Answering the Call to Serve Abused Women

20140803_1727From October to April of this year, I had the privilege of  teaching 23 yoga classes to counselors, residents and clients at Anova (formerly Women’s Community House). As a former victim of relationship violence like myself, sharing the very thing that healed me with women still living in the pain I used to be in, was meaningful beyond measure.

I don’t know if I really could have handled serving these women as I first intended to four years ago, when I first launched Prana and approached Anova as a newly initiated entrepreneur full of desire to help abused women. As it would be, the universe must have thought so as well, because at the time Anova was undergoing major renovations and felt the timing wasn’t right. A little disappointed, but not deflated, that moment offered clarity and my first lesson from the trenches: timing of even good intentions is important. In hindsight, I don’t think I was as strong I needed to be to go unaffected by the triggers I’d be exposed to or be able to shut down the impulse to play savior to each abused woman I met. And realistically, I didn’t have the resources to be offering free classes– we were still trying to find enough clients to be sustainable. I decided to revisit this karma project once I had enough clients to move some of the profits to an in-house “angel fund” for a more sustainable model of programming.  Free programming tends to dwindle over time due to lack of commitment or having to pull resources– scenarios I really wanted to avoid.

Crank the clock ahead three years, when my biggest concern isn’t so much about getting that angel fund started, but looking for ways to support an administrative assistant. Funny how the realities of running a business creep in and highjack the grandest of plans. Enter again in the Universe who took care of the details I was so concerned about and declared I was ready mentally and emotionally to serve abused women. With Lore Wainwright, from Pillar Nonprofit, positioned as the connector, she introduced me to Sandra Maniago from Loko Sport Active, owner of a local athletic wear company, who happened to be looking to sponsor yoga classes for abused women. Words cannot describe the gratitude that flooded my entire being, so much that “thank you” just didn’t seem enough. Lesson two from the trenches: stop thinking you have to do everything by yourself.  With the green light from Anova, I set to collecting new and gently used yoga mats for the program– a stretch for someone who didn’t even like asking people to buy girl guide cookies as a kid. The support we received was overwhelming. In less than two weeks, 20 mats were collected from various beautiful souls in our community and I was administered another booster shot of gratitude. This desire of helping abused women and the process of it coming into fruition, has greatly humbled me in countless ways and affirmed what I already knew: the Universe conspires to support your heart’s deepest desires, so long as you just take that first step and keep at it.

Once we got the program up and running, Sandra was able to sponsor weekly classes for the month of October, just enough time to make me realize that even though I don’t have my own in-house angel fund established yet, my company had enough clients to make offering free classes sustainable. It turns out, we didn’t need the angel fund at all because another path was shown. Lesson number three from the trenches: always be open to other possibilities that don’t look anything like you had imagined.  Needless to say, by week four,  I was committed heart and soul to serving the women and staff at Anova. There was no way I could just walk away and wait for “someday.” Over the remaining 19 weeks, I confidently served the most vulnerable women desperately trying to pick up the pieces of their lives and helped them find a moment of relief from it all. And a few, despite the survival state they were in, committed themselves to making yoga an integral part of their healing. I know what it felt like for them to have that first taste of inner peace, it’s the very thing that led me to my healing. Will I see the rest of the path these women take? No. Will they all be led to a better life like I have been? I can’t say for sure, but I don’t need to see the rest of their story. Just being a part of planting seeds that whisper something better is available to them, is enough.

Next fall, the Prana team is in the works of expanding the programming we offer to create greater impact, appreciating that we are indeed a part of something much bigger than we imagined. Perhaps we do have an angel fund after all… it just doesn’t have anything to do with funds.

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About Chantelle Diachina

Chantelle is the founder of Prana Yoga & Wellness. When she is not teaching yoga class or facilitating workshops, Chantelle relishes the time with her husband and two school-age children. She also enjoys volunteering and collaborating with the various non-profits in her community. 3 things you may not know about Chantelle: 1. Most Memorable Moment: Being saved by a random motorcyclist from California while alone and lost in Thailand 2. Biggest Pet Peeve: Hearing her children fight 3. Most Embarrassing Moment: Showing up to a potluck party on the wrong night
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