Amrita Yoga and Wellness: Heather Rice

Amrita Yoga and Wellness is located at 1204 Frankford Avenue, and is owned by lead yoga teacher and massage therapist Heather Rice. There is always something interesting going on at Amrita – workshops led by nationally known teachers, African dance sessions, Buddhist meditation classes, and of course all types of yoga. Everything the studio offers is geared toward the same goal: holistic improvement of mental and physical well-being.

The growing richness of Amrita’s services gives people in the area a unique opportunity to focus on their overall health. Yoga classes are calibrated to the students’ level of experience. All levels from beginner to advanced are made to feel comfortable. The yoga teachers, nutritional counselors and massage therapists take an individualized approach, making their practices amenable to everyone’s needs.

During our interview Heather mentioned that the staff at Amrita has been living and practicing what they teach for a long time. “You can’t teach what you don’t know,” she said. These are words spoken from experience, from someone who knows the importance of making holistic living a reality for herself and for her students.

How did you become interested in yoga?  My first introduction to yoga was a text called the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. On a whim I picked it up one day at Border’s my freshman year in college. The Yoga Sutras goes into the ethics, morals and restraints of yoga. At the time I was going to school for marine biology, but took a break and went to massage school. My intention was to have massage pay for tuition when I went back to school, but I loved it so much that I stayed with it. I’ve been teaching yoga since 2003 and I’ve been an active massage therapist since 1998. I’ve been into holistic health and wellness since I can remember, and that’s mostly what I’ve done in my professional life.

How did Amrita start and why did you choose Fishtown as the studio’s location?  I had always wanted my own studio, and got the opportunity to move to Fishtown and open up my own business. I had previously lived in Portland, Oregon, which is saturated with different health and wellness centers. As much as Portland was congruent with my lifestyle, I felt like Philadelphia needed yoga more, especially the Fishtown area. There are a lot of studios downtown, but traveling there can inhibit people. It’s much easier to incorporate healthy living into your life when it’s easily accessible. I had lived here in the past and really liked the neighborhood. The culture is very diverse. It was important to offer something that would bring more people in and show them what Fishtown was all about. It not only benefited us, it benefited the community and surrounding businesses.

What are the different services and facilities offered at Amrita?           We teach all styles of yoga, including Iyengar, Ying, and Tantra Classical Hatha. We also have Hot Flow, Vinyasa Flow, and Core. There’s prenatal yoga, aerial yoga, yoga for back care, something to offer everyone. In addition there are massage therapy services and holistic nutritional counseling. Soon we will be offering a steam room, a sauna, and a juice bar.

Does Amrita have any special events?  Once a month we have West African dance on Friday night with live drumming. It’s a great way to move your body, dance and get stress out. We always have workshops too. We just had a teacher from New York, Joe Somodi, discuss building resiliency on and off the mat, and how aspects of yoga can translate into everyday life. Another great teacher is coming to the studio in December to talk about philosophy and the Bhagavad Gita, a very important Hindu text, and the Yoga Sutras.  In the Spring             Max Strom is going to have a session here on the transformative power of breath work.

How can yoga help our society?  I feel like a lot of the West has embraced yoga only as a workout to get a “yoga butt”. We need to look a little more deeply into how this system can heal us. You can look at yoga physically, energetically, and even emotionally. Still, the simplest thing is body movement. We are an extremely sedentary society. Many of us sit at a desk all day, drive to and from work, and sit on the couch when we get home. We become used to positions that aren’t designed for movement, which results in physical pain. Yoga awakens and opens the body, reuniting parts of our physical awareness. Moving into different positions not only strengthens the matrix of the bones and the muscle fibers, but also sharpens the mind, forcing us to create new ways of communicating with the body. We don’t realize the lack of basic types of movement in our everyday lives. One of my teachers, Dharma Mittra, said that all the fancy poses are not important compared to the basics. If you know how to breathe properly or twist your body correctly, that’s all you need. The simple things are the most powerful.

Click on the video below to see Heather’s demonstration of the Crow Pose.

How much of yoga is a science?  A lot! People have been working with energy channels and body movement for a very long time. Five thousand years ago it was known that the bow pose helps balance the digestive system, heals the lower back, and cleanses and tonifies the lungs. That knowledge alone shows a great amount of scientific background. Yoga has a sister science called Ayurveda, which is the oldest medical system in the world. It’s the origin of many different practices including surgery, acupuncture, and herbalism.

What is the significance of the name “Amrita”?  Amrita means the nectar of life in Sanskrit. It was the nectar that the Gods drank in the ancient Hindu texts to become immortal. People can incorporate yoga, meditation, massage therapy, and nutrition into their lives to live the fullest, longest life possible. You won’t become immortal, but you can revitalize the body’s innate healing ability, allowing yourself to live with vibrancy and peacefulness.

For more information visit

To see more interviews go to                                       Like on Facebook                                    Follow on Twitter

© Steven Sparber and Fishtown Spotlights, 2012. All rights reserved.