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Female Disruptors: How Natalie Backman is shaking up how people engage with Yoga

Each of us has a reason for being here. We all have unique gifts, talents, passions — we have unique pasts which inform our present and shape our future. HOW our past informs our future is up to us. We all have trauma. We all have pain. This is part of the human experience. How you address […]


Each of us has a reason for being here. We all have unique gifts, talents, passions — we have unique pasts which inform our present and shape our future. HOW our past informs our future is up to us. We all have trauma. We all have pain. This is part of the human experience. How you address your pain will determine much of the rest of your life. Seek healing. Seek wisdom. Seek guidance. Seek within. Heal the pain of your own trauma through awareness, acceptance and love. Then turn it around. Transform your pain into wisdom and compassion and use it to help someone else heal. Explore what makes you excited, what makes you feel fully alive and bring your whole heart to it. Thrive and shine a light for those that follow behind.


As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Natalie Backman. Originally from Olympia, Washington, Natalie lived in New York City before moving to Los Angeles in 2013. After over a decade of practicing yoga, she earned her certification in 2014 and has been teaching now for over five years. Yoga is more than a profession for Natalie. It is her passion, purpose and spiritual path. As a member of the Sri Vidya lineage, Natalie’s teaching is a modern take on an ancient Tradition. A 500-hour Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher, Natalie continues to study with her teachers, Tracee Stanley and Rod Stryker. She shares yoga with local studios, recovery centers, schools, athletic teams, senior living communities and private clientele. She takes students on local and international retreats as well as contributing to Tracee Stanley’s Sankalpa Shakti Yoga Teacher Training. Natalie is also the founder of Imagine Fest, a community event featuring yoga, music and powerful social change. The beneficiary for Imagine Fest is Unlikely Heroes, a non-profit organization which rescues and restores child victims of sex trafficking.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what inspired you to start Imagine Fest?

Shortly after relocating to Los Angeles and becoming a Yoga Teacher, I read an article in LA Yoga Magazine entitled, “LA Yogis Rescue Children from Sex Trafficking.” Something about this heading and the small picture of a powerful woman surrounded by a group of joyful girls in the Philippines, caused me to stop, tear the article out and set it aside. I couldn’t simply pretend I hadn’t seen it. A significant key to my life’s purpose was contained in that tiny article. After contemplating for nearly a month, I reached out to the organization the article was written about.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Bringing awareness to a situation as dark and disturbing as the sex trafficking of children is disruptive in itself. Doing so in a way which invites us all to explore how we must take responsibility for the circumstances which allow something like sex trafficking to exist in our world today, even more so. Human trafficking is not an anomaly of human behavior. It is symptomatic of the greater problem of systemic oppression. It’s easy to dismiss sex trafficking as something happening “over there” to “other people.” But when we look within the biases, the violence, the oppression in our own hearts, which fuels slavery and allows it to continue to exist, we begin to stir up considerable discomfort. But it is this discomfort, this stirring up, that serves as a catalyst for individual transformation, systemic reformation and powerful social change.

We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Two women have had a tremendous impact in my life since moving to LA. The first is Erica Greve, the founder of Unlikely Heroes. Erica has shown me what sheer force of will can accomplish in this world. She has demonstrated the effectiveness of bringing powerful unapologetic light into the darkest of situations. When I think of a warrior, I think of this woman. She motivates me to continue to stretch, expand, push myself a little further to have a greater impact in the world. My other mentor is my teacher, Tracee Stanley. Tracee is a beautifully intuitive, insightful and discerning human being. She leads by example and has offered me wisdom, compassion and kindness when I’ve needed it most. Her guidance has helped me to address my shadows in order to grow in a way which will allow my effectiveness to grow, as well.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or an example for each.

My dad taught me when I was very young that anything worth having is worth working for. And anything worth complaining about is worth doing something about. These two pieces of advice are the backbone to my approach with Imagine Fest.

A quote by Lao Tzu changed the way I view leadership, “When the best leader’s work is done, the people will say, ‘We did it ourselves.’” I am far embodying this concept, but it is a goal. Every year I aim to empower more people to step into roles of leadership, take on challenging responsibilities, and be more guide and mentor than director. I joke with members of our Young Leaders Council that within a few years, my job will be making them tea. I aim for that to come true. I look forward to stepping into the background to applaud the next generation.

When I hesitate over how best to move forward, stumbling fear of how I may be accepted or perceived, my inner guidance offers this wisdom: Do not prioritize your popularity over your purpose. I believe I came into this world with a blueprint for what my soul longs to do, to be, to achieve. This blueprint is my Dharma, my life’s purpose. In order to be completely free and fulfilled at the end of my days, I need to live as aligned to this purpose as I can. With this perspective, the fears of failure and rejection and feeling too small to have significance disappear. If I walk my path of purpose, trust trumps doubt.

How are you going to shake things up next?

I feel compelled to commit more fully to the work of interweaving yoga and social change. There are some powerful movers and shakers in the yoga world engaging in this conversation right now. I want to join them. The wisdom of yoga is too profound to be sequestered for an exclusive demographic. The promise of yoga is powerful enough to heal an individual heart and transform the world. I want to confront the role systemic oppression is playing in the way yoga is taught and shared in our society, and I want to become an advocate for people that are having yoga withheld. In my belief system, the ultimate goal of yoga is complete freedom and absolute fulfillment. Everyone deserves access equally.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, landed in my lap during a phase of self-discovery. It highlights the psychological methodology he employed to survive a concentration camp. What I learned from this book is that we all have a choice. Every moment of every day we have a choice. With little to no control over external circumstances, it is easy to embody victimhood — giving away responsibility for our experience of life to the “hand we’ve been dealt.” A more challenging, but ultimately liberating approach is to take full responsibility for our experience by acknowledging the power we have to choose how we receive and how we respond to all of life’s ups and downs. When I feel powerless, shameful, afraid or weak, I remember who is choosing to feel that way. And I make another choice. The world needs all of us to be powerful, compassionate, courageous and strong. That’s who I choose to be.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Each of us has a reason for being here. We all have unique gifts, talents, passions — we have unique pasts which inform our present and shape our future. HOW our past informs our future is up to us. We all have trauma. We all have pain. This is part of the human experience. How you address your pain will determine much of the rest of your life. Seek healing. Seek wisdom. Seek guidance. Seek within. Heal the pain of your own trauma through awareness, acceptance and love. Then turn it around. Transform your pain into wisdom and compassion and use it to help someone else heal. Explore what makes you excited, what makes you feel fully alive and bring your whole heart to it. Thrive and shine a light for those that follow behind.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” — Viktor Frankl

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@NatalieBackmanYoga and @imagineyogamusic , both on Instagram

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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