My name is Heather Morton van Hettema. I was born in Canada and grew up in Toronto, but have lived in different countries within East Asia, Europe and North Africa. As a business owner turned mother, wife and writer, I had no prior background in yoga (or education). The journey of yoga has inspired me to make over 20 sojourns over 20 years to India. During these years, I studied extensively under several Masters of Yoga while also building up a niche yoga school in Yorkville. Becoming known for my more personal and progressive teaching, I lead students into learning yoga as a whole practice. I believe in the power of “self-practice” and the less popular sides of yoga as “the inner teacher.” When practising with me, students are offered individual guidance in how to better practice and benefitting 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. After obtaining yoga certifications from many of the Sivananda Vedanta Yoga Ashrams, I made my first 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 ending a long-term relationship, I grew addicted to the physical poses and particularly back bends. But true to yoga, my search led beyond the illusions of the ‘perfect’ asana. With each return study trip to India, I studied with meditation teachers. In 2009, I underwent a silent retreat in Rishikesh whereby receiving my initiation into The Himalayan Tradition of Yoga Meditation by the late Swami Veda Bharati. Following a miscarriage, my marriage and the birth of my son in 2013, my practice was evolving through different Hatha yoga systems. Today, I continue to travel to India and study with Yogacharya Vinay Kumar; practising a vinyasa krama system. Since 2014, my dharma also took me to the feet of Guruji (Sri BNS Iyengar), the oldest living nexus within the Krishnamacharya lineage. To date, I hold many other teaching certifications including of pranayama and a Master of Education.
Off the Mat
I am both an author and the producer of yoga dvds. Freedom of the Body is one of the first instructional dvds to illustrate the foundational practices of yoga back bending. Since its conception, it has reached students all over the globe. As the sole author of a 2-year ethnographic project, I conducted my research on Yoga for Children in India. Its mandate is to bring Yoga into the classroom as a curriculum subject for spiritual and mental growth.
I offer yoga retreats and teach classes and workshops.
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.