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NVL Hero: Yoga Teacher Julie Konrad

Today, yoga teachers are certainly not the rarity they once were. The popularity of this ancient Indian physical and spiritual discipline means ubiquitous yoga studios, teachers and equipment. A rarity though is a teacher who turns her own living room into a yoga studio—especially when that yoga teacher has three children all under ten. No, Julie Konrad doesn't have an exceptionally large house or multiple living rooms, but she's got a passion for yoga and a passion for sharing it (and a very supportive husband). In the fall of 2012, Konrad, an eight-year veteran yoga teacher, opened her front door and opened Luna Presence Yoga.

You know when a class is about to begin at Luna because you'll spot neighbors with yoga mats tucked under arm heading to Konrad's house in the leafy Cleveland enclave of Shaker Heights. After the Hatha-inspired classes (sometimes accompanied by a roaring fire in the hearth on cold days), students hang out in the "tearoom" (dining room) sipping tea and enjoying community. Most agree that Konrad's living-room studio beats a crowded yoga school any day.

5 Minutes with a Hero

Natural Vitality Living: What made you decide you wanted to create your own yoga studio as opposed to just teaching at existing schools?

Julie Konrad: I have spent almost a decade running around town to work at studios. As much as I love teaching, it often came down to "how many people can you get into a class?" It just didn't fit my personal philosophy of teaching, which is to meet each student where they're at; and in order to do that, you have to actually know them. I also wanted to create community; that's why my dining room serves as a post-class tearoom so that my students can pause and sit in order to carry the stillness out a little longer before the world comes at them again.

NVL: Would you like to own your own studio outside your home one day.

JK: Many people assume that my dream is to have a studio building. I never really connected with that desire because I've seen the struggle studio owners go through. The focus and original desire to share the practice of yoga quickly changes into getting enough bodies to fill the room and money to pay the bills. It's a tough business. I want yoga to be accessible and affordable for everyone, and that means I can't be worried about overhead. Also, I want to be able to teach from many lineages of yoga. Many studios have committed themselves to a specific "brand" of yoga. I want to use the yogic teachings in such a way that students can relate it to their lives, and sometimes this means borrowing a relaxation technique from one style and a meditation technique from another. But most of all, I teach here because I think there is something special about opening up your home to your students.

NVL: How did your husband and children respond to gutting your living room for the studio space?

JK: My husband was totally on board. It just made sense to both of us. I think he really understood that the type of classes I wanted to create would be possible here. He did all the work himself from ceiling to floor, fireplace refacing and lighting! I helped, but he really put in the labor.

NVL: How is it living day to day with a living room that's a yoga studio?

JK: For me, I vacillate from "Oh, I wish I had a cozy living room like normal people," to feeling like I'm constantly being invited to the mat. I practice a lot more, that's for sure. The rest of the family has adapted quite well except our poor dog, who has lost any place to lie down in there. My girls are three, six and eight, so some days it's a sock skating rink or an Irish jig rehearsal room, but most of the time it's a fun place to run around.

NVL: How has the community responded to your school?

JK: I had no idea if I would gain a following, but it didn't matter. If one person came, I had a class. I started out with a group of four in October and now I have seventeen regulars. I am looking forward to collaborating with other teachers in the fields of meditation and Ayurvedic sciences and creating workshops and a class for teenage girls, Right now, I'm gearing up to take everyone outside to practice as soon as the weather warms up.