I’ve been doing this blog series for two years now and one of the things I love most is being introduced to people in our community from previous Womxn Warriors. That’s exactly how I met Whitney! Andrea Thompson, our last Womxn Warrior, introduced me to Whitney Handrich. I was really excited to learn more about her journey towards helping expecting families.
Whitney is a multi-talented woman, she’s helps families in many different ways. From yoga classes, to postpartum doula care, and now as a licensed massage therapist. I’ve loved getting to learn more about Whitney and I know you will too! Be sure to check out the images from our photo session down below – we definitely had a lot of fun!
Get to Know Whitney
Did you grow up in Portland?
I’m a PDX transplant! I was born in South Korea and then adopted and raised in Wisconsin. I went to college in Boston and then spent most of my twenties living abroad in South America, Europe, and Asia. I came to Portland about 3 ½ years ago and have been really happy to settle in here!
Tell me about your family?
My birth family was struggling with poverty and food and housing insecurity. My parents had 3 kids before unexpectedly becoming pregnant with me, and I was adopted into a white family with an adopted Korean brother. My adoptive parents struggled with infertility and I was an exception at my adoption, since my dad was actually past the age limit. It’s definitely been a journey of realizing the impact that my transracial adoption story has had on my life, and it has been a huge part of shaping my professional path and interest in supporting families and social justice work.
What is your favorite thing to do in Portland?
Hands down, getting outdoors! Whenever I am feeling the need to escape from my routine or seek some respite, I love getting out to the nearby surroundings for some forest therapy and to be anywhere near water.
Your Yoga/Massage/Doula Journey
When did you first know you wanted to get into yoga, massage, and doula work?
My first experience with Thai massage was when I was volunteering at a retreat center in Greece in 2013. I was really lucky in that a course had been cancelled, but a private student came along and they needed volunteer bodies to practice on! It was fascinating to receive and learn about Thai massage during that time and I knew I would eventually dive deeper.
Yoga was a practice I always turned to since college, whenever I was in times of stress and transition. When I spent a year in Asia after meeting my birth family, everything I was drawn to related to learning more about ways to heal and support myself and others through meditation, yoga, and massage.
I was so curious to learn more about birthwork because of my own birth story, and I had lived with my best friend in Spain when she had her first baby and was pregnant with her second. Over time, I realized how much it seems like postpartum care was lacking. We spend so much time absorbing information during the transition into parenthood – focusing on the pregnancy, preparing for birth, learning how to parent – but postpartum support and healing never seems to be at the top of the list.
Where did you get your degree/do your training?
I consider myself to be a forever student and am always seeking to learn more so I have quite a long list of trainings and teachers that have been a part of my career development! I got my start when I was planning to become an Acroyoga teacher and trained with partner acrobatics teachers in Europe and Asia. I studied meditation at Thabarwa Meditation Center in Myanmar and Wat Tam Wua in Thailand. My training in Thai massage was with teachers from Sunshine School in Chiang Mai Thailand, and I went to Rishikul Yogshala in Rishikesh India for my 200hr Yoga Teacher Training. When I came back to the US, I dove into more yoga training – Kids & Family Yoga with Rainbow Yoga and Imagination Yoga, and Prenatal & Postpartum Yoga with Shana Celnicker-Chong at the Bhakti Yoga Movement Center. Always wanting to expand my scope of being able to support families more, doula and massage certification were the natural next steps for me, and I certified as a Postpartum Doula with Cornerstone Doulas and went to East West College of Healing Arts for massage.
When did you first go into business for yourself?
When I came back to the US in 2016, I started off as a yoga instructor for kids and family classes, and everything seemed to take off more when I came to Portland. I was balancing working as a nanny with teaching yoga classes around town at various studios and playspaces. I became a doula in 2018 and Licensed Massage Therapist in 2020, and now I am so happy that everything is able to tie back together in my offerings.
Can you explain the different services/packages you offer?
I offer in-home mobile massage, bringing my table or Thai mat to client homes. This has been particularly beneficial for postpartum clients, to have someone come to them while healing and transitioning into their growing families. Thai massage is my speciality, which is a fully clothed massage on a floor mat using a combination of reflexology, acupressure, compressions, and assisted stretching to help relieve muscle tension and energy blockages. I also incorporate techniques I’ve learned from Shiatsu, Tui Na, and Craniosacral work. If clients prefer a therapeutic table massage, I use a combination of Eastern and Western techniques to best suit their needs and goals.
Massage sessions can be combined with personalized yoga classes and postpartum doula support (great for the start of an overnight shift or as a separate booking while another doula is there to take care of baby). Massage is my current focus, but I also offer doula support (primarily through Bridgetown Baby), private yoga classes, and childcare.
If you could give me a quick synopsis of your business in 5 sentences or less, how would you describe it?
I would describe my services as holistic family wellness to help individuals and families take care of mental, emotional, and physical health. This could include massage, yoga, doula support, or childcare.
Going into business for myself has taught me a tremendous amount about myself as a person. What have you learned about yourself since starting your business?
So much! There is always more to learn. I think my greatest strength is that I’m a natural networker. I want to know what our community as a whole is doing and fill in the gaps. I don’t consider it to be a competition amongst providers and small businesses, but I think we should be working collaboratively to better support our community at large. I don’t need to be THE ONE for everyone, and I care more about finding the best fit for students and clients – For this reason, I love to make referrals and connections.
If self-employment was easy, everyone would do it. Can you tell me about the obstacles you have faced being in business for yourself?
The hardest aspects for me are setting prices and managing time. Because I like to wear so many hats, I really have to focus on what services I want to prioritize. Learning to say no to opportunities that aren’t the best fit for me is something I am still working on. Also while working for yourself, “work” never ends and I have to be very intentional about setting boundaries with how I schedule my calendar. Setting prices has also always been hard for me because a huge part of why I do what I do is because I saw the unmet needs of my own family. I think wellness and community support should be accessible to all, so including sliding scale pricing and scholarships is important to me.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
I am a co-founder of the Humans of Color Movement Alliance – a group of BIPOC healers who have come together to support each other and the communities of color in Portland. I organized a series of BIPOC yoga classes as part of Living Yoga’s Yogathon that were really unique and beautiful gatherings. I also helped to create a series of Restorative Yoga + Bodywork workshops, with multiple LMTs adding therapeutic touch to restorative yoga postures. I’m looking forward to more offerings like this in the future once we can gather in community again!
I enjoy reading and love sharing new book ideas with others. What book would you recommend to new or expecting parents? And please explain why in 1-2 sentences.
There are so many great books out there! A recent one that I’ve read and love is “Golden Month: Caring for the World’s Mothers after Childbirth.” A lot of books and advice tend to focus on how to take care of a newborn, but intentionally taking care of the new parent is so crucial! I love this book because it draws from a variety of cultures, many of which have holistic healing and communal care practices that we don’t see as often in Western culture.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’m so grateful to be a part of this Womxn Warrior series! Thank you for creating this offering for us all.
Where to Find Whitney
Check out some of the other rad womxn who have been a part of this series:
Uju Uzuegbunam of Ozznek Shoes
Erin Brockmeyer of Solstice Acupuncture