A Peacock With Many Plumes: Meet Yoga Teacher, Nutritionist and Essential Oil Expert Julie Peacock
Meeting Julie Peacock is like encountering the calm, knowledgeable embodiment of that yogi ideal you always envisioned. Chat with her a bit more, and it’s quickly clear she’s even more: Not only is she a skilled, warm instructor of a flow that hits all the marks (vinyasa, stretch and creativity), but she’s also a certified dietitian nutritionist and an essential oils maven. The triad of modalities allows clients to engage with Peacock in a variety of ways, while letting her use all of her passions, separately—and together.
From a sporty family, Peacock was always active growing up, competing in volleyball, basketball, track and gymnastics. In high school, she started making the connection between how she ate and how she felt at track practices, sparking her interest in learning more about the body’s inner workings. When she took this fascination into the kitchen, she found she loved cooking, being creative with food and connecting with others through food. Eventually, this led her to work in public health, where she earned her nutrition stripes working with clinical populations, helping clients with everything from high cholesterol to diabetes.
Eventually, though, a different path called to her, and Peacock made her way to yoga, circling back to include nutrition. Want to learn more about how she fuses all areas of her wellness wheelhouse together? Read on!
SBS: How did you start weaving nutrition and yoga together?
Julie Peacock: In 1998, I moved to Minneapolis to work as a public health nutritionist. It was there that I began to understand more clearly how I wanted to help people in their health journeys. I also found a warm and generous Ashtanga yoga teacher who deepened my love of yoga and challenged me to dive more deeply into myself. Through my hours on the mat and in meditation practice, I began to find beauty in the stillness of the moment and the importance of staying with all that arises: joy, frustration, pain, delight, sadness, disappointment and calm.
I had always wanted to work in wellness, but it wasn’t always clear as to how. But after the work in Minneapolis, I started discovering more, and yoga was a big part of that. So, in 2004, I decided to move to New York to do yoga teacher training, and then I started teaching. I had some nutrition clients, but more of my focus was getting comfortable in teaching. I met my husband, we had three kids, and for eight years it was a lot of part time work, fitting everything together.
SBS: Where is your practice now?
JP: The last three years, I’ve started building more of my nutrition practice again, coming back to teaching more classes and clients. I’m weaving in other modalities, like the essential oils. If I see it might be helpful for any of my clients, I suggest that to them; I love to teach people what I know.
photo by: Justin Jay
SBS: What’s your style of teaching yoga?
JP: I teach a flow of standing poses with inversions and vinyasa in between. It’s breath-focused, meditative, regulated and healing. I try to provide a time to replenish yourself and not be bombarded. Let’s try to preserve that quiet more.
SBS: What’s your approach to nutrition?
JP: As far as nutrition goes, I love anything that has to do with research, functional medicine and looking at the person as a whole. It’s not just the food that you put into your mouth. It’s also how you’re sleeping, stress reduction activities and what work is like. Similarly, when we narrow it down, we work from a place of connection to what we put in our mouths and how that makes us feel with heavy emphasis on lots of fruits and veggies.
Also, I don’t advise moderation for soda or sugar, even if moderation is good advice for other things. If you combine those moderate amounts of soda and moderate amounts of candy…it can all add up—and then it’s not moderate. So, I tend to take the stance of, let’s clean up your diet. Let’s take the things out of your diet that don’t serve you.
SBS: How do the different areas of your work feed into each other, and how does that feedback loop help clients?
JP: From yoga to nutrition, I’ve taken the idea that not one size fits all. Nobody is exactly alike. There are general guidelines, but it takes a lot of trial and error to find what makes people feel good in their skin. Two people could be living in the same city doing the same thing, but one gets cancer and one doesn’t. We can do all these things, but we have our genetics to work with. Yoga and mindfulness teaches me how to teach others to be compassionate and open handed with the ever-changing nature of things. You can’t control everything.
My nutrition work has helped my yoga work in saying, you’re not in the same body as this other person. You’re not in the same place as that other person. So, don’t expect yourself to do and look like others. Do the best with where you are.
photo by Ryan Struck
SBS: What are your tips for yoga newbies?
JP: It’s not a competitive sport. It’s about your experience with yourself and taking that in. A lot of people come for a score: to get flexible, to calm the mind or some other specific. Those things do come if you show up. But it’s more that practice of an inward journey. Try to learn to connect to the moment without judgment. Have fun, be gentle with yourself, and remember, there all levels. That shouldn’t scare you from showing up.
Also, remember that yoga is a practice where we listen. It’s about not looking around the room at other people or expecting the teacher to do all the poses. Listen and strengthen that sense.
SBS: What are your top nutrition tips?
JP: Prioritize lots of fruits and veggies. Eat the rainbow: That’s such an easy way to wrap your head around the idea. And, the less packaging, the better.
Then, think about what kind of sugar intake you have each day. Sugar is in so many things we don’t realize. Consider that one scoop of sugar in your coffee or fruit juice in a smoothie.
Also, practice being mindful around eating. Notice the texture, the taste and the smell. That gives us so much more satisfaction and often helps a lot when people are regularly overeating. Pay attention. That’s how yoga has improved my work with nutrition clients: Take time to notice your food. That’s more nourishing than just the food itself.
SBS: What should someone look for in essential oils when new to the area?
JP: Essential oils are the immune system of plants, bark, leaves, citrus and rind, which you can use for your immune system. You can use them aromatically through a diffuser, on your skin or with some of them, internally.
Look for pure, therapeutic grade oils. That means they’re sourced in countries they should be from, and they’re harvested at the right time. That way the chemistry of the essential oil is as it should be. Like a fruit you pluck at right time, the flavor and nutrition is different if it’s not perfectly timed. I work with do Terra for these reasons.
Also, remember: These oils are very potent, so for example, one drop of peppermint oil is like 28 cups of peppermint tea! So maybe try them diluted on your skin first.
Julie’s NYC Faves:
Healthy Restaurant: Dimes in LES
Splurge Restaurant: Diner in Williamsburg
Yoga Studio: The Shala
Fitness Studio: SoulCycle
Fun Activity: Walking around, popping in and out of galleries in my neighborhood (Lower East Side), meeting a friend for a matcha, biking around the city with my kids or being in the kitchen while listening to a podcast.
Calming Activity: Yoga and running with my amazing running partners. Our time together is like therapy.
Nightlife Spot: In bed reading!
Online Resources: The New York Times, Well+Good, or anything by Dr. Mark Hyman and Dr. Sara Gottfried
Books: For meditation, anything by Sharon Salzberg (Real Happiness) and Pema Chodron (When Things Fall Apart), and for fiction, anything by Haruki Murakami (Norwegian Wood), Ann Patchett (Commonwealth). Right now, I'm reading Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams
Athleticwear: Outdoor Voices and Lululemon
Athletic Shoes: Brooks for running and Nikes for kicking around
The best, zaniest part of being Julie? The best: I’m game to try a lot of things. I’m kind and empathetic and happy to make connections with others. The zaniest: I’m really attached to my routine. I love my morning routine of awaking at 5:15/5:30, reading, meditating, doing a gratitude practice and running or practicing yoga.
People think it's a little crazy to get up so early, and it wasn’t always easy. But now I totally rely on that peaceful and calm start to my day.
Julie’s SBS Mantra: I love Be Bright. Live in a way that makes you feel alive, bright, vibrant and happy, and that brightness/light that emanates from you will inevitably influence others in a positive way.
To learn more, check out Julie's website:
Leave a comment