Julie Oliver, Lawyer and Yogi, Is Running for a House Seat in Texas - Yoga Journal

Live Be Yoga: Meet the Bold Yogi Running for Congress

Her family would be hit hard if a current lawsuit overturns the Affordable Care Act’s provision on pre-existing conditions. In response, Julie Oliver has her drishti set on a House seat in Texas to try to change the world, one vote—and breath—at a time.
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Julie Oliver

Julie Oliver, a lawyer, accountant, health-care advocate, and yoga teacher, is running for a seat in the House of Representatives in Texas's 25th District. 

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Imagine if governors meditated before meetings, if senators believed in karma, and if our politicians held sangha instead of rallies. To the yogi, it may sound like a distant political dream, but after our visit to Austin, we started to believe this vision may not be as far off into the future as we first thought.

Enter Julie Oliver: She’s a lawyer, an accountant, a health-care advocate, and a working mother of four. Her family would be hit hard if a current lawsuit brought on by Texas and 19 other states succeeds in overturning the provision of the Affordable Care Act that protects coverage for those with pre-existing conditions—like the ones afflicting her medically fragile son.

So, drawing on her expertise in health insurance, as well as summoning her ferocity as a mother, Julie decided to run for a seat in the US House of Representatives in Texas’s 25th District so she can fight for universal health care. Although stories of people impassioned by adversity and determined to change the political landscape are not uncommon these days, what makes Oliver’s story particularly significant is not just what she’s fighting for, but how.

Oliver is a yogi. She began practicing in 2004 to help her navigate challenges as her mom battled a lung disease. Ten years later, after losing her mother to the disease, she dove into a yoga teacher training to deepen her practice.

“I started connecting the dots that there really are tools you can generate on the mat for the things life throws at you off the mat,” she told us at Wanderlust Yoga Downtown, where we attended her fundraiser and a round-robin class taught by Leah Cullis and a variety of local instructors supporting her in the race.

Leah Cullis, Jeremy Falk, and Julie Oliver

Leah Cullis leads a class and adjusts Julie Oliver at Oliver's fundraiser at Wanderlust Downtown in Austin, TX. 

One of the most important tools she’s cultivated since her teacher training is her meditation practice. “If I can sit and breathe with purpose, and start my day with intention, it radically changes how my day goes.”

For Oliver, it’s all about support and community. “The best conversations I’ve had are just when I sit and listen, and give them my full attention,” she said. “And then something magical happens: There’s a connection. And I consider that a yoga practice.” 

This yogic mindset is having a major impact on the way she’s running for office. With a schedule that often keeps her moving for more than 12 hours a day, Oliver relies on her daily yoga practice to stay centered. Before publicly speaking, she closes her eyes, and her internal dialogue whispers, “Ground yourself. Pause. Take a breath. Get both feet on the floor. Acknowledge that this is a sacred space for people.”

For Oliver, it’s all about support and community. “The best conversations I’ve had are just when I sit and listen, and give them my full attention,” she said. “And then something magical happens: There’s a connection. And I consider that a yoga practice.”

The implications that yoga could have in our political world (and daily lives) are nothing short of revolutionary. “If we had congressional leaders who would just take a breath before making a statement or a decision, imagine how different the legislation that gets acted upon and the national dialogue would be,” she said. “I think this toxicity we see in the air is a lot of knee-jerk reaction, and it’s on both sides. If we had people [representing us] that were mindful, and willing to take a pause before reacting, we would see a very different political landscape in America.”

Jeremy Falk and Julie Oliver

Jeremy Falk interviews Julie Oliver after her fundraiser class at Wanderlust Downtown in Austin, TX.

If that’s not enough to give you chills through every chakra, consider for a moment the potential impact yogis could have on the world if even more of us decided to take these principles off the mat and into activism and politics. In 2016, a study conducted by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance found that there are 36.7 million yoga practitioners in America who collectively spend almost $17 billion on yoga-related products or services a year. That’s more than 11% of the population—more people than there are in Texas—and a tremendous amount of influence that could be directed toward a lot issues. 

Of course, there are successful organizations, including Kerri Kelly's CITZNWELL as well as Seane Corn's Off the Mat, Into the World, that help activate yogis and the well-being community at large to get involved in grassroots efforts. It makes sense that getting yogis elected to positions of representation takes it to the next level.

That is not to say, however, that if yogis ruled the world we would all get along in a perpetual blissful samadhi. Yogis, like any demographic united by certain common ideas, are also going to have disagreements. You can find yogis who stand on all sides of the issues, and that’s karmically and cosmically exactly as it should be. 

As the adage from politician Frank A. Clark goes, “We find comfort among those who agree with us, and growth among those who don’t.” The way to achieve growth through disagreement lies in the way we engage in difficult conversations: with clear conscious communication and authentic heart-centered listening.

Oliver believes this is exactly what is missing in our representative democracy today. “Imagine what congress would look like if it were legislating from the heart of a yogi,” she said. “Connection. Service. Integrity. That is my mantra. That is my intention in doing this.”

To learn more about Julie Oliver’s campaign, visit Oliver2018.com or follow her on Instagram @JulieForTx25.

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