Daily exercise reduces stress and anxiety by releasing feel-good hormones in your body. For me, when I’m stressed and go on a walk, I can feel an immediate difference. What you give to your body, your body gives back to you. Additionally, through therapeutic touch, we have the ability to wake up the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The job of our PNS is to get our happy hormones pumping and let us know we’re okay. That’s why people leave our classes smiling. Through restorative stretching, therapeutic touch, and mindful breathing, their happiness hormones activate.
As a part of my series about “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Katherine Parker. Katherine is a young entrepreneur living in Portland, OR. She opened her first business at the age of 22, a local yoga studio called Studio PDX. Katherine is now the Co-Founder of Yomassage, a business that is disrupting the massage industry and changing the way people think about and receive touch.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Katherine! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?
When I was younger, gymnastics was my favorite activity. I loved the energy and fun it brought into my life. After a back injury in high school, vinyasa yoga was a natural transition into a modality that was similar, but kinder on my body. As I explored the practice more, I became more interested in the gentler aspects of yoga: hatha, restorative, and yin, and the more mindful aspects such as breathing and meditation.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I initially moved to Portland, OR from the midwest to go to law school. Yoga was just a hobby of mine, and I never thought I could create a business out of it. I walked by a retail space for lease one day and instantly decided I was going to open a yoga studio. With no planning or experience, I took an unexpected leap and opened a business. Because the space was only about 400 square feet, I decided to call it “My Yoga Room.” I’ve since sold the studio, but I’m so grateful for that experience. During that time, I learned about business, marketing, and most importantly, I met Dr. Ryan, and together we founded Yomassage.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
When you’re starting a business with little-to-no experience, everything is trial and error. You never know what’s going to work, and what’s going to feel like a total failure. About a year into running My Yoga Room, an opportunity came up to purchase a larger yoga studio that was a few blocks away. I knew it was something I had to do, and it was definitely the best decision I made for the studio. The mistake I made was the way I executed the idea. I bought an entire business in a matter of a few weeks! I ended up paying double rent for several months, and really wishing I had added several things into the contract with the previous owner. I’m so glad I went with my intuition and made the decision that I did, and if I had to go back, I don’t think I would do anything that differently. If I had given it more thought, I might have talked myself out of it. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut, even if it seems like a huge risk.
Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?
In 2018, after purchasing the new studio, I merged it with My Yoga Room and called it “Studio PDX.” These studios were small business, community-focused, intentional spaces intended to make everyone feel welcome and at home. I loved the studio and the strong sense of community I had with the members, but I wanted to do something that would make a significant impact on the world, outside of my local community. When I met Dr. Ryan, and we came up with the idea for Yomassage, I knew I found something I was truly passionate about. We held our first Yomassage training in September 2018, and a year later, we’ve now trained over 500 therapists all across the United States. It’s so incredible that our little idea for a class at My Yoga Room turned into a business that trains massage therapists to teach their own Yomassage classes.
Yomassage combines the three most powerful healing techniques: therapeutic touch, restorative stretch, and mindfulness. Yomassage is a movement, and it’s changing the way people receive touch. It’s having a huge impact on the lives of the therapists who take our training, and the clients they serve.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I firmly believe this is true. And the truth is, anyone can become well connected if they put themselves out there. All it takes is sending out a few emails (or Instagram messages), spending some time at networking events and entrepreneur talks, and asking for introductions. The person who sticks out the most is Nancy DeLong of DeepFeet. She is such an inspirational (and badass) woman who has also made huge strides in the massage industry. She just happened to own a successful business with a very similar model to ours, and live in the same city as us! It’s been so incredible learning from Nancy and our long list of other mentors and advisers we’ve met along the way.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
I think it all comes down to understanding that to care for yourself, you must love yourself and understand you deserve to feel good. The truth is, lifestyle changes won’t occur when they are rooted in self-hate. For us to truly impact the way that we feel (physically, mentally, and emotionally), we have to evolve from a place of self-love and compassion.
We are proud that we make self-care easy. In one class, you can treat yourself to restorative stretch, massage, and mindful breathing. You leave feeling relaxed, taken care of, and calm. We intentionally created Yomassage to be an affordable form of self-care because everyone deserves mindful touch and peaceful moments regardless of their economic status.
Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional and physical health.)
- Use your heart rate as an indicator of stress
One of the most useful things I’ve learned in the past few years is how to control my stress and anxiety. When I start to get overwhelmed, one of the first things I notice is my heart rate speeding up. Before it escalates, I use the stress tools that work best for me to get it back down.
- Take deeper breaths
One of the best and most effective stress relief tools out there is the breath. Taking deep breaths into the stomach (as opposed to the chest), and extending the length of your exhale (try breathing in for a count of 4, and breathing out for a count of 7) has been shown to reduce stress and calm the nervous system. It’s a tool I use anytime I start to get anxious or overwhelmed.
- Get more touch in your life
Making touch more accessible is our #1 mission. Safe touch is powerful and promotes healing. We believe that everyone deserves access to safe touch. We’re not the only ones, though. Thankfully, the world is catching on. People are even paying for services like professional cuddling! All to say, find a way you can bring more safe touch into your life. It might make all the difference.
- Be more mindful
Mindfulness is the practice of bringing yourself into the present moment. Studies have shown that we spend 46.9% of our waking lives thinking about something other than what we’re doing. The busy mind creates unhappiness. To integrate mindfulness into your own life, begin by developing your own mindfulness practices throughout the day by trying to focus your thoughts exclusively on the task you’re doing. It takes practice, and don’t expect to be perfect, but this exercise has made a dramatic difference on stress management in my own life.
- If all else fails, adopt a kitten (or two)
If two cats cuddling with you every night doesn’t improve your wellbeing, then you might be a dog person.
As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for the public. Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?
Daily exercise reduces stress and anxiety by releasing feel-good hormones in your body. For me, when I’m stressed and go on a walk, I can feel an immediate difference. What you give to your body, your body gives back to you.
Additionally, through therapeutic touch, we have the ability to wake up the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The job of our PNS is to get our happy hormones pumping and let us know we’re okay. That’s why people leave our classes smiling. Through restorative stretching, therapeutic touch, and mindful breathing, their happiness hormones activate.
For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?
In my opinion, the most valuable exercises are those that increase the mind-body connection. Some people like to do this through running, swimming, or weightlifting. However, I think the most valuable exercises are the exercises that make you feel good. The 3 I love the most are restorative stretching, self massage, and mindfulness.
Restorative yoga positions
Restorative yoga positions are feel-good gentle stretches that help to calm the mind and the body. You should stay in these positions for 10–20 minutes at a time, if comfortable. While stretching, it’s a good opportunity to focus on the breath or being generally mindful.
Self-massage is one of the best self-care tools! Using Yomassage balls release tension in your body. It’s a great tool to keep in your pocket or purse, and use it on your feet at the office or even your back and neck in your desk chair.
Breathing and mindfulness
Breathing and mindfulness are the most beneficial tools I have found. Start by practicing 5–10 minutes a day. It doesn’t have to be something you set aside dedicated time to (but never a bad idea), it can be something you practice throughout the day: on your commute to work, during meals, while brushing your teeth.
In my experience, many people begin an exercise regimen but stop because they get too sore afterwards. What ideas would you recommend to someone who plays sports or does heavy exercise to shorten the recovery time, and to prevent short term or long term injury?
The most important thing is to tune in with your body and give your body what it needs. This is something that has to be learned, but it starts with mindfulness. Being mindful means being present. This takes practice, but it’s attainable.
You can start with incorporating mindful practices into your everyday life. For example, When you’re eating dinner — what scents do you smell? What flavors do you taste? This simple practice helps keep your mind focused and away from worried thoughts.
Once you’re more mindful and in tune with your body, it’s easier to give your body what it needs.
There are so many different diets today. Can you share what kind of diet you follow? Which diet do you recommend to most of your clients?
I think diet culture is becoming very dangerous, and since I’m not a dietitian, I would never recommend a certain diet to anyone. Though, I can recommend my favorite YouTube dietitian. Her name is Abbey Sharp, and she dedicates a lot of time and resources to combat diet culture and educate viewers about intuitive eating. Intuitive eating is not a diet. It’s a way of eating that teaches you to eat based on your natural hunger and fullness signals. I highly recommend checking out Abbey’s channel and learning about intuitive eating if you think you may be struggling with dieting, disordered eating, or body image issues.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
There are so many great books about business and entrepreneurship out there. I highly recommend The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and Drive by Daniel Pink. However, I would have to say the book that has made the most significant impact on my life is In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. This is the first book I read that made me absolutely obsessed with reading. It introduced me to a new genre of books (psychological thrillers) and my favorite authors: Ruth Ware, Gillian Flynn, and B. A. Paris. Reading books in this genre is one of my biggest hobbies. It has changed my life by introducing me to a whole community of people, and a way to connect with family and friends who enjoy reading the same books.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I truly believe that Yomassage is making a major impact on the world. Our mission is to make therapeutic touch more accessible, and offer a self-care experience that actually makes a huge difference in people’s lives. In our classes, people learn how to use breathing and mindfulness as a tool to calm the nervous system and reduce stress. They relax in gentle, restorative stretches that help them heal the body. And they receive safe, therapeutic touch that further aids this total relaxation experience. When people learn to value self-care and self-love, they are able to make a bigger impact on the world and give more energy to helping others.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
One of my favorite life lesson quotes is from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling:
“It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
This quote reminds me that in order to be successful, you don’t have to be the smartest, most talented, or most privileged. You need to be the most dedicated, hardworking, and driven.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
There are so many incredible women in business that inspire me every day. The show Shark Tank really changed my life. It was the first time I truly realized what it meant to be an entrepreneur, and that it could actually be a career path! I’m so inspired by Lori Greiner. I have learned so much from her and the other Sharks on the show. Having lunch with Lori would be a dream!
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Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!