Natalie Haider, Yoga Supporting Women
Helping survivors of domestic and family abuse reconnect to themselves and others through mind-body programs.
EpZen Project Reconnect directly supports those who champion wellbeing in their local communities and help people reconnect to calm. By providing monetary grants to these wellness mentors, Project Reconnect enables them to easily extend their services to help more and more Australians improve their wellbeing.
Project Reconnect Mentor, Natalie Haider, is a yoga teacher with The Yoga Foundation. Natalie teaches two weekly yoga programs and retreats for those impacted by domestic and family violence.
© Mark Bond Photography
“The women in this program are survivors of domestic violence who have demonstrated strength, resilience and the tenacity to overcome significant challenges in their lives. These women have endured ongoing trauma. They are learning to regain their independence and confidence and to manage mental and physical health conditions.”
The Yoga Foundation has partnered with Banksia Women (St John’s Community Services), a domestic violence specialist service that started in 2020. With a focus on physical, emotional and relational connections, they provide case management with a focus on ongoing healing. Their vision is to harness all possible resources to support women to heal and flourish after domestic violence, and that is where Natalie and The Yoga Foundation come in.
Natalie designs her classes to provide an individualised experience despite it being a group class. Her choice of practice focuses on creating a space for calmness and compassion for each participant: “I offer a gentle breath-centred yoga practice aimed at helping women find acceptance and compassion for their mind, body and whole being.”
The program does this by sharing the benefits of yoga practice, such as:
Project Reconnect is proudly funding two 8-week programs and a retreat for women within The Yoga Foundation network. You can learn more about this program here.
This program is just one of the many research-based programs provided by The Yoga Foundation to support the mental health of at-risk groups.
© Mark Bond Photography
Natalie is a fantastic self-care role model as she carves out time for daily rituals to help her find calm during her day. Bushwalking with her two dogs, Charlie and Harry, and relaxing with a book and cup of tea before bed are go-to rituals for Natalie. She also is a strong believer in taking regular breaks away from technology.
Practising yoga for over 17 years, she also moves her body daily with yoga to realise its benefits: “Yoga is one of the few practices that can produce immediate and significant benefits for practitioners. It is a holistic practice that can positively influence our physical body, mental state and emotional experiences.”
“Whether it’s through learning about the importance of breath to regulate the nervous system, finding a moment of stillness in our increasingly busy lifestyles, moving our body in a gentle and nourishing way or building and applying self-compassion when experiencing a moment of suffering.”
Natalie is a Health At Every Size (HAES) registered practitioner and also a practicing psychologist since 2002.
© Mark Bond Photography
Hayley: Hi Natalie! Yoga Supporting Women focuses on healing and connection for survivors of domestic violence through mind-body programs. How does it achieve this?
Natalie: Yoga can serve as a healing agent after abusive, coercive or violent relationships. Evidence shows us that yoga actively enhances trauma survivors’ connection with both their bodies and their minds, which is vital in any journey to recovery.
Yoga helps to release held tension and trauma carried in the body and can reignite a sense of control and rebuild self-trust as participants are encouraged to make decisions throughout their yoga practice.
Bringing together women with a shared experience has also proven to encourage a powerful healing process. It is inspiring to see this in action as I teach these women.
Hayley: Now the program is in full swing, is it achieving what you hoped it would achieve?
Natalie: Feedback from both the women participating and the Banksia team has been wonderful, and we are achieving even more than we had hoped.
The program has been successful in creating a safe environment where women feel empowered, nurtured, safe, respected, validated and heard, and the women have been introduced to a range of concepts and techniques that has helped develop a sense of agency, gratitude, self-esteem, self-compassion, empathy and confidence.
Hayley: Tell us more about the sessions and the atmosphere on the day.
Natalie: The vibe is relaxed, casual, down to earth and there are lots of smiles and laughs. The participant ages range from 20s to 50s and they are all at various stages of recovery and of rebuilding their lives.
Women typically arrive well before class starts for the social connection and often stay back after yoga to continue conversations and engage with Banksia volunteers.
Hayley: Do you get any feedback from the women about their mood state before and after each session? Do you sense a positive shift?
Natalie: At the beginning of the program, women were initially nervous about what to expect. Some had never tried yoga before, while others had. One women commented that in other classes she had felt like the” village idiot.”
Over time though, these women have started coming out of their shells, developing cohesion and friendships amongst the group, and feeling more confident and comfortable with their yoga practice.
Some women have reported feeling more connected to themselves and each another, while others describe a sense of stillness, calm and relaxation after attending a yoga session. Many tell me they feel relaxed, competent and feel a sense of achievement and growth.
Hayley: What have the participants said about your program?
Natalie: We have received some wonderful, honest feedback about the program:
Other participants have shared feedback on the role yoga is now playing in their life:
To learn more about The Yoga Foundation and support their work, visit www.theyogafoundation.org.au