We meet Julie Montagu, a yogi, nutrition expert and renowned wellness entrepreneur who knows a thing or two about managing stress as a mama…
American wellness entrepreneur Julie Montagu might have married into British aristocracy (her husband, Luke, is also known as Viscount Hitchingbrooke, as his father is the Earl of Sandwich), but she’s had her fair share of life challenges. She’s raising four children, has helped her husband through a prescription drug dependency, and financially supported the family – but one of the ways she found to cope with the stress was through yoga, something she’s become very, very good at. These days she’s a very successful yoga and nutrition teacher, and founder of Whole Self Yoga, which offers 200-hour teacher training courses, as well as short courses and retreats in her family’s fabulous, historic estate at Mapperton, Dorset. As she prepares to run her first four-day restorative retreat in November, we chat with Julie about the true meaning of happiness, being healthy, and what we can expect from her now-famous yoga classes.
Your yoga classes have become incredibly popular in London. In fact, Cosmopolitan wrote: “Among London’s taut-buttocked set, the name Julie Montagu is talked about with the sort of reverence reserved for the Dalai Lama”. That’s quite a pat on the back. What do you think it is about your classes that have made them so successful?
I’m not really sure why they are so popular but perhaps it’s because I just teach authentically. I teach from the heart, I tell real-life stories in my classes and pretty much hug everyone who comes. My classes are high energy, very upbeat during the beginning and middle and then are grounding and slower towards the ends just before savasana, when you can float away – do nothing, speak to no one, no one speaks to you – for just a few wonderful minutes.
What started you down the path of yoga and nutrition in the first place?
After my fourth child was born, I was exhausted both mentally and physically, and I knew I needed to do something and fast! It felt like every day was the same day. My skin was bad, my energy low and I was definitely sinking into a hole of despair. So I went to my first Bikram yoga class and in one day became obsessed with it! From Bikram, I started to then explore other types of yoga and fell madly in love with Vinyasa Flow yoga. And, really, once I started on the yoga path, I became obsessed with how much it could give me energy, how it could boost my mood and just – overall – make me feel better. I’m so passionate about yoga and all that it can do for you physically, mentally and spiritually.
And the same goes for nutrition. During my yoga training, I became very active in learning more about foods and how they can help heal you but also energise you. I needed both of those things, so I took an online course through Cornell University and that really kick-started my path into nutrition.
Why do you think having a yoga practise is so important for a modern mama?
I think as mums we give so much energy to everyone else and put ourselves last on the list. So by taking time out to find space for yoga, we finally get to re-connect with who we are and sometimes even re-discover our true, authentic self. Yoga is so much more than just the poses – it’s a release and a boost at the same time.
Today we’re often told to “think positively” and believe in the Law of Attraction to find happiness. What do you think about this?
I personally believe that happiness is like a muscle – you have to work at it. It doesn’t just knock on your door one day and say: “Hey, I’m here to stay”. I wish it were that easy. Happiness is something that we’re in control of and we have to create. What makes you happy? Do more of that. Is it writing, pottery, designing, yoga, nutrition, exercise, and so on? It’s one thing to SAY what makes you happy, it’s another thing to actually do it. We must continue to do the things that make us happy.
What are the highlights of this upcoming trip to Dorset?
A Spending time in fresh air, beautiful countryside, cosy fires, plant-based meals and wonderful yoga and mindful crafting sessions!
What bits are you most excited about?
Mapperton is such a beautiful place to visit and rather far from any main roads, so it’s very unspoilt. So I’m excited to show people this unspoilt part of England and be able to offer the guests our newly renovated bedrooms and bathrooms, plus a gorgeous and newly renovated 17th-century Coach House, which is where we’ll be doing the yoga and the mindful crafting session (where we’ll be making smudge sticks, luna candles and bath melts).
What are the most important elements of self-care that modern mamas must fit into their daily schedule, in your opinion?
Slotting in at least 10 minutes a day for you. It’s a must in my book. Whether that’s a walk outside for 10 minutes, or breathing, or meditating, or listening to your favourite podcast – the thing that must happen is 10 minutes for you (minimum) every single day. Just you with you, taking care of you.
How do you find it at the moment, juggling your own busy working schedule, self-care routines and family responsibilities?
Well, I must admit that I rarely ever sit down! I’m constantly moving from one place to the next BUT I make sure I schedule in my self-care every single day without fail.
If it’s scheduled in, I do it and nothing gets in the way of creating space for me. Because from this space is where I re-energise; mind clears, emotions stabilise and creativity
What tips and advice do you have for modern, busy, working mamas?
Self-care FIRST, then FAMILY and then WORK. You put your self-care first and you’ll be a better, more energised mother, wife, co-worker – but you have to prioritise you and get into the habit of doing so.
Other than your retreats, what else is in the pipeline for you?
I’ve just launched my new School of Yoga – Whole Self Yoga, which offers 200-hour yoga teacher training but it’s so much more than that – it’s about re-discovering your whole self and learning the tools to keep you motivated, inspired and caring for yourself. Whole Self also has short courses, too, and I’m currently working on some online courses to offer, so watch this space!
Julie Montagu has begun hosting yoga retreats in her family home, Mapperton House & Gardens in West Dorset. The first, in November, has already sold out, but there are two more happening this year from 29 November to 2 December, and then again from 31 January to 3 February. She will offer her signature style yoga classes, meditation, long walks, craft workshops, plant-based food, as well as accommodation. Prices start from £695.