For the Love of Yoga | Natalie Söderström

How does one go from having to be dragged to yoga classes to becoming a holistic health coach and yoga instructor? Well, for Natalie Söderström, the journey has been nothing but a blessing. Although she disliked yoga the first few times she tried it, she was able to find her niche, learn about the practice and share her passion with others. Recently, she taught at The Annex in Hong Kong organized by Avène and Hybrid Group Asia. Not only is she a yogi, this beautiful Thai/Swedish MISSBISH is also a model who has graced the cover of Rogue magazine, was in the fall/winter campaign for PURE apparel, and continues to travel the world modeling and inspiring others. Keep on reading to learn more...

Before becoming a certified yoga instructor and holistic health coach, you worked as a model. What made you want to transition into fitness/wellness?
For me, I think it was a natural step to take. Taking care of your body and your health is investing in yourself. As a model, you represent different brands and you represent women. You also represent yourself as a brand, so working on myself came naturally. I wanted to be the best version of myself I could possibly be, and then share the knowledge I have with others.

Being a model for over 15 years, I've seen how the industry has changed. I'm so happy that today, it's more in fashion to look healthy rather then starve yourself to fit into clothes. As a model, I feel good that I can stand for a healthy body image and inspire younger girls to take care of themselves inside and out.

Where does your passion for nutrition and health come from?
It was definitely something that grew on me. I wasn't always healthy growing up. When I started my health coach education at IIN (The Institute of Integrative Nutrition), I had an interest in it, but I soon realized that what I thought was healthy and right was in fact completely wrong. That made me even more curious to learn more.

Once I started eating healthier and living a healthier lifestyle, I realized how good it made me feel. I was getting high on green juice and workouts.  A whole new world opened up for me and I was hooked.

How did you get into yoga and what was your first experience like?
It was one of my best friends who dragged me to class about 5 years ago, and I hated it! I feel like everyone has this magical first class and they are hooked from the beginning, but I was definitely not one of them. My friend kept dragging me to try different teachers and different types of yoga, and it wasn't until I tried hot yoga that I was hooked. I love sweating and that feeling of ease afterwards.

After  doing hot yoga religiously for a year, I started going back to doing yoga in a non-heated room and realized that I loved that even more. I still love trying different teachers and classes, and what I pick usually depends on my mood or how I feel that day. I love that different types of yoga can provide for that.

How important is the teacher? Did you have any particular teacher that really influenced or inspired your practice?
I believe the teacher is key. I remember taking physics in school, which wasn't my favorite subject at all, but the teacher made it fun and interesting. She spoke to me in a way that I understood straight away. It's the same with yoga, and sometimes you find a teacher that instructs in a way you just get. It's about having the same vibe and the teacher having an energy that attracts you. When you find that teacher, make sure you keep going to his or her classes.

Octavio Salvado from the Practice in Bali where I did my yoga teacher training obviously had a huge impact. Jason Crandell for the anatomy and alignment education, and Lisa Mak here in Hong Kong for her playful and challenging classes that remind me not to take yoga too seriously all the time. I think it's important to find inspiration from many different sources and then make it your own.

“Patience, persistence and perseverance."

How has your life changed since becoming a nutritionist and health coach?
It has changed my lifestyle and my way of living. Not only how and what I eat, but also the importance of being surrounded by a supportive network, learning to say no more often, and being loving and forgiving. It made me realize that you can eat all the kale in the world, but you still won't be truly happy if not every aspect of your life satisfies you.

What has dedicating yourself to yoga taught you about life and about yourself?
Patience, persistence and perseverance.

A lot of what you do on the mat translates into life. You can take a lot of those learnings and adapt it to what you do everyday. Being patient in yoga was something I struggled with in the beginning, and I still do sometimes of course, but there's something beautiful about reaching a goal or finally doing a pose after being patient and not giving up.

In yoga, some days we are a bit off and we can't do what we'd normally be able to do. But instead of spiralling into negative self-talk, I've learned to accept that that's part of life. Some days we are off, and some days we are on. Go with the flow and treat what happens to you in life with awareness, acceptance and forgiveness.

What are some secrets to staying balanced in a city as crazy as Hong Kong?
Hong Kong is a fast-paced, energetic and very exciting city. One word of advice is to take things one step at the time. I usually meditate, do yin yoga or hike to recharge. It took me a while to create this balance, to find out what was working for me, and to love this city for all of its hidden gems.

When I first moved to Hong Kong six years ago, I thought keeping up with the fast-paced city would help me integrate, so I kept myself busy at all times! Working, meeting friends, going to events, dinners and drinks every night - the city was new and there were so many things happening, so I barely slept during my first couple of years in Hong Kong. That backfired and I had to slow down. Time to myself and self-care is something that I prioritize and value these days.

You have amazing photos on your Instagram, including a lot of travel posts. Where are some of your favorite places to visit and why?
I have a curios personality, so I love exploring new places. Bali has a special place in my yogi heart, not only because I did my yoga teacher training there, which is an amazing experience in itself but the island has a special energy. People are so chilled out and relaxed, it's beautiful and mysterious at the same time, and of course everyone does yoga. Plus, all the healthy food to choose from warms my health coach heart as well.

Twice a year, I go back home to Sweden to see my family and I always take the opportunity to stop by somewhere else in Europe on the way. Lately, I've stopped by Copenhagen which I absolutely love. Capetown was definitely one of the highlights last year! It's an amazing country with beautiful nature. Anywhere in Japan for a weekend is also so much fun, you can never go wrong with Japanese food, not to mention their politeness, cleanliness and quirkiness. I love it!

What is your go-to mid day snack?
Portion size nut-butters that I always carry around in my bag. It fills me up for a period of time, and contains all those good healthy fats.

What do you hope to accomplish in the next five years?
My goal is to act as a change agent. I feel like there is a need to educate people about nutrition, health and wellness and how we can integrate them into our daily lives. It's not easy, we are bombarded with so much information about nutrition so it's hard to know what's true. If I can get people to understand and notice how small changes can make a huge difference, my mission is done. I'm not only talking about your diet but also being physically active and practising mindfulness. That's where I believe yoga goes hand in hand with health and wellness.

What does MISSBISH mean to you?
MISSBISH to me stands for female empowerment. It's so inspiring to see strong women passionately working hard for what they love to do.

Photographer: Paul Sunga | MUA: Jaime Smith | Clothing by: Caelum Green

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