By Shonda Dudlicek
Last year, Julie Gentile, a mother of two, announced she was expecting. Only this time, she wasn’t announcing the arrival of a baby. It was the publication of her first book, “108 Yoga and Self-Care Practices for Busy Mamas,” bronze winner of the 2019 Living Now Book Award in the exercise/fitness/yoga category.
“As a working mama, yoga teacher, and writer and editor, I am on a mission to inspire you to live well,” Gentile wrote on her Facebook page. “Too many of us are too busy to take time for self-care. Where do you start and how?”
Gentile’s own self-care journey started in college at Roosevelt University in Chicago. A journalism major and honors student, she first got a taste of yoga in a stress management class offered in her psychology minor.
A year after graduation, she found herself stuck in heavy traffic on a lengthy commute and wondered aloud, ‘This can’t be all there is.’
She took her first yoga class at her local YMCA in 2008. “It was a beginner’s class, but I knew I’d teach. It was that profound. I wanted to connect with inner peace,” she said.
She used her time sitting in snarling traffic to integrate breathing and meditation. Three years later, Gentile became a yoga instructor, teaching at local park districts and studios near her west suburban Chicago home. Her full-time job is in health care communication.
Self-care is very important to Gentile, and she’s passionate about the umbrella of sleep and eating nutrients that are good for the body.
“I’m a working mama on a wellness mission to inspire other people to nourish the body and spirit,” she said.
It wasn’t always this way, Gentile admitted. At 19, she heaped an enormous amount of pressure on herself to be perfect. Although she was never diagnosed with an eating disorder, she said her minimal eating, over-exercising and obsessive perfectionism were all there. “Now I don’t count calories and I eat healthy foods until I’m full,” she said.
Because of that experience, she became interested in food being used as nourishment. She originally wanted to become a dietitian to fuse her passion for wellness until she discovered yoga.
With two young children she realized that as a parent, she had to transition to those stages along with her kids. While they slept, Gentile would write for three or four hours. A devoted fan of journaling, she took out her four journals and realized she had written a book.
And then her passion for journalism led her to write her book, which gives 108 tips.
“I merged all my worlds together as an overall self-care advocate. I was living it so I can teach it. I wanted to write a short book so people could get through one page a day. It’s just 111 pages. The idea is to wake up and read one page a day; 108 is in the title because it’s such a connected number in yoga,” she said.
Half of the 108 practices are journaling prompts. Some deal with yoga poses, meditation or breathing exercises.
A blogger on juliegtheyogi.com, Gentile makes time for writing every Sunday, or “Self-Care Sunday,” as she calls it. “It’s because of self-care that I prioritize sleep, exercise, and meditation,” Gentile said, adding she gets seven hours of sleep nightly. “Laundry and dishes can wait.”
“I wanted to share this with other people,” she said. “If they can add one self-care practice, it doesn’t take time and it gives you time.”
“The idea is to wake up and read one page a day; 108 is in the title because it’s such a connected number in yoga.”
Gentile hopes to inspire not just busy parents, but the next generation to live well. “We need to stay present in the world of phones and laptops. We’ll never experience time like now with our kids. As a mom working full time, I try to be super mindful of that.”
She recalls hurrying her son out the door one day on the way to school and work. He paused to pay attention to an ant hill, fascinated with watching the ants do their work. She realized that she too needed to take time to pay attention to the anthill, adding that kids are the best teachers.
She’s also pleased to see her 4-year-old daughter practices yoga on her own before bedtime.
Yoga has been a spiritual experience for Gentile. She taught yoga up until she was eight months pregnant with both kids. “My meditation practices grew more after I had kids. I explored how I respond to my body’s needs. Through two years of breastfeeding and all the emotions that run through you, yoga helped me ride that wave.”
She recalls a time of change: “All in one year I got a new job, moved out, got married and started yoga. But yoga gave me that foundation.”
She encourages those who are unsure where to begin to start anywhere. “Drink one more glass of water. Go to bed 15 minutes earlier. Journal. Know what nourishes you. Take an indoor walk 20 minutes a day. Take one full breath.”