Maybe you've seen him on Instagram, or at the Green in Santa Monica, L.A.'s grassy hub for the acroyoga community, making art in front of or behind the camera. Even if you haven't, chances are you'll be instantly hooked by Julio Bajdaun's playful personality and clear passion for his practice. The yogi, photographer and videographer attributes yoga for helping him cultivate his creativity and go after what he wants, whether it's finding strength in a new pose or starting his own video production company. We're always inspired by what we see, so we couldn't wait to pick his brain about how he found his community and what he's taken away from his time on the mat.
Tell us about your journey to yoga and acroyoga!
It began about 6 years ago when I still lived in Miami. My CrossFit gym started offering yoga, and I figured why not, we could all work on being a bit more flexible! Sure enough, I fell in love with how my body and mind felt after class. Once I discovered arm balances and inversions I was hooked. I grew up playing baseball and lived in a predominantly Latin neighborhood, and my friends would constantly joke about me going to yoga, but I honestly didn't care because it just felt so good! Yoga not only helped me open up my body, but it also taught me to take care of it. A year later I moved to Los Angeles and started frequenting the beach, just as I did back in Miami, only to discover this amazing adult playground in Santa Monica called Original Muscle Beach. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw so many acrobats, yogis and movers just playing and having fun. I knew I had my found my home.
After months of being a little shy and keeping to myself, I finally started mingling with the regulars who willingly offered to give me some pointers, which really gave me that sense of community that I longed for in L.A. Once things started making sense with the practice, I was bitten by the acro bug and immediately signed up for a number of acroyoga immersions. Soon after, I completed an acroyoga teacher training. Now, five years later, I’ve taught workshops all over the world for hundreds of people and continue sharing my passion for acroyoga and yoga every day.
Tell us about how you started blending your love for yoga, photography and film. Did it come about organically?
The blending of my passions slowly came about when I started helping my girlfriend at the time create content for her Instagram. I noticed that there was a huge void on the creative side in capturing quality high-end images and videos, so I started creating more with friends, other yogis and brands like Alo, building my portfolio and honing in on my craft.
What people enjoy most and what I feel sets me apart is that I truly understand the practice and shapes because I too am a yogi. Not just in the sense of practicing, but also in the sense of teaching it and having a deeper understanding of the postures. It’s nice when we all can speak the same language—it makes collaborating and creating together that much easier and more fun!
What’s the most rewarding part about practicing acro? The most difficult?
The most rewarding part has to be helping people push past so many self-limiting beliefs and boundaries. This whole, I can’t, I’ll never, I don’t have the right body, blah blah blah that people tell themselves. That’s what I get the most joy in helping people work through! Oh, and most of all just watching people PLAY. As adults, we forget to play—to tune out the world and lose ourselves in the moment. Whether it's laughing, rolling on the floor, pretending to move like an animal, whatever.
The most difficult part, aside from the physical aspects of the practice, also happens to be the most rewarding, and that’s helping people push past those boundaries. Over the course of our entire life we’ve been told a story, and we repeat it in our head over and over again. So, realistically, you can’t just come into one class and expect to be enlightened. It takes time and, more importantly, space. Being able to create a container where people feel safe and can enter these vulnerable places to better themselves—that is what's most difficult. But, truth be told, anything worth having is worth working for!
You’ve mentioned that you’re a perfectionist. How do you reconcile this with the lessons you learn on the mat (non-attachment, etc.)?
Being an artist and a creative, it can be difficult expressing yourself or your vision and bringing it to life in the real world. Lots of emotions and energy can be tied to that sense of it not being perfect, but yoga has really helped me shift this perspective. When I’m on the mat, it doesn't matter if I fall over, do the pose "right." What matters is that I continue to show up and do the work. Yoga is not about being perfect, it’s about it being a practice. And, let me tell you, being able to apply that mindset to my professional creative life has not only changed my productivity, but also my overall well-being and happiness in life!
How has practicing yoga affected your life, on a small or large scale?
Yoga changed my life! I know it’s, like, uber-cliché and all, but real talk, it changed my life. I went from a desk job in an office working 9 to 5 for 10 years to finally not being afraid to take the leap, believe in myself and pursue my passions. Yoga helped shift my mindset and empower me to be a better version of myself—one that stopped overthinking and started focusing more on doing. 'Cause ain't nobody out there gonna do it for you but YOU!
Any tips or advice for someone who wants to try acro but might feel intimidated?
Just try it! When’s the last time you laughed or played like a child? When’s the last time you gave yourself permission to have fun? I recognize it can be intimidating going up to a bunch of people you probably don't know, but the truth is they were all strangers at one point too. If a jam isn’t for you and you would rather take a class, just go on Facebook and search "acroyoga" with the name of the place you live, and join your local community. Classes are posted regularly on each page, and you can practice in a safe space with instructors and spotters.
For more fun on the mat, mini life lessons & seriously-sweet acro, keep up with Julio on Instagram!