…start the gratitude practice. My good friends that have pre-teens have started doing so with their children at the dinner table, and the things that their kids come up with will make your heart break open. The wisdom that comes from the young is amazing. If they can have this platform as a tool to get through the challenges of teenage years in this time, it seems to be a highly beneficial skill for them.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Heather Peterson, the CorePower Yoga’s Chief Yoga Officer. She has been teaching Yoga and Therapeutic Pilates since 2003 and has been working for CorePower Yoga since 2004. During that time, she has helped to create the second version of the CorePower C1 sequence, in addition to the first Hot Power Fusion and Yoga Sculpt formats. Heather has been the editor for the C1 and C2 programs for the last seven years. She has trained in India, as well as with world-renowned yoga leaders including Amy Ipolitti, Jason Crandell, Shiva Rea, Ana Forrest, Baron Baptiste, and her first meditation teacher, her mother, Swamini Lakshmianandama.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Mymother taught me meditation as a child. She is a spiritual author and now a nun in a Vedic order. Throughout my entire life she was a shining example and inspiration for yoga and the inner journey. I tried many other things from singing opera, to leading transformation education, and interior design, but I always wanted to make a difference that was lasting and really helped people. I returned to yoga and started teaching in 2003.
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?
My third time teaching was a hot yoga class and a student had been drinking heavily the night before. As a result, he wound up fainting in the third posture. I ran and tried to slide under him to help him fall and we tumbled over. Thankfully another teacher was in the room and ran out to call 911. All was well, he was dehydrated, but my mistake was that my panic overtook me. I couldn’t connect to my breath to choose a response. That day taught me to breathe in the face of any situation, and that if I take my breath first, then my response will be the best I can offer in that moment.
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?
One of the founders of CorePower Yoga is Tim Johnson, and it was his belief in me that brought me to teaching yoga. I was the second manager hired at CorePower Yoga. He believed in me enough to sit me down and talk to me about my yoga practice and what he saw in me. He was extremely busy, so to take that time and really mentor me for a decade after that meant a lot. He came to my class every week for a year and we would talk afterwards about how I could improve, what he felt, and how I could contribute to his journey. He changed my life forever and I hope I can continue in his example with people I work with now and in the future.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
Self-care practices are game changers. I try simple, practical things like a gratitude practice, effective short meditations, ayurvedic cleansing practices and good sleep. We give so much energy to teaching yoga and working that it’s essential to “fuel” yourself with high vibration and light energy daily. I do a 15-minute meditation that includes a gratitude practice at the end. Then I have some energy healing techniques to unlock light energy and use a dry brush and tongue scraper, followed by coconut oil pulling. I supplement with ayurvedic herbs as well, but that’s the start of my day — it’s changing and upgrading all of the time! I got an Oura Ring to track my sleep and that’s also been so illuminating to upgrade the quality of my sleep.
You can also turn it on airplane mode and it still tracks your sleep, so you aren’t getting blasted by EMF at night! I ground my computer and workstation by using ethernet cords in lieu of WIFI as well.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
Invest in your people and train them on your values and “how” to live their values. We start with human practices like gratitude in every call we have at CorePower Yoga and aspire to create a place that is welcome to all and benefits all. You have to dedicate time to that type of work.
Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Mental health is often looked at in binary terms; those who are healthy and those who have mental illness. The truth, however, is that mental wellness is a huge spectrum. Even those who are “mentally healthy” can still improve their mental wellness. From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to improve or optimize our mental wellness. Can you please share a short story or example for each?
- Gratitude Practice: See the incredible research from Shawn Achor out of Harvard’s Positive Psychology department. Two minutes spent in a gratitude practice every day for 21 days can change your positivity index, as well as the peoples’ in your life, even if they don’t do the practice!
- Meditation: Pick a type that works for you — even a breathing meditation of two minutes per day can impact your positivity index, as well as dial down your fight or flight sympathetic nervous system.
- Move Daily: Movement is key to changing your biochemistry and positivity index. The National Institute of Health says to do 20 minutes of cardiovascular work 3x per week. What really works best for me is cardio 5x and yoga 4x per week, with a full day of rest.
- Life-Long Learning: What are you learning in your life? I make sure to take a training or seminar every year in yoga, but I am learning on health and healing daily. I try to read or watch something every day to learn something new.
- Upgrade Your Food: I try to keep adjusting my food based on more research that comes out, and I also adjust seasonally. I have found that making small changes over time has really impacted my physical and my mental health.
Much of my expertise focuses on helping people to plan for after retirement. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In addition to the ideas you mentioned earlier, are there things that one should do to optimize mental wellness after retirement? Please share a short story or an example for each.
The ideas above have become more important to my mother as she has transitions to a “retirement.” She does all the above and stays active on social media while coaching people spirituality across the world. Find your passion and do some of that daily.
How about teens and pre-teens. Are there any specific new ideas you would suggest for teens and pre-teens to optimize their mental wellness?
I would say start the gratitude practice. My good friends that have pre-teens have started doing so with their children at the dinner table, and the things that their kids come up with will make your heart break open. The wisdom that comes from the young is amazing. If they can have this platform as a tool to get through the challenges of teenage years in this time, it seems to be a highly beneficial skill for them.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda is a book that changed me forever. To hear the stories of his journey to America and then back to India, as well as the lessons he learned, helped me beyond belief. I still listen to the section on his teacher Yukteswar in the Himalayas and it calms me every time. This book is great for people who want to understand the larger aspects of yoga and how to apply yogic principles to their daily lives.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Gratitude practices can be taught to everyone starting at an early age. They’ve honestly changed my relationships with my family, my body and my work. So simple, yet so impactful.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote?” Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
I have to share one my mother says all the time, “Live, learn, die and forget it all.” It’s something I heard growing up over and over again, and it reminds me that all that is happening is transitory. We should live, and we should learn, and then we die and let it all go. To me, it’s the spirit of the Yogic concept of Iswara Pranidhana in the Niyamas of the 8 Limbed Path which means to do your duty to the highest, then offer up the fruits of your labor to the divine. To remind yourself it’s not all about you, it’s about all of us and in the end, we meet together there.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
@heatherpeterson1313 on Instagram