My name is Heather Morton van Hettema. Born in Canada and a native of Toronto, I have lived in different countries within East Asia, Europe and more recently, Northern Africa. As an educator, yoga practitioner, teacher and business owner turned mother, writer and humanitarian, I had no prior background of Yoga (or in teaching). But the journey of yoga inspired me to make more than 20 sojourns over the last 20 years to India. During the early years, I trained and studied extensively under Yoga Masters in India while building up a niche yoga school in Yorkville, Toronto. Becoming known both for my personal and progressive teaching style, I approach yoga as a whole practice. I truly believe in the power of “self-practice” and the less popular sides of yoga like breath work and sitting as the “inner teacher.” I teach with structure and technique as much as I do with intuition in how to develop your practice and benefit from all that Yoga is.
Finding Yoga: Beyond the Pose
Jump start to leaving Canada, I was living and working in South Korea for two years. It was in Korea that I literally got into yoga by default and from where I began to travel and study yoga. After obtaining yoga certifications from many of the Sivananda Vedanta Yoga Ashrams, I made my first solo trip to India in 1999. Along my path, a turning point still rests in studying directly under K. Pattabhi Jois in Mysore. Ironically, while facing an injury and leaving a long-term relationship, I grew addicted to the postures of yoga and particularly back bends. But true to yoga, I was led beyond the illusions of the ‘perfect’ asana. With each return study trip to India, I sought out and studied under several meditation teachers. In 2009, I underwent a silent retreat in Rishikesh whereby receiving initiation into The Himalayan Tradition of Yoga Meditation by the late Swami Veda Bharati. In the years to follow with a miscarriage, my marriage and the birth of my son in 2013, my practice took several twists and turns, and was evolving through different Hatha yoga systems. Today, I continue to travel to India annually and study with Yogacharya Vinay Kumar; practising a vinyasa krama system. Since 2014, my dharma also brought me to the feet of Sri BNS Iyengar (or Guruji as I call him); he is the oldest living nexus within the Krishnamacharya lineage. To date, I hold several other teaching certificates including of pranayama and a Master of Education degree.
Off the Mat
I am a writer and the producer of dvds. Freedom of the Body dvd is one of the first instructional resources to illustrate the practices of yoga back bending. Since its conception, it has reached students globally. As an author, I published a 2-year ethnographic project that was conducted in India. It focused on Yoga as a curriculum subject in education today. While in India, I also work to improve the education of young children from underprivileged families.
I offer private classes, workshops, online courses and all-inclusive Yoga retreats.
Without any formal training, I rented a space in a Lutheran church in Seoul to teach yoga. What lead me to do this is a mystery. I thought teaching yoga might be a good way to get into shape, become healthy and answer some of my deeper questions. I generally approached yoga from the stand-point of, “Let’s get a good workout”.
Described as the ‘real deal’ by the Toronto Life magazine, Heather founded The Yoga Way school to provide structured classes and more intimate teaching. Not offering drop-ins was the premise in helping students build a self-practice of yoga.