Heather Peterson of CorePower Yoga: “5-minute Meditation”

5-minute Meditation: An online course I took with Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle asks the questions “Who am I?” or “Am I aware?” and then resist answering. This creates a pause in thinking for a moment or two, and then so much more. When I was just starting out with meditation, people used to tell […]

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5-minute Meditation: An online course I took with Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle asks the questions “Who am I?” or “Am I aware?” and then resist answering. This creates a pause in thinking for a moment or two, and then so much more. When I was just starting out with meditation, people used to tell me not to focus on my thoughts, not to engage with them but observe them, but they never told me HOW. With these tools, I had access to looking for the gaps, widening the gaps between the thoughts and I found a deep stillness quickly.

As a part of my series about “How To Learn To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview Heather Peterson — Chief Yoga Officer. As the Chief Yoga Officer, Heather is the longest continuous staff member for CorePower Yoga. She has been teaching yoga since 2002 and was hired as the second studio manager for the company in 2003.

Throughout her tenure, Heather has served in a number of varied strategic and operational capacities, including as the Regional Manager of Colorado and then California where she developed the emerging markets along the West Coast as CorePower expanded its studio reach. She oversaw the strategy and content for classroom instruction and programming and created the first Hot Yoga Teacher Training program at CorePower Yoga. She has served as faculty for over 80, 200-hour teacher trainings, co-developed and lead the CorePower Yoga Nutrition Program, and Level 2. In her current role, Heather is focused on yoga quality and innovation and continues to teach throughout the CorePower network of studios nationwide.

Thank you so much for joining us! I’d love to begin by asking you to give us the backstory as to what brought you to this specific career path.

I started meditating with my Mom when I was a child. She taught me how to work on myself at a very early age, and always took me to ayurvedic practioners when I was growing up. Little did I know that these practices would one day be my life’s work.

As a teenager I rebelled against this way of life. Then when I was in college finishing my Bachelors of Arts in music, I went through a lot of physical challenges. I returned to Ayurveda which saved my body and then started a yoga asana practice that saved my spirit. While I loved the practice of yoga, I was afraid to even think about becoming a teacher.

Finally, my husband, Xiren encouraged me to do Yoga Teacher Training. I took Teacher Training with CorePower Yoga in 2003, and in 2004 I was hired as the 2nd manager for the company. I am now the longest continuous staff member.

My journey has been a patchwork quilt of different experiences — I was a program leader at Landmark Education, which is a company that offers personal and professional development training, and I was an interior designer. I feel lucky that I eventually found a way to marry my passions for yoga, Ayurveda and meditation with what I do professionally, teaching and innovating yoga for CorePower Yoga.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you hope that they might help people along their path to self-understanding or a better sense of wellbeing in their relationships?

Last year the themes in all my CorePower Yoga classes were about happiness. There are simple practices we do on the mat that can be applied in your daily life that have a really positive impact on your outlook. I focus a lot on gratitude practices.

This year we are working on a human core value each month. Courage was January — what are the ways we can practice courage on and off our mats? I challenged my students to share vulnerably once a day for a week. February is Compassion and March is Enthusiasm. Research from psychologists and sociologists shows that values are practices that you choose, rather than qualities you have or don’t have. You can cultivate the person you want to be with small, efficient practices daily.

Do you have a personal story that you can share with our readers about your struggles or successes along your journey of self-understanding and self-love? Was there ever a tipping point that triggered a change regarding your feelings of self-acceptance?

The largest challenge in my life has become the greatest opportunity to practice self-understanding and self-love. Seven years ago, my husband started to have terrible neurological and nervous system problems. It took 2 years and 47 different doctors to finally find out he had Lyme disease. My strong, creative and loving husband was literally wasting away in front of me. I found myself hating the situation, and I realized that I had to put my yoga practice to its greatest test to help me find the good in what we were going through.

Lyme has been the hardest thing we have been through, but it has also given me the best opportunity to evaluate my search for perfection in life. To overcome this, I committed to a daily gratitude practice and my husband and I share these practices out to the Lyme community. Being compassionate and finding grace in this journey has been a true test of self-love.

According to a recent study cited in Cosmopolitan, in the US, only about 28 percent of men and 26 percent of women are “very satisfied with their appearance.” Could you talk about what some of the causes might be, as well as the consequences?

We often focus on our relationships with others and forget to cultivate a relationship with ourselves. The most important relationship I have found is the one with myself. I find greater satisfaction by asking myself — What can I do to support myself daily? What foods help me thrive, what sleep do I need, and what practices best serve me.

We see the consequences all around us when people are dissatisfied with their appearance. These individuals start to be fearful and disconnected. At CorePower, I see daily people who have made the choice to journey within and live from a place of happiness and health.

As cheesy as it might sound to truly understand and “love yourself,” can you share with our readers a few reasons why it’s so important?

I would reframe the concept of “self-love” completely. Self-love for me is understanding that I am not my thoughts. It’s during the still moments in meditation or after yoga when lying in final resting pose/Savasana that I feel the most connected to my expanded self. I think we have all had moments of feeling that bigger version of ourselves and a deep peace. This is what self-love can look like. Self-love is ultimately a deep sense of peace within.

Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?

The journey with my husband’s health has forced me to deal with the relationship with myself and I am so grateful. I recommend exploring the relationship with yourself and how you interact in your relationships. Understanding who you are in relation to others in the world can help you heal and evolve. Use any challenge in front of you right now — relationships or health, work, etc. Notice your thoughts and patterns at play, and if you can see them, then they aren’t you.

When we talk about self-love and understanding we don’t necessarily mean blindly loving and accepting ourselves the way we are. Many times, self-understanding requires us to reflect and ask ourselves the tough questions, to realize perhaps where we need to make changes in ourselves to be better not only for ourselves but our relationships. What are some of those tough questions that will cut through the safe space of comfort we like to maintain, that our readers might want to ask themselves? Can you share an example of a time that you had to reflect and realize how you needed to make changes?

The first questions I ask to lay a foundation to work on are:

What are 3 new things/people am I grateful for?

Starting with gratitude allows me to lean into challenge

What’s right, right now?

Looking for what is working in life trains my mind to see the positive rather than focus on the negative. With gratitude and positivity, I can tackle the bigger challenging questions below.

The tough questions start with “Who am I?”

I often resist answering this one and dive into the space between my thoughts. I use this one as a mantra during meditation daily.

“Am I these thoughts and reactions?”

This is an emergency brake for me during the day when things get crazy. I ask this question as a wake-up call.

If I could choose anyway of being, would I choose this way of being?

This question brings conscious choice to who I am being in any moment.

Am I protecting myself?

Great reminder that if I am, then my ego is at play.

Seven years ago, when my husband began his struggle with Lyme, we were just getting ready to have kids. We put kids on hold until we found a cure. After a few years, we realized this was a long-term situation, and this was really the bottom for me.

I found comfort in yoga, meditation and my gratitude practice and one day I realized all of this wasn’t me. That my ego was resisting reality, and in that moment, I took a breath and accepted it fully. I was finally able to see that my husband had grown deeply as a human through this experience and I was actually grateful for Lyme. We all have challenges in life, and what I really want for everyone is a way to deal with the challenges and connect to their peace.

So many don’t really know how to be alone or are afraid of it. How important is it for us to have, and practice, that capacity to truly be with ourselves and be alone (literally or metaphorically)?

I would start by cultivating a relationship with yourself. If you work on this relationship, you will strengthen your relationships with all beings and realize that we are never alone, no matter your current relationship status.

How does achieving a certain level of self-understanding and self-love then affect your ability to connect with and deepen your relationships with others?

The journey with my husband has deepened my love for others. This challenging experience didn’t diminish my positivity but added a depth of love I never had before. I have learned to love people where they are at, because I know we are all on the journey of self-reconnection.

In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves

I think we start as individuals, getting to know ourselves. How can we create positive gratitude practices to support this journey?

At CorePower Yoga, we start every meeting with some type of a gratitude practice. What if more organizations and governments did this? What if there were more schools where human core values of gratitude, curiosity, trust and love were taught. I think we have a real opportunity right now to start creating positive systems. It’s small changes in the way we think about things that can help make the monumental changes the world currently needs.

What are 5 strategies that you implement to maintain your connection with and love for yourself, that our readers might learn from? Could you please give a story or example for each?

Yoga: Balanced with cardio and weight lifting. I switch up my training seasonally, but my body loves weight training to compliment my yoga practice. Research shows that 15 minutes of FUN cardio exercise works to raise your level of happiness too. CPY offers a variety of classes so you never plateau in your training. Classes like Yoga Sculpt that combine a power yoga practice with cardio and strength training.

Gratitude Practice: There are so many out there — find one that resonates with you. Even writing down 3 new things you are grateful for each day can make a real impact.

3 times per day, ask and look for “What’s right, right now?” and train your mind to see and appreciate the good.

Interview for Joy: This name came from CorePower Yoga’s CEO Eric Kufel, but was a practice my husband and I started after realizing that by asking how he was feeling all the time, it was just eliciting a list of awful symptoms. We reframed it and I started asking what was the cool thing you learned today? It changed the quality of our conversations so much that I expanded on this and I always ask joy questions to start conversations like “What are you geeking out about recently?” It not only changes the conversations you have but helps lifts people’s spirits.

5-minute Meditation: An online course I took with Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle asks the questions “Who am I?” or “Am I aware?” and then resist answering. This creates a pause in thinking for a moment or two, and then so much more. When I was just starting out with meditation, people used to tell me not to focus on my thoughts, not to engage with them but observe them, but they never told me HOW. With these tools, I had access to looking for the gaps, widening the gaps between the thoughts and I found a deep stillness quickly.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources for self-psychology, intimacy, or relationships? What do you love about each one and how does it resonate with you?

The Super Soul podcasts Oprah does really resonate with me. She shares conversations with people who are living lives infused with spirit from all types of faiths and work.

I’m also inspired by the works of Shawn Achor, Brene Brown, Dr. Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, Dr. John Doulliard at LifeSpa, books on breakthrough business and organizations. I am currently reading Multipliers by Liz Wiseman.

You are a person of influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring

the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? Maybe we’ll inspire our readers to start it…

Gratitude Practice: Let’s start training gratitude and happiness practices now! Ultimately, if we could all realize that happiness is a practiced state of mind.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you use to guide yourself by?

I started working on articulating my life’s mission, or Sankalpa in Sanskrit, when I was 20, and it continues to evolve and refine yearly. Currently it’s a yogic prayer that translates as “May all beings everywhere be happy, healthy, peaceful and free.”

Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life and how our readers might learn to live by it in theirs?

I live every moment of my life from this place. Can I share happiness practices with everyone I work with at CorePower Yoga? Can I share the practices my husband has found while battling Lyme disease for the last 7 years?

I look for gratitude practices everywhere and with everyone. I invent new ones, I share them, and they have helped me maintain my peace during the darkest days. The opportunity of my life is to help people train their gratitude like a muscle and they can get through all life has in store with joy.

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