OWY teacher Andrea Petersen, after many years of working as a massage therapist, just branched out to open her own practice. WEeasked Elisabeth Sowecke to do an interview with her to discuss this recent transition and her yoga journey. Read on to get to know Andrea. -Shannon Leigh
Interview with Andrea
It is my first time attending a class at the Norwalk studio, and I think I’m meeting Andrea (pronounced “on-DRAY-a”) for the first time, but I quickly realize I’ve met her before. She gave a great workout while recently subbing at Saturday morning Flow in Sandusky.
I’m not certain if it’s the gorgeous studio, the inspiring soundtrack or her expertise in health and anatomy, but she is unforgettable. The best part—at the end of both of Andrea’s classes, during Savasana, she provides quick adjustments that make a world of difference.
The Essence of Andrea
Andrea was a child in the Arizona desert and along the coasts of California before settling into Norwalk in the 80s and eventually raising her own family—a daughter, a husband of twenty-two years and a Great Dane—under the open skies of Ohio.
She speaks of flashing neon signs, pointing her in the right direction along her ongoing path to success and she recently took a significant turn. After working for the same, local spa for nearly two decades, she embraced the signs and opened her own practice. In her endearing honesty, she confesses, “The signs were glaring. To not do it would have been stupid.”
Getting to know Andrea was like tapping into a wellspring of knowledge about the body, mind and spirit.
What inspired you to become a massage therapist?
When I graduated from high school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I wished to be rich, so I could go to school forever and study all the things. I started bartending, and through serving different people, I discovered that there’s always something in someone’s life that is deserving of love. Finding that spark is always inspiring. When my daughter was a toddler, EHOVE opened, and it became possible to take a few classes a week while juggling a family and job. Once I became certified, I was hired by Christian Roberts Salon & Spa, where I worked for 16 years! They supported and encouraged me to pursue my interests, helping me to grow. I always say that massage therapy is a vocation, not a job, and my entire identity is wrapped-up in the practice of healing others.
Now you’ve branched out to open your own practice—Balance Body Work Therapeutic Massage …
I was to the point where I was performing dozens of massages a week. I knew I needed a more flexible schedule so I could pursue teaching at Open Way Yoga. Along with many other encouraging factors, a great, affordable space was offered to me so I followed the signs and opened my own business.
Do you have a particular area of expertise in massage therapy?
I can do all kinds of massage and am a rehabilitative, deep tissue, clinically inclined therapist, interested in the science of healing. Now that I’ve had a few thousand bodies under my hands, I can usually pinpoint a source of tension within one session. I often interact with the client because we are hunting down a solution together. They have the lion’s share of the work day-to-day, but I can awaken their awareness. I am always honest and encourage my clients to take the time to observe how they feel after a massage, and in the days following, in order to make lifestyle changes that compliment massage work.
I am also passionate about educating and mentoring aspiring therapists. I am certified to teach Ashiastu—barefoot massage—through Barefoot Masters. I enjoy teaching—both massage and yoga—because it is as much a learning experience for me.
How does Yoga fit into the picture?
I get on my mat for my head. It has always helped me to relax and maintain my sanity.
Yoga has been a part of my life since I was a baby. I remember doing breath work with my mom at age two and shadowing my dad’s yoga practice at age ten.
Access to yoga in northern Ohio was still fairly rare until recently. Throughout my Twenties, I would check-out a VHS tape from the Norwalk Library. I borrowed it so often that when the time came to retire it from the shelves, they basically gave it to me. Once the internet became mainstream, I accessed videos online and ventured down the rabbit hole of research throughout my Thirties, reading about the history of yoga, Eastern Philosophy and so much more. Four decades into my practice, I’m now teaching and still learning.
What led you to Open Way?
Even before I studied massage, I explored options for becoming a yoga teacher, but none of the options resonated. I first became aware of the Open Way Yoga Immersion and Teacher Training program, and then a friend invited me to an evening session that worked with my schedule. Everything I ever felt kindred to in my past—people, places, things—had a similar sense, a feel, and when I first walked up the stairs to the Open Way studio in Huron, it hit me like a wall, enveloping me and making me feel at home. After that first class, I devoured my one-week, unlimited pass, sometimes attending two classes a day. By the end of the first week, I thought, “You are stuck with me. I hope you like me.”
During your classes, I get the sense that you are truly speaking to me…
It’s experiential knowledge—being relatable because, well, I’m a hot mess too. We are all hot messes. You are not alone. My greatest hope for each class is to help each student—or at least one student—reach that state of clarity for one instant, the embodiment of right here, right now—no past, no future, just alive.
I’m not religious, but I see each practice as a prayer. We’re all a piece of something and we offer that to each other, to the greater good.
What do you see in your future?
I would love to see Balance Body Work grow while continuing to teach Flow and All Level classes at Open Way Yoga. I have some ideas for new Yoga classes that focus on relaxation. Just 45 minutes of Yoga can recuperate three hours of sleep. For anyone who has ever chased sleep, that’s golden.
I love to be busy. I just want enough.
The Future is Bright
Maybe Andrea didn’t get rich and learn all the things, but it is clear she’s a wealth of knowledge. I was so inspired by our time together that when my sister was visiting form California this summer and expressed the desire to get a massage, I immediately thought of Andrea. My sister (who can be difficult to please) raved about her “amazing” experience. She was so impressed; she gave me a gift certificate to Balance Body Work Therapeutic Massage. I’m saving it for a special occasion because I know it will be life-changing.
When it comes to Andrea’s offerings, the possibilities are limitless.