Heather Mason is the founder of The Minded Institute, a leading yoga therapy training organisation known for its focus on mental health and empowering yoga and health professionals to integrate yoga therapy into healthcare. Although a rigorous and academic training course for yoga and health professionals, The Minded Institute grew out of culmination of Heather’s personal and professional work. After years of deep depression, PTSD, and anxiety Heather opted for a non-traditional mode of healing and moved to South East Asia to begin intensive meditation practice in Buddhist monasteries, where she spent 3 years developing and transforming her mind. During this time, she also trained as a 500-hr yoga teacher with the Yoga Training Centre in Varanasi and soon after shared her yoga teaching with nuns in various Buddhist Monasteries in South East Asia. Teaching first in Buddhist monasteries forged a natural fusion with her mindfulness practice and her yoga teaching.
By 2003 she had chosen to a ordain as a Buddhist nun, but first wanted more academic knowledge about Buddhist teachings and moved to the UK to undertake an MA in Buddhist Studies at SOAS University London. This decision led her back into the non-monastic world as Heather wanted to share the insights she gained in intensive meditation. Ultimately, she realised that her own struggles were imbued with meaning and purpose, if, she could help others, so she enrolled in MA in Buddhist-Based Psychotherapy in hopes of melding yoga with therapeutic support. Whilst studying Heather realised she was more interested in using mind-body therapies practices than in talking therapy and in 2007 took a sabbatical from her MA to undertake a yoga therapy training course in India. During a lightbulb moment at the ashram, the pieces of her life fell into place and the vision for an 8-week yoga therapy and mindfulness course for depression and anxiety emerged in her mind as though she had been crafting it for years. When she returned to the UK her new course was immediately popular and Heather also began working privately with those with depression and anxiety.
At the same time Heather travelled around the world doing various courses in yoga for depression, she was the first person in the UK to train in trauma sensitive yoga with the Boston Trauma Center (where she later lectured), and finally neuroscience at the graduate level. Armed with this interface of knowledge Heather had a new mission “to integrate yoga and yoga therapy in healthcare”.
By 2009 Heather had officially formulated The Minded Institute and her professional yoga therapy training. In 2011 she was offered an opportunity to create an elective course for medical students at the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), called “Embodied Health” where she taught the physiology of mindfulness and yoga, their clinician applications, and allowed future doctors to experience the benefits for themselves. From 2011-2014 she lived between Boston and the UK running her Institute, teaching at BUSM, and also created and taught the mind-body science course at the Maryland University of Integrated Health, which had the first Masters of Science in Yoga Therapy. She also had the esteemed pleasure to offer a lecture on breath practices and medicine for the Harvard Medical School Mind-Body Medicine Course.
In 2014 she moved back to the UK full-time and undertook an MSc in Medical Physiology, further bridging her awareness of yoga and heath. Her constant work and lecturing finally led to a request to speak at the House of Commons and over the course of 4 years Heather coordinated with a host of other parliamentarians to establish The All Party Parliamentary Group on Yoga in Society, where she acts as the Secretariat. As part of this work, Heather founded a new organisation, the Yoga in Health Care Alliance (YIHA), which she runs with a host of other directors. This charity works towards yoga’s inclusion in health care in the UK and beyond. On request of the West London Clinical Commissioning Group, YIHA developed a 10-week social prescribing yoga course as an early intervention in health management. YIHA now trains yoga professionals throughout the UK to offer this course through the country. The charity also organises events, conferences, and shares information about effective pathways and best practice regarding yoga in health systems.
In her quest to integrate yoga therapy into the health care system and framework for higher education in the UK and beyond, Heather established Minded Professional Training Ltd. in 2022. This separate not-for-profit educational entity delivers cutting edge yoga therapy diplomas, qualifying expert Minded Yoga Therapists that share a common mission to make the benefits of therapeutic yoga available to the public worldwide. Minded Professional Training Ltd. is complemented by Minded CPD Ltd, a separate company that offers continuous professional development (CPD) to yoga therapists, yoga teachers and other health and care professionals.
In mid-2022 Heather also began a collaboration with Elaine Collins (a senior member of the Minded Team) to create a one year diploma in Psychotherapy for those who completed the full diploma in Yoga Therapy. Graduates of this programme, Integrated Yoga Psychotherapy, have the opportunity to become some of the first dually trained yoga therapists/psychotherapists in the world!
When Heather is not involved in her various projects, she is dancing, writing music and playing with her magical little dog Minnie Monkey!