An Inspiring Chat with Nathalie de Haaij, founder of MALEKAI [Interview]
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One year ago, I met Nathalie de Haaij in Nicaragua, where she launched her wellness business “MALEKAI”. After one year, we’re going back to Maderas, Nicaragua as business partners to hold a surf and yoga retreat together, and to share with others why Maderas is a magical place, where magical things happen.
Nathalie is an experienced project manager born in the Netherlands but raised traveling the world with her family. She moved to London to study and worked for a number of global clients in the communication industry from creative agencies to Non-Profit Organizations (NGO) such as Oxfam. In one moment of her successful career, she decided to try what a “zen” life could be, and went for full training as an Ashtanga yoga teacher. This is an interview about Nathalie’s story on how she ended up following her heart and founded a successful yoga business.
Nathalie, what was your inspiration to become a yoga teacher as you were already a successful project manager?
I started my personal yoga journey 15 years ago in London. I was working long hours in a high-pressure job and was looking to do something that helped me to both stay fit and release stress from work. So I joined a yoga studio in London, and after my first class, I was hooked. After many years of yoga as a student, I wanted to deepen my practice so I started looking at different yoga teacher training courses. I eventually decided to study Ashtanga yoga in India. I’m a big believer in life-long learning and even though I have established a career as a project manager, I’m always looking for ways to learn more skills and grow as a person.
How has your life changed since you were introduced to yoga, and what are the more visible benefits?
Yoga has changed how I see and conduct myself and how through the simple acts of conscious awareness and focus I'm able to live the life I always dreamed of.
What is your favorite yoga style, or the one you do the most and why?
Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga is the yoga styles I practice and teach the most. However, I like all forms of yoga, its part of my learning to discovers a range of different yoga styles from Kundalini to Anasura to Yin yoga - all of these benefit me in some way or another.
What do you want to accomplish through the practice of yoga?
Gratitude, compassion, love, consciousness and much more is what I’m able to accomplish with yoga. Yoga allows me to go back to basics - mind, body, and soul.
How did you decide to create MALEKAI?
I decided to create MALEKAI during my first world travel trip. I was practicing my daily yoga on a small island in Fiji, when I was approached by two travelers who asked if I could teach them. At that time I was not a qualified teacher (and I told them this) but was happy to guide them through their first yoga class. They really enjoyed it and wanted to come back the following day, so they did. This time they brought two new friends, by the end of the week I was teaching a small group.
Initially, I was providing free classes, but people wanted to give a small contribution. Donations ranged from pineapples, coconuts, bananas, hugs, accommodation and some cash. My yoga classes eventually help me fund my stay on the island for two weeks. By then I started to realize that I not only enjoyed being a yoga student but also loved sharing it with others. During my visit to Bali, I booked a 2.5-hour long Balinese massage and spa.
This was total bliss and it motivated me to learn more about massage and wellness in general. I have always been into fresh and healthy foods, creating simple and nutritional dishes. It then came to me to bring together the three things I’m passionate about - yoga, massages and healthy foods - to offer an ultimate wellness experience. By this I mean helping people feel amazing inside and out!
How has traveling encouraged those decisions?
I have traveled since I was a child and have been lucky enough to have seen and lived in some incredible places in the world. My travels, both then and now are my main source of inspiration behind MALEKAI. Experiencing new cultures and connecting with like-minded people that are passionate about living a happy healthy life.
What has been the best part of working on and for MALEKAI?
The best part is being able to create and share my passion. I don’t see it as work, more as an extension of who I am. It has also given me the opportunity to live a more balanced life. Currently, I freelance as a project manager for a few months and then take a few months off traveling and focusing on MALEKAI. Yes, feeling blessed.
Nathalie de Haaij. Image by Alejandra Romo
What do you want to achieve with this side of your professional life?
The aim is to be 100% MALEKAI and turn it into a successful business venture, offering one-to-one consultation but also 1 or 2-week wellness retreats in Europe, Asia, and the Pacific. My years as a project manager have been valuable in shaping how I run MALEKAI. As always I’m constantly looking at how I can grow, but also want to encourage and inspire others with what I do.
Could you share with us some inspirational thought or moment that helped you create your MALEKAI?
I always tell people to 'follow your heart', as this thought has guided me over the years. Life is truly what you make of it!
Started your own business recently? Post your thoughts on your own driving philosophy! If you in need of some inspiration, why not go on a yoga retreat?