Interview With Katrin Heuser, Yoga Teacher, Master Osteothai Practitioner, Director of Hadadi – School of Thai Yoga Massage, Director of Little Yoga Space in Lisbon

Photo Credit: Al & K Photography

Yoga teacher and bodyworker, Katrin, has always been interested in the body and movement. After many years of dance, her scoliosis led her to Pilates and finally to yoga and Thai Massage, which then became her path in life. For her, it’s about the never-ending discovery of body and mind, to deepen the awareness, and to release all tension and stagnation. Only then, the journey toward healing and transformation can begin, the capacity and power of resilience of the body can grow, and more space for positive life energy and joy can develop. She holds a 500 hour Level 4 NVQ Yoga Teaching qualification. She is also trained in Manual Lymph Drainage and has studied extensively in Thai Yoga Massage and Osteothai, including a Master Osteothai qualification. She used to run a Yoga Festival in London and launched an online anti-stress breathing program. Since 2015, Katrin has lived in Lisbon and runs Little Yoga Space, where she teaches and gives Osteothai treatments. Also, she is the director of Hadadi School of Thai Yoga Massage, offering foundation and advanced training courses worldwide. 

Thanks so much for doing this interview. Our readers would love to get to know you better. Would you share how yoga and Thai Yoga Massage became a part of your life?  

Thank you for inviting me.

I guess it all started with developing quite severe scoliosis when I was 13, which meant having to wear an orthopaedic corset and doing a lot of physiotherapy throughout my teenage years. This was probably the beginning of my interest and curiosity in the human body and movement. I was managing just fine in my 20’s with regular Pilates and dance, and eventually Yoga. However, around when I turned 30, I started to have a lot of discomfort, particularly on my right side, and I needed regular massages to ease the pain. Eventually, I ended up seeing a cranial osteopath every single week for three months, which was getting very depressing. I was half-way through my Yoga Teacher Training back then, and luckily had experienced a few workshops on fascial release. I had the odd encounter with non-dogmatic teachers, and somehow had the wisdom in my own body that there was another way. I was about to start teaching Yoga, but nonetheless, decided to turn my own personal practice up-side-down and to start again from square one. I took charge of my own wellbeing. Living in London at the time, it was a borderline miracle, that a Scaravelli inspired teacher was living literally around the corner from my house. The week I started having sessions with her, I never had to go back to the osteopath.

And so, it is also no surprise to me that I decided to work more therapeutically and to train in Thai Yoga Massage. That very quickly became the real catalyst for changing my life entirely.

My body is now pain-free and my spine has become one of my greatest teachers over the years. But through my continued practice as well as the deep study of Osteothai, I am also healing my emotional scars I carry from being stuck in a corset for three years, which I now understand was a quite traumatic experience (the kind of trauma with a medium size ’T’ maybe) and has left behind patterns in my body as well as the narrative of my stories.

What other healing arts do you use in your work at Hadadi? Is there one practice that you enjoy more than the other(s)?

Yoga, Thai Massage, and Osteothai are really the foundations of what I do and share. And within that, I love drawing from the ancient wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine just as much as from modern neuroscience. My personal route in, to access the blueprint of health within us, is through the body. That comes from my own story of how I got here. And the healing power of touch, the kind that has no ambiguity, no agenda, but just offers a safe space.

Another strong pillar of my work is community. There is so much healing in the sharing, teaching, and connection itself.

What led you to start training yoga teachers? And, specifically, what courses do you offer?

When the pandemic hit, I suddenly couldn’t run the Thai Yoga Massage trainings anymore, nor give treatments. It was a bit like someone had chopped off my hands. But for quite some years, the idea for a training course for Yoga teachers for a more therapeutic approach had already been surfacing. Only, I never had the time to develop the training, with my busy schedule of running the Thai Massage courses and a studio. And suddenly, I had the time.

Over the past three years, or so, my focus has been turning more and more to trauma and how that is affecting our heath, mostly in my work as a bodyworker. With the start of the pandemic, this was even more highlighted, and I started to bring all the principles of what I do in treatments into the Yoga.

I also recognized that initial Yoga Teacher Trainings hardly ever address this topic, and that most teachers feel unequipped, or even overwhelmed, when students suffering from chronic conditions or anxiety, for example, come to their classes.

My passion is to foster more sustainability, inclusivity and accessibility in Yoga, and the training I developed is just one small step in that direction. It’s a 60 hour accredited training called ‘The Language of the Body’ – a therapeutic and trauma-informed approach to teaching Yoga.

Pre-COVID, you also offered retreats. Can you share the location of your retreats and the type of activities that you offered?  

I love running retreats, and I miss them.

I am a great fan of Europe; it is so beautiful. I have run retreats in England, Wales, Spain, and Portugal, but my favorite location is the Lycian coastline of Turkey. I experienced the amazing venues of Huzur Vadisi as a participant initially, fell in love, and was over the moon, when they also welcomed me as a teacher.

I often collaborate on my retreats. I like how that brings a little diversity to the activities and the practices. So, we have had Yoga & Mindfulness, Yoga & Thai Massage, or Yoga & Chanting. But I also really want it to feel like a holiday. Day-to-day life is often serious enough, so I want people to enjoy themselves, explore the culture, lie on the beach, laugh, dance, rest. Whatever they need.

It’s really important for me, that the venues offer comfort, but also offer a real connection to nature. I like simplicity, rather than luxury. Living a modern lifestyle in a concrete world numbs the innate intelligence of our bodies and our organic connection to the Earth and the environment, so the intention for my retreats is always about re-connection.

Because of your vast experience in helping people to better care for themselves, would you provide a few suggestions on how people can manage their stress during these difficult times? What self-care practices can they implement at home?    

At the start of the pandemic, I started offering 30 minute breathing sessions, three times a week. People have found that so helpful.

When people are struggling with stress and all its symptoms, I often find they would just love to get back to feeling themselves again. But they are finding it difficult to find the discipline for doing a regular practice of something, anything. Maybe they can't even make up their mind what kind of practice to take up. I get it. 

That's why I love working with the breath. It's 'relatively' easy, everyone can do it, and it's powerful. It makes a difference. Even with just half an hour, or even 20 minutes a day. There are so many different types of breathing exercises, so although it might take a little experimenting, there is usually one that really works for people. And the great thing is, it doesn’t require any upgrades or new parts. The breath is always with us, we can use it at any time.

Will you offer another retreat? If yes, have you decided the destination?

Oh yes, definitely. Next year, I’m going back to Turkey, to Huzur Vadisi. I can’t wait. Huzur Vadisi means Peaceful Valley. I just love the calm energy that runs through that place.

What self-care rituals do you use in your own life?

My daily practice can really vary. I listen to my body and then either end up rolling around my mat or sitting in meditation. But something I am really disciplined about is very regular ‘power breaks.’ In fairness, I don’t quite manage it every 20 minutes, but that’s really how often they should happen. Every 20 minutes, get up, move, drink water, do something different. I even made a video on that once – 20 ideas for your embodied power breaks (or something like that). It was great fun.

Websites and Social Media:

Website: Hadadi - School of Thai Yoga Massage

Website: Little Yoga Space

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