With roots in Sweden and Thailand, Hong Kong-based model, yogi and meditation teacher Natalie Soderstrom has built a career and life on holistic healthy living, incorporating yoga with wellness and spirituality. With specialities in vinyasa and yin, she likes to guide students from the head and thinking into the body and feeling, whilst using breath-work and movement to guide you deeper into yourself.
What is your favourite pose and what does it do for you?
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana – king pigeon. It was a pose I wanted to get into for a long time and one day it just happened with guidance from my teacher Angela Lohse. It opens my body in so many ways both physically and mentally. To me it represents expansion and spaciousness. When you find that sweet-spot between push and surrender and it’s constant refinement.
Tell us your own yoga journey and how it changed your life?
I first tried yoga here in Hong Kong and hated it! People were chanting and I thought it was a religious cult of some sort. I thought all the poses were awkward which were probably more a reflection on how I felt in my body. Looking back at it I’m laughing. My friend kept on dragging me to class but it wasn’t until I tried hot yoga I got really hooked. I started going religiously every day and after a year or so I decided to take my first teacher training with a friend in Bali. I went with the intention to deepen my own practice. I didn’t plan on teaching myself and that month in Bali definitely changed my life. I came back to HK and still didn’t plan on teaching until Nikita, the owner of KITA yoga reached out to me. That’s almost 5 years ago and from there on I balanced modeling with yoga.
Yoga changes you from the inside. It makes you realise you’re forever a student in life and this took me down a path towards wellness taking my holistic health certification, a meditation teacher training and a sound practitioner training among others. As a person I think I’m more patient, aware, resilient, kinder and…flexible!
Where are your favourite places to practice?
Of course beautiful surroundings are always a nice addition but to me yoga is an inner journey and the beauty with that is that it doesn’t matter where you are. Anywhere in nature or in a space that’s free from clutter and distractions helps. Bali has many amazing spots and is a magical island. Here in Hong Kong, KITA yoga is residing at the Upper House Sky lounge over summer which is an amazing space to both practice and teach in.
How has the HK yoga scene changed in the last 3 years and what developments have you seen?
I feel that Hong Kong’s yoga scene used to be very much focused on yoga as a physical workout. There’s been a shift where other forms of yoga is being offered and taught. I think with everything that happened last year we are searching out for deeper healing modalities beyond diet and exercise. We understand that we need to “workout” the brain as well and that yoga goes beyond the asana practice. I see people being more open minded and curious, it’s beautiful to see.
How can yoga help with the main pain points in our hectic lifestyles?
Hong Kong as a city is competitive, very push push push, very much ‘time is money’ attitude. It’s Yang and most people in Hong Kong probably need more Yin to balance that out but that’s not what most people choose to do. We’re so busy being busy that we ‘don’t have time’ to slow down. Yoga centers you, grounds you and connects you with you. It gets you out of your head and in to your body. Stepping on the mat you know you can’t check your phone for at least an hour and it’s all about being in your body even if you have a busy mind. Yoga creates the mind body connection where we are so often disconnected. It’s equally a movement practice as it is a mind practice.
Yoga is both mental and physical, how does mindful movement benefit us?
Yoga is embodiment and being present. We spend most of our days in our heading thinking and not so much feeling. Yoga is meditation in movement and when the movement becomes mindful and intentional, things within you changes. It creates an overall sense of wellbeing. We stop be bothered by the small things and become more grateful for life itself.
Tell us about the style you practice and teach and any specialities?
I teach a creative vinyasa style flow that focuses on strength, refinement and the transitions between the poses. I have a background in dance and the vinyasa flow sequence brings me back to when I used to dance to choreography. I love teaching slower paced classes as well, I’m a big promoter for yin yoga. My own practice is slower and more yin style.
What is the most important thing when you are teaching yoga?
The most important thing for me is that students leave my classes having shifted in some way and it can be very subtle. It can be a physical, mental, energetic shift or even a shift in the way you breath. For me, it’s also about staying true to the practice and honor where it comes from and at the same time making it applicable to our modern day society. Our bodies and minds functions differently today so we need to adapt.
Natalie Soderstrom teaches classes at KiTA Yoga at The Upper House and Five Elements.