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Teresa Herrera: Yoga, Meditation, and Finding Your Balance

Teresa Herrera: Yoga, Meditation, and Finding Your Balance

We celebrate International Day of Yoga by chatting with the model and actress-turned-art aficionado and yoga teacher/energy healer.

Kai Magsanoc: Hi, everyone! Welcome to #CoffeeWithKai here on Hello Doctor. My name is Kai Magsanoc. I am the Editor-in-Chief of Hello Doctor Philippines, and today we are interviewing for our Hello Health Heroes someone I’ve looked up to for so many years.

Me, coming from being a lifestyle editor, seeing her career in fashion, and how she transitioned to being one of the key figures in yoga, in wellness — if we had a longer time to do this interview with her, I would have inserted the Inner Dance part, but maybe that’s for another conversation.

Please help me in welcoming our Hello Health Hero for today, Miss Teresa Herrera. Hi, Teresa!

Teresa Herrera: Hi, everybody! Hello, Kai. Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.

KM: It’s June 21, it’s the International Day of Yoga. And when I think of yoga, you’re the first person that comes to mind because of what you did with Global Mala. That’s the thumbprint that you’ve left on my consciousness.

TH: Thank you so much, Kai.

KM: How are you, Teresa, how are you doing? The last conversation we had was in Lusso, you were expecting a baby, and preparing for Global Mala at that time. How have you been?

TH: I’m doing very well, thank you, I actually feel great. I have a lot of energy. Now, I have 3 little boys, and yeah, just surviving and thriving through this pandemic.

KM: Awesome. I cannot continue the conversation with you without sharing with everyone the story — I always say that life allows us as many reincarnations as we choose to create for ourselves. Even for me, the other day, I was speaking with your sister, V (Victoria), she was saying, “Kai, we’ve gone through so many lifetimes together.” And it’s true.

So just for the people who were not yet born, during the time of Philippine supermodels, at the peak of your career, take us through your journey, Teresa, please. From model, to yoga, to yoga “influencer,” one of the key figures in yoga, to motherhood.

TH: Wow. It’s a bit of a long journey. No journey is ever straight. You have a lot of winding roads which I think makes it more interesting, but yes.

In my early career, I was in fashion and entertainment for about 17 years. Traveled all over the world, mostly in Asia. I also did Los Angeles, New York, South Africa, London, but most of the markets I covered were in Asia. Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Thailand, and Malaysia. So those were the main (ones).

The moment they said, “Oh you should go to Japan, try the Japan market.” This was my third year into modeling, and it was a great opportunity, it was really an opportunity that fell — it didn’t fall in my lap, because I did have to work for it, but it was an opportunity that presented itself that allowed for me to save money for school in a short amount of time.

Which is why I took a year off between high school and college. I was supposed to go to New York, in Parsons, for painting and sculpture. Took a year off to work as a full-time model, and then one year became 3 years, and I was like, “Oh, yeah I guess I could make this a profession.”

But I was still passionate about art. I was still interested. So whatever city I was in, on my days off, I’d go look at the galleries, I’d go visit artist studios, I would create communities wherever I was at. I was literally a nomad throughout the ‘90s, and that was pre-social media, pre-smartphones, I don’t even think I had a cellphone. I didn’t.

But those were the days where you could really immerse yourself in the culture of wherever you’re at. And I always had a book with me, so I did a lot of reading, I did a lot of exploring the culture externally, but then I also had a lot of time to myself, so I did a lot of internal exploration.

Especially being exposed to Asian cultures, we have one of the oldest-wisdom traditions in Asia. In India, with ayurveda and yoga; in China, with Chinese medicine. And also of course my job as a model is to make sure I take care of myself.

I’m always in the best of health. I’m always camera-ready. I always have to be the perfect size or the perfect weight, which I didn’t really feel any pressure (to do) because it didn’t make me become anemic or bulimic. I didn’t do any of that because I feel like, “Look, I’m given a certain package.”

I’m not exactly 5’11”. I’m 5’6”. I was aware of my strengths, and I was aware of my weaknesses. I knew I was a camera girl, I knew I was a print girl, I knew I was a commercial girl. Let’s focus in on that and just capitalize on that. And on my days off, I would feed my soul and go around, visit temples, visit cultural sites. That was a good 15 years of my life.

Instead of going to Japan, I moved back to LA to pursue acting. I was doing that for 10 years. So the modeling was three, and I added acting, of course, did a little bit of both. And then I came back to Asia and I would just work back and forth for a good decade. Asia, Los Angeles. I was already based in Los Angeles, I just did that (acting). That’s what I did full-time.

That was the modeling-acting journey. And then I had a wonderful break. It was a really good break to bring me back to the Philippines, which I got asked to host “Project Runway” Philippines,” to launch the show here in the Philippines, and it was an exciting opportunity because I knew of the show in LA, I knew the tone of the show, I knew how it was going to be delivered.

When I went in for the audition, I visualized myself already in that role. It was clear to me that this was a great opportunity and this is on my path. This is meant for me. So, as the universe has it, I was granted the opportunity, I hosted two seasons. But during the second season, I realized, we shoot for 6 weeks, but then I still have the rest of the year. Aside from jobs here and there, I was at a point where I realized there’s something else. I’m not yet finished with creativity.

I started immersing myself back into the art world. This was around 2008, this was while we were filming the second season of “Project Runway,” I was already slowly transitioning into art and doing something else. I felt like, “This is great, it’s been a wonderful ride, it’s fantastic, but I also feel like there’s something else inside of me I needed to unearth and explore and bring forth,” and that was the creative aspect. It was the visual eye, the creative aspect.

Performing is great, camera is great, but I wanted to do more behind the scenes. I got a mentor around 2008 to 2009, he pretty much guided me in the art world. His name was Jeffrey Deitch, and he was the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

That kind of ushered me into the art world, and I started an art company called Collective 88, we help clients and we help big real estate developments such as hotels and casinos get art. I simplify the process for them. I talk to their team, I interface with their interior designers, architects, engineers, we put together an art package that’s gonna be compelling and engaging for their consumers and their clientele.

That’s what we do, we activate spaces so that when you walk into these spaces, the artwork is just as compelling as what they do in this space. That’s what I do. And it’s one of my passions, I love doing it, I love art, I love supporting young artists. In terms of work-wise, that was the trajectory.

On the health and wellness side, which is also a big passion of mine, it started back when I was travelling in Asia, like I said. At first, I was introduced to meditation in Thailand when I was travelling there, I think I was 18 years old.

And then I got introduced to yoga, because I needed some form of exercise that I didn’t need equipment. I’m not a gym person, I grew up dancing, I love dancing, I love swimming. But I travelled a lot, so I don’t have access to studios all the time. So what can I do by myself, on my own time, and all I needed was a mat? Yoga. That’s how I first got into it.

I got the CD by Shiva Rea, I would travel around Asia, I would do my practice, then when I would move back to LA, I actually started studying in a studio. And then I eventually worked at a studio, and then I eventually got certified as a teacher-trainer back in 2006.

KM: Alright, because my next question was gonna be how you found it, or how yoga found you.

TH: It was just one of those things that I started doing it, and it felt good. I felt good every time I came out of a class. It’s not something I can measure or put words to, but I just knew that one day a week became 3 days a week, became 5 days a week, and before you know it, Ashtanga.

My teacher was like, “Hey, you might wanna think about teaching.” I was like, “Oh really, you think I can teach?” She’s like, “Yeah, you look like you can share some information.”

KM: Yes, Teresa, I was just thinking about it. Because even me with my language and my journey of self-awareness and self-care, I started using the words, “I don’t feel centered, let me align.”

For the benefit of our readers, what does that mean, to feel centered? What does that mean when you say you’re “aligning”? What is that process? That’s my segue to what are the health benefits of yoga? You already said it feels good, but you’re not a doctor, you’re a yoga teacher, yoga practitioner, so if you could share with us the benefits.

…with my language and my journey of self-awareness and self-care, I started using the words, “I don’t feel centered, let me align.”

Teresa Herrera

TH: Well, when I say it feels good, I think everyone, most of your readers know when they feel good. When something brings them joy, or they feel love for someone, a child, a partner, it just feels good, you just feel at ease, where your whole being and your whole body is just relaxed.

That’s how I can say the feeling brought me to yoga.

The benefits of yoga, there are so many benefits. Yoga itself is the movement practice. It’s about moving your body. There’s so many different types of yoga, there’s Ashtanga, there’s Iyengar, there’s Anusara, there’s Yin yoga. There’s so many kinds and you have to find what works for you.

Just really go out and try, kind of like food. You like this dish, you like this restaurant, great. You tried this restaurant, it wasn’t that great, then don’t do that. There’s certain yogas that’s suitable for your temperament, your psychology, where you’re at.

Because back in the day, if you look at yoga history, now it’s about classes, it’s about styles, it’s about studios. If you look at the history of yoga, back in the day, especially Kirshnamacharya days, his students were Pattabhi Jois, who started Ashtanga. Iyengar, who started Iyengar, and then another woman, I forgot her name, her name slips me.

But back in the day, yoga was a prescription, an individual prescription. So you’d go see a guru, you’d talk to him, you’d talk about your life. You’d talk to him about your energy, your work, your family life, and then they prescribe a sequence for you.

So yoga is really meant to support your life. So for example, if you have a very busy schedule, if you work 60 hours a week, 80 hours a week, I would not recommend jumping into Ashtanga class because Ashtanga is very dynamic, it’s a very dynamic flow, it’s actually gonna drain more energy from you than give you energy.

But back in the day, yoga was a prescription, an individual prescription. So you’d go see a guru, you’d talk to him, you’d talk about your life. You’d talk to him about your energy, your work, your family life, and then they prescribe a sequence for you. So yoga is really meant to support your life.

Teresa Herrera

I could go really deep on this, but we’re talking about energy management. Yoga’s just one aspect of it, because yoga’s just asana, it’s about asana, it’s about movement, it’s about moving your body to open things up, to activate the energy centers of your body, your chakras.

And also hey, great, the byproduct is you have a great body and a yoga booty. You lose some weight, that’s great. But the deeper benefits of yoga is this centeredness that you feel within yourself. You feel grounded.

I always say, my teacher, Chuck Miller, used to say, practice is a tool for observation. It’s never about perfection. Ever. I rarely post pictures of myself doing yoga only because half the time, I don’t want my phone near me. I’m doing my practice. Or if I do post a photo of me, it’s because someone else took it, because I had to post it for something else, or if it was a magazine article.

But for my personal practice, I don’t have my phone anywhere near me. That’s not how I practice.

Yoga is just one aspect of it. And in India, the sister science of yoga is Ayurveda. You have your movement practices, but then they also say, “Okay, well now, here’s how to support the wellness side.” “Here’s what you should eat.”

It goes actually deeper, Ayurveda, you have to look at the doshas, each person consists of — there’s 3 doshas, each person consists majority two out of the three. I won’t go into it because I’m not an ayurvedic expert, it’s better that you have an ayurvedic expert explain, but once I found out what my dosha was, and started to work with Ayurveda along with my yoga practice, boom, unlocked energy.

Unlocked energy, managed, and it’s really good for just balance. It’s really about this perspective of balance. It’s not about good or bad. “Oh, I’m eating this. It’s so bad for me.” Okay, great, but then let’s just bring it back to balance. Let’s not beat ourselves up over it. It’s about balance.

Your health is off? Let’s just bring it back into balance. I love that perspective, which is also very Chinese. The Chinese medicine is about bringing everything back into balance. That’s what I love most about it.

KM: So you mentioned there are different types because they’re based off of the different students, the first students. So let’s talk to the beginners watching this, they’re hearing about yoga. Maybe before they go out and buy all the matching outfits or the most expensive mat, let’s help them begin, maybe the right way, while they are still on the path to discovering which practice is right for them.

I completely agree with you, when I did Ashtanga the first time, I got dizzy, it wasn’t for me. And then I went into Yin, I would fall asleep even if I stayed in what would be a difficult pose normally. It would relax me, and I could really feel my heart really settling into a sweet spot.

Do you wanna share that — especially now, people are gonna watch this, we’re in the second year under COVID, anxiety is high because of the uncertainty of the economy. When are we gonna be able to travel again so we can hug our loved ones, or we can go out and celebrate.

So we want the relevance of yoga in today’s time. Sorry, going back to my question, what is your advice to beginners? Where do they begin so that they can figure out what practice is right for them?

TH: Wow, that’s a good question. I would actually say begin with meditation first. Especially because that’s a very simple practice, it’s a very accessible practice because the only thing you need is your breath.

You don’t need any fancy tools, you just need maybe a pillow to sit on, but what I love about meditation is that it’s very powerful because that prepares the mind.

When you can calm the mind, you can bring in clarity. When you can bring in clarity, and get to know yourself, you can then be open to exploring different types of yoga which may be a good fit for you, for each individual.

When you can calm the mind, you can bring in clarity. When you can bring in clarity, and get to know yourself, you can then be open to exploring different types of yoga which may be a good fit for you, for each individual.

Teresa Herrera

It’s hard for me to recommend a certain style, per se, because even in my own practice, in my 20s, I was doing Ashtanga, I was doing very dynamic flow. Now, I’m a mother of 3 boys, I’m feeling the need for a lot of Yin. I’m doing a lot of yoga nidra, a lot more meditation.

My meditation practice has become at the forefront of my practice.

So it really depends on each person, like I said, what their life circumstances are, but with the whole COVID pandemic situation, I think the number one thing we need to watch out for is really protecting our mind. Making sure that we have good, healthy, positive information coming into our brain.

Seeing all the news, all the negative media, it’s too much. Our brains were not designed to handle this information age. Let’s go back and really — your nervous system, you just gotta reprogram your nervous system, because once you reprogram your nervous system, then you can get the software working properly, then we can get the hardware working efficiently. Does that make sense?

KM: Yes, it does, definitely. My next question was gonna be the connection between yoga and meditation. For those who don’t know the difference, you’ve already defined yoga earlier, it’s the practice, the movement practice.

But just to reiterate, we can redefine and then differentiate yoga from meditation. And then you advised them to start with meditation first, do they go on YouTube and subscribe and tune in to some of the meditation channels that they can find, or do they reach out to you, or do you recommend a specific organization they can reach out to?

TH: For meditation, there’s so much information out there. So let’s define.

Yoga, for me I think yoga is a movement practice. Yoga, the word “yoga”, means “to unite.” Unite mind, breath, body. I also believe that it’s a physical practice, so you need some sort of effort physically.

For example, if you’re in your 20s, 30s, even 40s, even 50s if you have the movement accessible to you, then great. But if you’re in your 60s or 70s you’re doing more yoga nidra, it’s a different type. It really depends on your audience who’s consuming the information.

So yoga for me is a movement practice, meditation for me is a still practice. It’s about the internal world. It’s about creating space within. It’s really just focusing on the mind, really calming the mind, calming the nervous system, centering ourselves, centering our hearts.

Once you have a clear mind, I believe you will drop into your authentic self, which can then tap into your power. Because then you know when things don’t feel good, you’re just like, “No, that’s not for me. Thank you, but that’s not for me.”

KM: Okay, wow. This entire conversation has felt like meditation for me, Teresa. Feeling your vibe through the screen, thank you for sharing that with me. There’s always something to do, in the new workplace, in the remote workplace for example. The line between your rest space or your workspace, they’re blurred. Not all people have the luxury of space to have a different work area, a different meditation area, a different sleep area.

Not everyone is blessed with that, and I always tell my team, “Just make sure when your day begins and as your day ends, that you are hearing your voice.” Because sometimes, the moment you wake up, you’re bombarded with so many messages of to-do’s already. But you have to define, “Wait, this part is important for me, the quiet part so I can get ready for the day.”

The energy management part is something that we’re gonna have to talk about some other time, and also the Inner Dance, I will not quit on that. Maybe this can be like a series of interviews.

TH: Sure, sure.

KM: So to close our segment, your message please to our readers and our viewers. When we upload this on our website, we will include the transcript for those who wanna read and they cannot play video.

Your message to them, where do they begin with their yoga and meditation journey, and maybe a word of advice on how they can take care of their mental health in very uncertain times like we are in right now.

TH: Oh well, gosh, thank you so much for having me, Kai. I really appreciate — and I’m super passionate about health and wellness and yoga and meditation so thank you for giving me the opportunity to even share it, because I really believe that if we build healthier communities, we’re gonna build a healthy planet. It’s the ripple effect.

So I wanna empower everyone to take your health into your own hands. Yes, we have experts in the fields, but really, get to know yourself, get to know your body. For me, I think wellness is accessible for everybody, and I always bring it down to this: food, water, sunshine, sleep. Let’s focus on those four.

I wanna empower everyone to take your health into your own hands. Yes, we have experts in the fields, but really, get to know yourself, get to know your body. For me, I think wellness is accessible for everybody, and I always bring it down to this: food, water, sunshine, sleep. Let’s focus on those four.

Teresa Herrera

Sleep, number one, make sure you get enough sleep.

Hydrate, make sure you drink enough water during the day. This will help your muscles, this will help your organs, this will help your joints.

Food, this is an opportunity that you have the luxury of having, if you can, you have a decision if you have 3 meals a day or two meals a day. You have a choice to make a healthier choice or a less healthier choice, it’s up to you. Every time you have a fork and a spoon in your hand, just know that, “Hey, I’m making a choice for my health.”

And just to put things into really simple perspective, because health, wellness, is accessible to everybody. In fact, this is our birthright. Everything else is just noise, everything else is just fluff.

Let’s just go back to basics, make sure you get enough sunshine everyday — 15 to 20 minutes, morning sun, vitamin D, super good for your health. Especially now, everyone in COVID’s like “Oh, vitamin D, vitamin D.” It’s free. Just go and get some sun. I just wanna make it as simple and basic as possible because it is accessible to everybody, it’s free.

And if you can, just start doing a breathing practice. Start with 5 minutes a day. Sit down, get centered, and just focus on your breath. Focus on your inhale, and exhale. Do that for one minute. And maybe tomorrow, two minutes. Three minutes. It’s not about the duration of how long you can sit, it’s about the consistency of coming back to your practice every day.

And then before you know it, wow, you’ve been sitting there and time has gone, which will happen. Just be patient with yourself, and just know that every day, you’re making the best decision for your body and for your mind.

And of course, you can also find me on Instagram (@love.teresaherrera), message me on Instagram, follow me on there. I do have some health and wellness things on there, along with other things as well.

KM: Thank you very much for that, Teresa, and with that, we end our episode today of #CoffeeWithKai featuring our Hello Health Hero, Miss Teresa Herrera, on yoga and meditation for your well-being.

She’s given us really great tips to start with, so we hope that after watching this, you will try and sit for one minute and just focus on your breath, because we want you to really feel good after watching this episode. So thank you, and until the next one.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Written by Kai Magsanoc Updated Feb 11
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel