needs, on all the levels yoga has to offer. I then enrolled in a Yoga Therapy program here in Austin and am halfway through my 800-hour certification.

My therapy background shows up in my teachings: I strongly believe that the pose should fit into the body and not the body into the pose. I love to create awareness around body, mind and spirit, so my classes are focused on proper alignment and mindfulness, all in a lighthearted environment.

In your opinion, what role does yoga play in health and wellness?

Yoga has been around for 5000 years (!), and I think it will become more and more important – yoga is the future, as it has been the past. I notice that my students want to take an active part in their physical and mental well-being and healing, and yoga provides an immediate positive experience. It doesn’t stop there, though: if you continue to practice you will notice subtle shifts in your overall health and mindset. Your practice will show up in all aspects of your life, and it moves you towards a state of balance and equanimity, a beautiful place to be.

What most excites you about teaching yoga at Alive + Well?

The idea of having all these tools for wellness and healing under one roof is just thrilling. Taking an active part in your own well-being, honoring yourself, others and our environment will become more and more crucial. At Alive + Well, you have all you need right there, in a beautiful space and in a healthy, sustainable way – a wonderful concept!

And then, I love community! I’m so excited to be part of a team that shares the same visions and to start creating a community in which we all support each other in healing and growing in all aspects!

Who/what inspires you?

I find a lot of inspiration in my teachers. But on a daily basis in my family, my husband and my three kids — they motivate me to be authentic, grounded, and kind, no matter how life unfolds.

I’m also inspired by every single student- showing up on the mat to become the best version of yourself is huge!

What’s your favorite indulgence?

Coffee -always works! And home baked German goods and breads!

Aside from yoga, what’s your favorite self-care habit?

Allowing myself to take time out of my day to do what fills me up. I love to paint, be creative, watch a movie, read, walk my dog, and be out in nature. Just a little time to myself…wonderful!

 

Lizzie Brooks
Lizzie Brooks, Yoga Instructor
Tell us about your background as a yoga instructor & areas of focus

I have been teaching yoga since 2000. Back then, you couldn’t as easily find a yoga studio–or yoga pants–for that matter! We basically wore pajamas! I knew when I went to my first yoga class in high school that I would teach it one day. Sadly, during my first class, the instructor adjusted me and caused a sacral injury, so I knew early on that extreme care for yoga students would be a huge focus for me. I like to say that I teach seriously good yoga that’s not too serious. Basically, I weave silly through serious–both are necessary for health. My favorite thing to teach is a challenging, yet completely accessible and modifiable flow. No two students should be doing exactly the same thing.

In your opinion, what role does yoga play in health and wellness?

Movement with conscious breathing is a great formula for preventing injury, as well as healing what has been injured–whether that’s physical, mental, or emotional. Yoga gets to all the layers.  

What most excites you about teaching yoga at Alive + Well?

The folks at Alive + Well all have a common goal–to assist in healing. These people are deeply dedicated to the Austin community, and I am thankful to be a part of their team.

Who/what inspires you?

Of course there are yoga teachers who inspire me, but to be honest, the person that pops into my mind first is my 9-year-old son, Elliot. He’s an old soul, deeply empathetic, and seriously funny! Also, I’m inspired by anyone who gets out of bed super early in the morning to fit exercise into their day!  

What’s your favorite indulgence?

Honestly, wine. 😉

Aside from yoga, what’s your favorite self-care habit?

Napping is simply amazing.  

 

Meet Jody

Jody Emerson
Jody Emerson, Yoga Instructor
Tell us about your background as a yoga instructor & areas of focus.

I came to yoga late in life, in my mid-forties. I had tried yoga when I was in my early twenties, but the practice was much different back then, focused on perfect form and not much attention given to the function each posture has on the body. While I’ve never been told by a professional that I have lumbar lordosis, the curve in my lumbar spine is pretty severe. Because of this, my seated forward bend took me nowhere. The teacher (they were few and far between back then) assessed my posture and immediately stated that I would NEVER be able to do yoga. I was crushed. Everything about yoga called to me. 

Fast forward twenty years, and I decided to give it another try. I was suffering with extreme pain in my lower back and leg and kept hearing lots of good things about yoga. More and more studios were opening up, and something in me simply said, “give it another try.” To my surprise and delight, much had changed about yoga. After trying many styles of hatha yoga, I found myself drawn to viniyoga, a more therapeutic type of practice. Function over form is the mantra. It definitely worked for me. My long suffering body was beginning to find healing, and I was given the tools to manage the pain whenever it chose to rear its ugly head. The results were amazing! 

Fast forward another ten years, and I decided I wanted to teach. Moving into the fifties, I began teacher training and graduated with my 200-hour certification. After many life changes that took me away from my teaching for some years, I’m back and very close to receiving my 500-hour certification. I have studied with several of the top international yoga teachers — Gary Kraftsow, Donna Farhi, Judith Lassiter, Larry Payne — as well as many other wonderful local yoga teachers here in Austin. 

In your opinion, what role does yoga play in health and wellness?

The benefits of yoga on health and wellness are many. With concentration on the breath and body, a focused, intentional practice will not only create better health physiologically, but will also bring about a much deeper sense of calm, contentment and clarity. A regular practice of yoga will increase flexibility, strengthen and tone the muscles, lower blood pressure and boost the immune system, just to name a few of the physical benefits. As we bring awareness inward, breathing deeply and moving in and out of asana safely, we actually begin to shift our body’s chemistry, and in doing so, affect the brain and nervous system in a very positive way. As this shift happens, we find that tension, anxiety, depression and other negative feelings begin to lessen and a sense of wellbeing starts to become a more regular feeling in our lives. The mind becomes clearer, our ability to concentrate becomes easier and our memory improves. While there’s a lot of science now behind all these claims, the best proof to me has been my own personal experience on the mat. 

While yoga is good for everyone, I believe it is even more important as we age to dedicate ourselves to staying strong and flexible in body, mind and spirit.. A regular practice of relaxation, meditation, asana and socialization through group classes can have an amazingly positive effect in every area of our lives. Living radiantly in the years ahead is so important to me. Sharing this practice that has become such a central part of my life is one of the things I intend to do to stay young and healthy in body, mind and spirit, while helping others discover how to do the same.

What most excites you about teaching yoga at Alive + Well?

I’m very excited about being a part of such an innovative and holistic wellness center. Being on a team where each member holds the same intention of helping people find their way to health and happiness is a dream come true. We all need community for optimum health and wellbeing, this is a given.   hope that my small part will help build community, through yoga, with the ever-growing mature adult population.  

Who/what inspires you?

Life itself inspires me! With all its ups and downs and twists and turns, I am always amazed that, as I move from decade to decade, life just seems to get sweeter.  Not always easier, but definitely sweeter. I am forever grateful to and inspired by the many teachers who I have personally studied with, as well as those who have documented their own journeys of personal growth through their writings, such as Marianne Williamson, Wayne Dyer, Ram Das, Eckhart Tolle, to name just a few. Currently, I am reading The Radiance Sutras and I have a new awareness of just how wonderful this human experience can be when we see life itself as a meditation. It’s helping me move out of my head and into my heart AND my body with all its marvelous senses, that I sometimes forget to appreciate. 

What’s your favorite indulgence?

Coffee and chocolate!! I’m not certain which I love more! 

Aside from yoga, what’s your favorite self-care habit?

I need both alone time and social time. There was a time I really couldn’t enjoy being by myself. Now, it’s one of my greatest luxuries! Whether it’s being home alone or taking a long walk in nature, I just need some time each day for the silence. But then, I’m ready to socialize! Friends and family, especially time with my grandkids, is always awesome! 

And drumming!! I’ve been playing African drums for twenty years now and perform in an all-women’s African Rhythm Drum Ensemble. Rockin’ with the sistas is always absolute bliss!! As you can see, lots of exclamation points in this answer!!

Meet Lisa

Lisa Love
Lisa Love, Yoga Instructor
Tell us about your background as a yoga instructor & areas of focus

I started doing yoga over ten years ago to help alleviate pain from my severe scoliosis. My journey not only helped with my pain management but also brought a sense of peace into my life. I sought my first teacher training in 2009, and it was also during this time that I had major corrective surgery for my scoliosis. Yoga became a major component to my healing not only on a physical level but also on an emotional, mental, and spiritual level as well. Seeking to obtain a deeper understanding of yoga, I began a 500-hour training under the guidance of master yoga therapist Ranjitha Sandeep. Based on how yoga played an integral role in my healing, I began to volunteer, teaching cancer survivors and their caregivers at The Cancer Support Community. Doing this allowed me to better understand ways to teach a group class that accommodated everyone, regardless of their physical limitations. My teaching style ranges from offering gentle/restorative classes to vinyasa flow, mixed with a lot of laughter. I will always be a student of yoga both on and off the mat, incorporating the many facets of yoga into my daily life.

In your opinion, what role does yoga play in health and wellness?

Yoga plays a tremendous role in health and wellness. Yoga therapy trainings are growing and the medical field is realizing the benefits of this ancient practice. I have not only experienced the healing benefits myself, but have seen the changes that a yoga practice can have on someone suffering from pain or illness.

What most excites you about teaching yoga at Alive + Well?

Where do I begin!? I often tell people that I will probably end up moving into the building because I will be there so much! It’s going to be truly amazing having a place like Alive + Well — where the community can gather, decompress, and incorporate various health and wellness practices into their life. To teach in a space with other dedicated practitioners is something I have always wanted to be a part of and I am very grateful to have this opportunity.

Who/what inspires you?

My husband and 9-year-old son are the first people who come to mind. My son inspires me to be a better person and role model for him. I also find inspiration from my teachers, who I hold close to my heart. Their guidance and teachings have inspired me to deepen my spiritual practice which allows me to grow and evolve.

What’s your favorite indulgence?

Pizza! Spaghetti! Although I love my carbs, I have to say that practicing Yin yoga has become my new indulgence. The feeling I get from my self-practice and going to class is such a sense of peace and deep relaxation. It always puts a smile on my face and added energy in my day.

Aside from yoga, what’s your favorite self-care habit?

I love juicing! I’ve been doing it everyday for the past several months and it’s been life changing. I feel so nourished and energized on a daily basis.

Meet Paradise

Paradise Taylor
Paradise Taylor, Yoga Instructor
Tell us about your background as a yoga instructor & areas of focus

My love of fitness and movement brought me to my yoga mat over 15 years ago.  My practice began in the Ashtanga lineage, under the guidance of Sharon Moon.  It didn’t take long for me to discover that the practice was not only good for lengthening and strengthening the muscular system, but also provided a sense of balance and calm throughout my life.  After years of reaping the benefits of yoga, I felt the desire to give back and to share yoga with others through teaching.

As a registered 500-hour Yoga Alliance instructor, I combine energetic forms of yoga, such as Flow and Vinyasa, with quieter practices of Yin and Restorative for a well-rounded class.  In whatever style I am teaching, my goal is always to bring a warm, welcoming aura that empowers my students to grow in the practice by fostering a challenging and nurturing environment. I encourage playfulness, honesty and enjoyment as each student explores and creates their individual practice and experience. I am passionate about yoga’s ability to unite oneself and those around you in a positive environment of personal growth.

In your opinion, what role does yoga play in health and wellness?

I love this quote on health:

“Health is not a mere absence of disease. It is a dynamic expression of life – in terms of how joyful, loving and enthusiastic you are.”- Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

I truly believe that mind, body and spirit are like a tripod, and if one is off-kilter, our life will not be balanced and that will lead to ill health. Yoga creates balance and harmony in our system by bringing all three components into alignment as one.

What most excites you about teaching yoga at Alive + Well?

I love sharing the gifts of yoga with as many people as possible. I’m super excited to see a wellness center of this scale open up and to get to be a part of it is a dream come true.

Who/what inspires you?

I am inspired by life! All of it: the mystery, the unfolding, the beauty of its ever-changing nature.

What’s your favorite indulgence?

Chocolate…and cheese! I love both so very much.

Aside from yoga, what’s your favorite self-care habit?

I dance! It’s my favorite form of exercise. It brings a great deal of joy to my life, which I believe to be very important.

 

Meet Lauren

Lauren Buck, Yoga Instructor
Lauren Buck, Yoga Instructor
Tell us about your background and areas of focus.

I was never super athletic. And when I found yoga at 23, I was newly recovering from an eating disorder and still didn’t like my body much. So naturally, I didn’t like yoga either–since it kept asking me to basically make friends with my body.

It was unusual for me to continue doing something I was so… bad at. I couldn’t touch my toes–not even close–and when someone referred to downdog as a “resting pose,” I laughed out loud. But after a few months, something started to click. I was starting to feel more *in* my body. Like I was getting to know it for the first time. That was when things started to change pretty fast.

I started teaching 11 years ago, and have been doing advanced studies with Yogarupa Rod Stryker since early 2012. These days in my classes–as our pace gets faster every year, and with more interruptions–I’m pretty focused on focus.  

I use yoga to train the focus muscle in the mind. It’s the foundation of meditation, but also being present and joyful. (Good luck feeling fulfilled and happy if you’re distracted all the time, right?) Most of us are so run down that we have accepted this new state as normal, and yoga is a powerful tool that can show us the difference again.

What role does yoga play in health and wellness?

The nice thing about yoga is that it’s a time-tested system. It works, but it doesn’t ask you to believe anything. It simply says: here’s a method that’s worked for thousands of years. Try it, and see for yourself.

Health and wellness is about living *holistically*. Your lifestyle needs to support the health and function of your being on all levels: body, nervous system, mind, spirit. The yoga system offers this–though most yoga classes are pretty focused on body since that’s the area where most beginners are interested in improving first. But meditation is becoming more mainstream, as are deep practices for the mind and nervous system like yoga nidra.

Does meditation sounds intimidating or hard? It was for me. Most of us are unaware how busy and distracted our minds are until we sit still and watch its show. But yoga uses asana (poses) and breathwork to *tee you up* for meditation, so that when you do sit to work with your mind, it’s not so frustrating. And you actually get to feel the benefits faster.

What most excites you about teaching yoga at Alive + Well?

I have been looking for a place to teach–a place where I genuinely want to hang out, that feels like a respite–for a long time. I’m THRILLED to be at Alive + Well because it’s clear the goal is to create a space that will help people feel… well, alive and well. It’s rare to find something that doesn’t (A) focus mainly on bikini bods and boot camps (they can be good starting points, but often just feed the ego and so eventually fizzle); or (B) feel too hoodily doodily (as yoga sometimes can).

Everyone is welcome at Alive + Well, just as they are.

Who/What inspires you?

I’ve always been a creative person, but I spent decades judging myself and my ideas so harshly that I never got around to creating most of them. And eventually, the ideas stopped coming. I didn’t feel inspired at all–it was as if all the good ideas had been taken.

But now, I trip over ideas when I get out of bed in the morning. And I feel confident in my ability to serve them. I credit the difference to mental clarity; there’s just less noise in there. It’s easier for the ideas to get through.

I’ve been fortunate to study with several masters. I already mentioned Rod Stryker, but also meditation teacher Sally Kempton and Byron Katie–who isn’t a yogi per se, but is one of the clearest people you’ll meet.  All three have helped me drastically change my life, my perception, my daily stress levels. They are profoundly inspiring to me–as are my husband, Matt, and my 5-year-old son, Theo.

What’s your favorite indulgence?

Coffee and binge-watching good TV. (I recently just re-watched all of Game of Thrones and will happily nerd out with fellow watchers!)

Aside from yoga, what is your favorite self-care habit?

Early to bed, early to rise. I like to be up before sunrise and before my son–to have my coffee and practice yoga on the porch.

And also: improv. I’ve been improvising on stage for longer than I’ve been practicing yoga… It was the first thing that showed me what it feels like to truly be in the moment. I still play on Friday nights at the Hideout downtown. I think play–in whatever form you like it–is possibly the most underrated form of self-care.