Women in Motion: Nikki Heyder
We spent the day with Bali based psychotherapist and yoga teacher Nikki Heyder to talk about compassion and self-love for the New Year
Tell us a little bit about yourself, what you do and how you discovered your passion?
My name is Nikki Heyder, and I am a psychotherapist and Yoga teacher based in Bali, Indonesia.
My journey to get where I am now has definitely not been linear. Prior to completing my studies in Counselling Psychology and Yoga, I actually studied Health Science and worked as a Clinical Nutritionist for a long time. It was through working as a nutritionist whereby I felt as though many the issues faced by my patients stemmed from the mind and their psyche, rather than food itself.
Since becoming a therapist and Yoga teacher I have done further training in trauma with trauma expert Dr Gabor Mate, as well as training in somatic therapy and the manifestation of emotion in the physical body. I am also deeply interested in Buddhist philosophy and compassion.
Nowadays I merge everything I know into what I do – I take a very holistic approach which enables me to work with the whole person and not just one aspect of them. It’s been quite the journey and I and am eternally grateful for it all as without it, I definitely wouldn’t be here as I am today.
Nikki wears the Sirine Dress in Nutmeg. Shop here
As a psychotherapist and Yoga teacher, how would you say the two fields converge with one another?
Stress impacts us physiologically, emotionally and mentally. This is where Yoga and Psychology fuse together so beautifully.
Yoga allows a person to connect to the present moment, to move their bodies as a way to release stress and stored emotions, to practice mindfulness, to breathe more deeply, and to calm racing thoughts via meditation and stillness.
Psychology allows a person to make meaning and understanding of themselves and their lives, to learn tools for reframing maladaptive thoughts, to challenge anxiety, and to essential rewire some of the beliefs which no longer serve us.
Mindfulness has become somewhat of a buzzword in modern society. What does mindfulness mean to you and how can we achieve it?
To me, mindfulness means to be completely in the present moment without judgment, attachment or expectation. It means to just witness things as they are. One of the major benefits of mindfulness is that it evokes a sense of calm, and safety in our bodies which is the antidote to stress or lingering trauma.
One of the easiest ways to become mindful is to engage with your senses. Your senses bring you back to the present moment. This could be as simple as taking a walk in nature without your phone and really just noticing what you feel, see, hear and smell.
The more you practice mindfulness the more present you will be and therefore the less reactive.
As a psychotherapist, you frequently find yourself working with trauma. What are some challenges you face in helping clients struggling with trauma to experience mindfulness?
One of the main things which happens when a person has experienced unresolved trauma is that their nervous system is essentially “stuck” in a state of fear or shock which is based on the past. It’s as if they are always waiting for something bad to happen or reacting to life as if they are about to be attacked. Essentially, they feel unsafe.
Because of this, it can be hard for them to practice mindfulness. For some people the act of mindfulness can feel scary for them because it feels like they are “letting their guard down”... but it's actually in the learning to be present that a person will realize that they are in fact safe and that they can start the process of recovery.
What advice would you give to invite positive change in the New Year?
To not place pressure on yourself just because it's a “new year”. I think many people save all of their intentions and goals for when January comes thinking that somehow everything will change and then when it comes to it they feel so overwhelmed and find that the list of things they are wanting to do or be is actually unachievable.
So be realistic. Be kind to yourself. Be compassionate about where you are and where you’ve been.
I often feel that an even better practice than setting new years goals, is actually practicing gratitude and self forgiveness for the year that has been.
Spend some time reflecting on all that you have achieved, all the challenges you have faced, the mistakes you have made, the people who have come and gone from your life and allow space to offer thanks, to recognise your humanness, to forgive, to celebrate.
How can we learn to be more compassionate of ourselves and others?
racticing self compassion is usually much harder for us to do, than it is to show compassion to others. This is usually because our own inner critics are very strong and most humans carry feelings of shame or guilt and/or beliefs that they aren’t good enough and therefore undeserving of compassion.
What self compassion actually means is to validate and accept yourself and your life for not only the good things but also the bad. To celebrate your imperfect self and to be able to meet yourself where you’re at regardless of whether life is challenging or easy.
An example of a compassionate response to someone having a hard day would be:
“I can see that you’re super stressed and I know it sucks when things don’t seem to work out as you planned. How can I help support you through this?”
So when it comes to offering self compassion it’s exactly the same thing. To stop having unrealistic expectations of yourself that you have to always be perfect, or always be happy, or to feel like you must portray your life through the lens of a filter.
Self-reflection Journal in Black. Shop here
What are some of the ways that we can gain greater self-awareness?
I think it really depends on you and what you feel pulled towards as a practice to start with… self awareness can be cultivated through Yoga, through dance, through creativity, through working with a therapist, through engaging in breathwork, through taking mindful walks in nature, through conversations with loved ones, and even through a simply 5 minute daily meditation or journal writing exercise. All of these things help us to become more aware of who we are and why we are.
I think a great place to start is with a simple end of the day self reflection practice which you can do in a diary or via something like the Self - Reflection Journal which I know you stock at The Find.