Canadian-born educator Heather Morton van Hettema is a business owner turned mother, wife and writer. With no prior background or inclination toward yoga, her evolution has been both surprising and unexpected. The journey of yoga has inspired her to make 20 sojourns over 20 years to India and to make it her life’s dharma. Over these years, she studied and trained under many Masters of Yoga and Gurus, and founded a niche yoga school in the heart of Toronto. Known for her personal teaching style, Heather has a talent in leading students progressively into the postures as more than a work-out. Heather places a big emphasis on the power of self-practice and the less fashionable sides of yoga as being, “the real teacher.”
Beyond the Postures
Flashback to 1999, Heather first travelled alone to India after obtaining yoga certificates from several of the Sivananda Yoga Ashrams. A turning point along her path still rests in studying under K. Pattabhi Jois in Mysore. She learned the primary series of Ashtanga yoga directly from him. Ironically, while working through an injury and ending a long-term personal relationship she grew addicted to the advanced poses. True to real yoga, however, her search led beyond the myth of the ‘perfect’ asana. With each return trip to India, Heather sought out meditation teachers. In 2009, she received initiation into The Himalayan Tradition of Yoga Meditation by the late Swami Veda Bharati. To date, she holds many yoga qualifications including a Masters of Education and a Fine Arts degree in Theatre. Heather continues to study in India with Yogacharya Vinay Kumar; practicing a Hatha yoga vinyasa system. Her dharma also landed her at the feet of Shri BNS Iyengar (Guruji), one of the last living masters in the Krishnamacharya lineage. After a miscarriage, a marriage and the birth of her beloved son in 2013, a more balanced lifestyle and practice truly began.
Heather is an author and producer of yoga dvds. Freedom of the Body is one of the first instructional dvds to highlight the practices of yoga back bending. Since its conception, it has motivated and reached students on a global level. To her credit, she is the sole author of a 2-year ethnographic research project on Yoga for Children in the educational system both in India and North America. Heather also self-published, Yoga Essentials: Back Bending Basics, a handbook on the methods to develop your back bending practice.
Heather offers yoga retreats and teaches privately.
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.