Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
In another life, Julia Coney could be a travel agent. When we spoke, she was preparing for her upcoming trip to the Champagne region in France just days after returning from Rome. As a wine writer, educator, speaker, and consultant, as well as the founder of Black Wine Professionals, Coney interacts with all aspects of the almost 340-billion-dollar wine industry. She’s busy. Yet despite her constant travel and engagements, she always makes time to turn to her mat, even if it’s from her hotel room.
Coney started practicing yoga in 2006, following the death of her brother. Instead of immediately putting her on antidepressants, her doctor suggested she try yoga to help her connect with and start to move through her grief. He urged her to find a teacher and a type of yoga that resonated with her.
That was significant. As a runner and weight lifter, Coney expressed skepticism about whether this type of movement was right for her. “Yoga [seemed] calming, and I have a fiery personality,” she says. “I was just making all of these excuses.” However, she agreed to at least try her doctor’s advice and typed “hip yoga” into Google. The results led her to Kimberly Wilson, the owner of the now-closed Washington, DC-based studio Tranquil Space. Wilson’s class wasn’t the flow Coney was expecting. “I remember thinking, ‘Is she playing Eminem? Is she playing Coldplay? I know that’s Lenny Kravitz in Savasana.'” At the end of that first class with Wilson, Coney found herself in tears. That was the start of her yoga journey.
Practicing Yoga While Traveling
Coney completed her 200-hour teacher training with Wilson, but it wasn’t with the intention of teaching. Instead, she understood it as a spiritual study that would enable her to dive deeper into the non-asana (non-postural) aspects of yoga. The training also allowed Coney to continue her practice on the road. “That’s the beauty of doing a yoga training,” she says. “You teach yourself how to teach yoga for yourself. You know which poses are going to work, which side is tight in your body.”
When Coney travels, she still takes in-person classes. “I go to more studios on the road,” she says. “I find the pockets of time.” (Pro tip: Coney says she relies on the MindBody app, which makes it easy to find classes in different cities where you’re unfamiliar with local studios.) This includes traveling abroad, where the class may not be taught in English. “I remember taking a class in Zurich, totally in German, but the teacher did the entire class in Sanskrit,” she says. “Because I had been going to [yoga] so much, I knew most of the poses in Sanskrit.”
When she’s not leading her own practice or attending a studio, she turns to Candace Cabrera Tavino’s classes on Instagram.
Grounded in Routine
Coney’s connection to her practice begins immediately when she wakes—but not in the way you may think. In the mornings, she moves very slowly. “I do that on purpose,” she says. “Once my body’s up, everything races very fast.” After sipping on hot water with lemon, she’ll typically move into a slow yoga practice, although she listens to her body. Some mornings, she may feel like moving her body more and will opt for a more active flow.
She also turns to routine after long plane rides. Coney always bring a yoga blanket with her to use as the foundation for her practice. “I lay it on the floor and do a complete vinyasa—both sides—to wake up,” she says. Regardless of her plan for the day or her travel schedule, Coney says all she needs is 10 minutes of yoga and she’s set.
Connecting Yoga to Her Job
Yogic teachings and ideas show up for Coney in other ways, as well. “I talk a lot about the intersection of racism in the wine industry and equality and DEI,” she says. “The off-the-mat practice is understanding we’re all flawed, in a lot of ways. I try to give myself grace and also to other people. There is grace for those who seek it.” It’s this principle, grace, that grounds Coney.
The power of the breath also plays a role in her constant steadiness. Oftentimes, she turns to simple (but critical) deep breathing exercises to calm and center herself. It’s an understanding she hopes others realize as well. “I think more people should think of yoga as a practice for life,” she says. “There’s so much you learn about yourself through a yoga practice…I feel like when I do my practice, I give myself to myself before I give myself away.”