Yoga Mudras: Who Are We Kidding?

This is how I often sit whilst meditating…

…with my fingers in Gyan Mudra: a powerful mudra (or hand position) practiced by yogis for thousands of years as it’s said to bring peace, calm, and spiritual progress.  It relates (and I quote from Spirit Voyage) “to the planet Jupiter. Artistic depictions of great spiritual masters such as Guru Nanak, Christ, Buddha and Mahavir are all shown regularly with this hand position.  In addition to its many spiritual qualities, Gyan Mudra has wide and varied health benefits, making it one of the most practiced mudras of all”.

Then I look at this short (6 minutes) but mind-blowingly magnificent video about the ‘staggering enormity of the universe” and I think ‘who am I kidding that the way that I hold my fingers whilst sitting on a little rubber mat is going to make any iota of a difference to my life and how it pans out’ – given how completely insignificant we are in the greater scheme of things.*

This is the kind of thing I was thinking about during my morning meditation earlier (that’s the thing about meditation – sometimes it’s very peaceful and focused and disciplined, and other times it’s like going down a rabbit hole – you never know what you’re going to find, and sometimes I actually choose not to return for a few tangents because what lies beneath can be so damn interesting).

I hate labels but it seems (after much research) that if I had to choose one for myself, it would have to be an agnostic atheist (think the two are mutually exclusive? Think again, or maybe have a read of this interesting definition if you want to become even more confused): I can’t claim to believe in a God, or the existence of one, or any, because I just don’t know whether it/He/She/they exist (I remain open to the idea but have yet to be convinced).

I increasingly find myself looking up at the skies – especially on a clear and moonlit night like tonight – and marveling at how completely and beautifully random this entire human experience is. I marvel at how uncertain it all is, and I take comfort and joy from the fact that being here, right now, standing tall and firm on this beautiful blue planet of ours, is enough for me. I don’t need any more than that, right now. This may change – it’s changed in the past – but for now, this is enough.

Sometimes it’s like a big old cosmic joke.

I have a giggle at myself, sitting on my mat with my fingers in a certain position, thinking that this is what is going to take me closer to the answer. Which is why my yoga practice to me (and it’s different for all of us) is a way of finding the peace and acceptance of the here and now, in a staggeringly beautiful and largely unknowable universe that we have no hope of controlling in even the slightest way. Not by chanting, not by praying, not by holding a rabbit foot for luck or not walking under a ladder for the same reason. I don’t mean to offend, but all these things – including my own beloved yoga practice – are simply man-made constructs to help us make sense of the world, and especially to bring us comfort and a sense of security when things go wrong, as so often they can, and do, and to hold us safe and warm and happy and fuzzy and balanced and ‘on the right track’ for the rest of the time. For me it’s a beautiful and ancient philosophy on how to live a meaningful life and how to contribute in a meaningful way to society as a whole as well as to learn to honour and respect ourselves and others. And I DO use mudras, and I do chant, and I am really clear on why I’m doing it – my yoga practice is and has been for over two decades my refuge, my safe place, a nurturing and uplifting practice and habit that keeps my more destructive habits at bay.

Will it get me or us closer to transcending the here and now? To enlightenment? To heaven? I’m not sure. Maybe one day that will be necessary for me to understand better, but for now I’m okay where I am. Sorry if I’m disappointing you. Gotta keep it real.

Don’t think me disrespectful of the great gurus and leaders and saints and learned ones that have gone before me and know infinitely more than I could ever hope to. I am not taking away from any of them and I am not being disrespectful of the practice, or of any faith or belief system. I certainly don’t think I have the answer. Maybe there isn’t one. But I have always loved the following quote attributed to the Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama: ‘Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them’.

Maybe that is all we need to know.

What do you think? Do you use yoga mudras when you meditate? Why? What do you get from them? What do you believe in? Agree with me or disagree? Somewhat, slightly or not at all? I’d love to hear your thoughts, and apologise in advance for any offence I may have caused with this somewhat irreverent post.

More about Gyan Mudra, for those of you that wish to try it out or want to know more about why it’s considered so powerful: “Gyan Mudra does many things.  Stimulating the root chakra, it eases tension and depression.  It relates to expansion and knowledge.  It is extremely calming and brings the practitioner spiritual openness and ease in meditation.  Also known as Vaayu-Vardhak in traditional ayurveda, this mudra boosts the air element (Vaayu), thus stimulating the brain, empowering the mind, nervous system and pituitary gland.  Its many benefits also include stimulating the endrocrine system and through the air element it dries out joints and cartilage which might otherwise be full of fluid, causing pain and joint stiffness” (source: Spirit Voyage)

(*the greater scheme of things being the concept of the universe as described in the video – it resonates with me, and is the basis of my ramblings, but if it’s not something you believe in, I’d love to hear why in the comments section)

Ayurveda & Dosha Types for Beginners

Malasana / Garland Pose – a beautifully grounding pose for when I am feeling the effects of a Vata overload (South Easter to blame)
I posted recently about how the incessant wind that we’ve been having in Stellenbosch lately tends to make me go stir crazy, and that it’s got to do with Vata overload. Unsurprisingly, I had a few people asking me what that’s all about. So here’s a post as promised.

Ayurveda is a holistic science of health which is focused on maintaining a physically and emotionally balanced state. It began about 5,000 – 6,000 years ago when Indian monks were looking for new ways to be healthy. Revering their bodies like temples, the monks believed that preserving their health would help them meditate and develop spiritually. Over thousands of years of observations, they gathered all their conclusions and advice and preserved it for future generations. This collection of knowledge came to be known as the “science or knowledge of life” — Ayurveda.

It differs from modern medicine in that it views every individual as unique, and there is no lifestyle routine or diet that is prescribed for everyone. Aside from that, a major difference is that it focuses largely on prevention, and providing specific advice and guidance on how to maintain your physical and emotional health. Food and lifestyle routines are considered the most important medicine. If you come to an Ayurvedic doctor with a complaint, you are more likely to leave with a recipe than with a prescription for pills.

Ayurveda is based on the principles of three doshas, which are the energies that make up every individual and perform different physiological functions in the body:

The 3 Dosha types:

1. Vata Dosha: Energy that controls bodily functions associated with motion, including blood circulation, breathing, blinking, and your heartbeat.

  • In balance: There is creativity and vitality.
  • Out of balance: Can produce fear and anxiety.

Characteristics for Vata predominant types: Creative; Quick to learn and grasp new knowledge, but also quick to forget, Slender; Tall and a fast-walker; Tendency toward cold hands and feet, discomfort in cold climates; Excitable, lively, fun personality; Changeable moods; Irregular daily routine; High energy in short bursts; Tendency to tire easily and to overexert; Full of joy and enthusiasm when in balance; Responds to stress with fear, worry, and anxiety, especially when out of balance; Tendency to act on impulse; Often have racing, disjointed thoughts; Generally have dry skin and dry hair and don’t perspire much.

2. Pitta Dosha: Energy that controls the body’s metabolic systems, including digestion, absorption, nutrition, and your body’s temperature.

  • In balance: Leads to contentment and intelligence.
  • Out of balance: Can cause ulcers and anger.

Characteristics for Pitta Predominant Types: Medium physique, strong, well-built; Sharp mind, good concentration powers; Orderly, focused; Assertive, self-confident, and entrepreneurial at their best; Aggressive, demanding, pushy when out of balance; Competitive, enjoy challenges; Passionate and romantic; Strong digestion, strong appetite, get irritated if they have to miss or wait for a meal; When under stress, Pittas become irritated and angry; Skin fair or reddish, often with freckles; sunburns easily; Uncomfortable in sun or hot weather, heat makes them very tired; Perspire a lot; Good public speakers; Generally good management and leadership ability, but can become authoritarian; Subject to temper tantrums, impatience, and anger; Typical physical problems include rashes or inflammations of the skin, acne, boils, skin cancer, ulcers, heartburn, acid stomach, insomnia, dry or burning eyes.

3. Kapha Dosha: Energy that controls growth in the body. It supplies water to all body parts, moisturizes the skin, and maintains the immune system.

  • In balance: Expressed as love and forgiveness.
  • Out of balance: Can lead to insecurity and envy.

Characteristics for Kapha Predominant Types: Easygoing, relaxed, slow-paced; Affectionate and loving; Forgiving, compassionate, nonjudgmental nature; Stable and reliable; faithful; Physically strong and with a sturdy, heavier build; Have the most energy of all constitutions, but it is steady and enduring; Slow speech, reflecting a deliberate thought process; Slower to learn, but outstanding long-term memory; Soft hair and skin; tendency to have large “soft” eyes and a low, soft voice; Tend toward being overweight; may also suffer from sluggish digestion; Prone to depression; More self-sufficient; Gentle, and essentially undemanding approach to life; Excellent health, good immune system; Very calm; strive to maintain harmony and peace in their surroundings; Not easily upset and can be a point of stability for others; Tend to be possessive and hold on to things. Don’t like cold, damp weather; Physical problems include colds and congestion, sinus headaches, respiratory problems including asthma, allergies, and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

Each person has all three doshas, but usually one or two dominate. I, for example, am Vata-Pitta. Various dosha proportions determine one’s physiological and personality traits as well as general likes and dislikes. For example Vata types will prefer hot weather to cold and Kapha types are more likely to crave spicy foods than other types.

My reference to the wind making me feel extremely flighty and unsettled has to do with the Vata in me, and the fact that when there is an overload of motion (wind is a classic example), I feel completely overstimulated. Once you know your Dosha make-up, you can work with your diet, your lifestyle, your entire environment to bring yourself into balance. When it’s blowy, I need my practice to be extremely grounding. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, is a classic Kapha, finds the wind absolutely exhilarating and wants to get out and about and do things when the South Easter is pumping.

Whilst I’m making this to sound extremely simplistic, it is actually a very complex science, so feel free to do some more indepth research – you will find a wealth of information on this topic. If you are curious about finding out about your dominant dosha/s, I give a link below to one of many. Most online questionnaires are very similar and will provide similar results. Please keep in mind that shorter questionnaires will give a more generalized and approximate result. Also, your body changes with age, seasons, and life situations so the results will change as well. Taking a few different questionnaires will give you a more definite result for your dosha type.

As with any of these online / DIY quizzes, please take it with a pinch of salt – I believe wholeheartedly in the premises of Ayurveda and the Chopra Centre is a reputable source, however to reap the full rewards of this phenomenal life science, I advise you to make an appointment with a proper practitioner, and am happy to refer you to one if you are interested. Just comment below and I will respond. In the meantime, here is the link for fun and to get you started.

Once you’ve done the quiz, feel free to let me know whether the results resonate with you. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Click here for the short time-lapse video that I posted on Facebook and Instagram that prompted this post: me attempting Tree pose in a gale-force wind.

I quote extensively from a MindBodyGreen article: for the original post, click here.



Class Schedule Term 1 of 2016

2016_Term 1 General Schedule

I’m delighted to (finally) have the schedule for Term 1 of this shiny new year ready for you. It’s been an uphill battle against technical gremlins but I have dug deep and have emerged as victorious winner!

Please note that there are a few changes, including a new addition of a regular beginners class and also a regular prenatal yoga / pregnancy yoga offering.

There is also regular kiddies’ yoga, so if you have or know of someone that has children and would like to give them the gift that keeps giving, Nia is the most fabulous teacher of yoga for children. She has a wealth of experience and we are extremely excited to have her adding this very valuable asset to our studio.

So many people have contacted me expressing how overwhelmed they feel at the prospect of starting yoga when it feels like everyone else is doing it, and doing it well – they feel threatened or intimidated by many teaching environments where they feel they are going to stick out like sore thumbs. It is with such compassion and pride that I welcome them to our beautiful studio – I know that the other teachers that I share my space with embody my belief that a yoga studio should be a safe, nurturing environment in which you are able to make yourself vulnerable, to let go of what you look like or what you are doing right or wrong, and to just be yourself without fear of criticism or exclusion.

I promise you, you are not alone if you feel that you need a private space in which to learn all the confusing names and poses so that you can confidently go and practice anywhere you fancy, and not be worried about making a fool of yourself. There are no mirrors on purpose, because it’s got sweet blow-all to do with what you look like, with what you wear, or with who else is there – it’s about you on your mat and THAT IS IT.

Our studio rocks because we are all shapes and sizes, ages, colours, genders, beliefs, stages of life, some of us are vegetarians and some aren’t, some believe in God and some believe in faeries, some like to chat and some don’t… some come to the studio to get a workout / head space / sanctuary / balance/whatever. Your reasons are your own, and there is zero judgement on any of these fronts. What we have in common is a respect for the silence that is held (mostly – we try) in the studio and the fact that we are all different. No right, no wrong (except for not pitching when you have booked – that is wrong. But more about that in another post).

So we look forward to welcoming you to the studio this year, or welcoming you back if you’re already a student at our beautiful little yoga studio in Die Laan. Please share this post and / or the schedule with your friends if the sound of our space resonates with you. And remember to book your spot in any class you wish to attend.

Let’s make this year the best one yet!



Who’s On The Mat? Meet Christine

 Allow us to introduce you! 

My name is Christine and I am a 40 year old copywriter from Stellenbosch. 

My favourite asana is the ‘half lord of the fish pose’, specifically when you can grab your toes with your opposite hand. I feel so powerful, when twisted😉

Your least fave asana?

This must be the downward dog or as I call it the dying dog. I can’t say why, but definitely my struggle pose. I try to do a downward dog once a day at home.

How did you get into yoga? 

I am inquisitive by nature and I was driving down die Laan when I saw Nicci’s notice.

What does your practice mean to you?

Yoga has taught me so much about myself, but mainly it taught me to accept and love myself.

What floats your boat about our studio? 

I love the studio, it is everything I imagined a yoga studio to be, or rather what I wanted it to be. Apart from her wonderful classes, Nicci is not only a yoga instructor to me, but a friend. I love her sense of humour and the honesty that she brings to her classes.

So, between friends, something that not many people know about you? 

I can’t sing. I can guarantee world peace by singing a few lines from a song. Also the reason behind my silent ohms!

Any final thoughts? 

If you haven’t started with yoga yet, my advice is get a mat and join us!

Thanks for these words, Christine. It’s really wonderful to see how committed you are to your practice, how it works for you, and how you embrace it – even the dying dog 😂. Here’s a little picture just for you:  

Who’s On The Mat? Meet Floriane


Who are you, lovely lady? 

My name is Floriane (Flo), I’m 43 and I come from Paris.

What do you do when you’re not on the mat?

I’m a strategic growth consultant, Africa.

Do you have a favourite asana?

If only I could be in Savasana for my ultimate breath on this planet.. feeling like I don’t fear anything when I’m in savasana, not even death.

Any asana that you particularly dislike? 

I can’t think of any off the top of my head – there is always a positive side, sometimes just the relief to be out of it.. or the balances for instance, I often struggle but I like the “power on my body” feeling they sometimes give. I used to be very uncomfortable in pigeon but I’ve caught myself hoping for it in a recent session.

We’d love to hear a bit more about your yoga journey – how you got into it, how it has evolved and the benefits of having it in your life. 

I discovered yoga shortly after I moved to ZA, particularly when the doctor said I had blood pressure issues and needed to start taking care of myself.

Less than 2 months after I started yoga, I was badly injured in a terrible dog attack. The surgeon said I might never walk normally again. Yoga was the first activity I was allowed to resume after I was out of hospital (when still healing after a muscle and skin graft).

I went back to yoga before I went back to work and started a minimum twice a week routine, and when I was ready for physio, I chose to instead continue with yoga.

What role did your practice play in your recovery? 

It did help me a lot mentally and physically: I remember thinking  “at least I will always have yoga now..”. I felt blessed that I had started practising yoga before the accident.

A few months later I could do everything I used to do before the ordeal, including getting up on a surf board (whereas the surgeon had said I should forget about sports like skiing or surfing). I walked the whale trail with a group of friends. I went back to my life, or the life I was intending to live. I had never ever been as active as I was in this period of my life. I practise less nowadays but will never forget the benefits yoga can bring.

What does your practice mean to you now?

A breath in my busy life, in my busy mind; a feel good exercise; a way to stay fit, supple and comfortable in my body, with my body.

Do you notice any changes when you’ve not been on the mat for a while?

My body misses it when I don’t practise (and my mind as well I’m sure but it is less obvious – to me at least😉

When I don’t exercise for a while, my leg reminds me that a muscle is missing and needs constant stimulation, so I’m in for a while I think😉

I have developed this habit of stretching for a minute in my bed before getting up now that I don’t go to yoga as often as I used to.

Are there any things in particular that you like about practicing at our studio?

The sound of the birds; the ease to connect with the weather and the outside world. I also love the explanations given by the teachers and the importance given to slow / meditative aspects of the practice.

Anything you’ve learned about yourself?

I’m a day dreamer, which I now see as an ability to pause.

Namaste, Flo. It was an incredible thing to see how you tackled your recovery and your reintegration into your body and your sense of safety in the world after your ordeal. Your commitment to the practice and the incredible quiet determination that you displayed in taking responsibility for your healing was, and continues to be, truly inspirational. I salute you, warrior princess that you are. Namaste.

Quick Bedtime Sequence for Chakra Balancing

Please note: I am experiencing problems uploading the time lapse video to this post so if you want to see it, please pop over to my Instagram feed or Facebook page (both Yoga With Nicci). 

Here’s my little sleepy time yoga sequence that checks in on each of the seven main chakras in sequence before ending in a headstand to bring it all together before I snuggle up. 
I am such a sucker for these time lapse videos because it always looks so comical – especially the Sufi grind that I start with (Muladhara) – utterly daft looking – and then (after baddha konasana/Svadhistana, twist/Manipura and ustrasana/Anahata) my simhasana (Vishuddhi) in which I resemble a cat trying to vomit up a hair ball. I couldn’t do the eye bulging thing – too sleepy already after doing my actual practice before this fun vid.

 Garudasana with thumbs on 3rd eye for Ajna and of course headstand for crown chakra. A bit of slow smooth breathing and a quick journal post, literally listing the things I’m grateful for today, and then off to the land of nod. 

Sleep tight! 

Who’s On The Mat? Meet Laura

Hi, I’m Laura 😊 I’m 26 and originally hail from Durbanville, but have been living in Stellenbosch for 9 years. At the moment, I’m busy working towards my PhD in Chemistry. 

Any asana you ❤️? 

My fave asana changes constantly but at the moment I am loving heart-openers like ustrasana (camel pose 🐪). With every breath I take in this pose, I can feel my anxiety melting away. (Note: big props to those who regularly take yoga selfies, this is a lot harder than it looks!) 

Least fave pose? 

Probably arm balances – the fear of falling on my face is too high! 

What first got you onto the mat? 

I first started yoga in 2013, at the beginning of my PhD. I’d been diagnosed with major depressive disorder together with anxiety. My doctor and therapist both recommended taking up yoga so I did – and after my first class, that was it, I never looked back! Yoga has been a very important tool in helping me cope both with depression and with the stress of the PhD. I love the calm that comes with meditation. I love how following my breathing helps me take control when anxiety tries to overpower. I love how being in touch with my body’s movements helps me feel at peace with it, instead of trapped in it. I love how yoga makes me feel powerful instead of powerless. 

Where do you practice mostly and why? 

While I mostly do home practice these days, I love getting the chance to attend a class. The teachers at Yoga With Nicci are so friendly and helpful, especially when it comes to adjustments or modifications of poses. Plus, there is something special about lying in savasana and just listening to the wind and the trees outside the small studio.

Namaste 😊

Thanks for sharing with us, Laura. I always think it’s cool to have a chemist in the class! Hope we see you soon x 

To keep up with what Laura is up to: Instagram: @whimsyisforever 


Who’s On The Mat? Meet Barbara

Please tell us who you are?

Hi, my name is Barbara Seele, I grew up on a beautiful farm in the Natal Midlands, and am now doing my masters in conservation ecology here in Stellenbosch.

Favourite asana? 

It was a tough call between trikonasana (one of my all-time favourites), and doing an acroyoga bow pose (dhanurasana)! I love playing around and challenging myself, all whilst feeling that I’m flying. Thanks to Hannes for being a stable and steady base (in the photo). 

Any asana we’re unlikely to see you in voluntarily? 

Hmmm, probably a hip opener, I find those really challenging (and really good for me). Especially the wide angled seated forward bend (upavistha konasana).

How did you get into yoga? 

I first started doing yoga when I was 18, I found it fascinating, and really liked how I felt at the end of shavasana. I slowly got into it more deeply, and in 2011 I completed by teacher training course in Bali – an amazing experience. After a bit of a break I am now feeling drawn in to deepening my yoga practise again.   

Why is yoga important in your life? 

Yoga allows me the time and the space, and the breath, to really focus on myself. I like how it makes me feel – stronger, more calm and more grounded. And it allows my often anxiety riddled thoughts to become clear and light. 

Your thoughts on the studio? 

To share a yoga space with others is an intimate and special experience. I feel safe in Nicci’s studio, I love the incense, the plants outside and the beautiful, warm energy that is held inside the four (now green) walls. Both Nicci and Victoria (the teachers whose classes I have been to) are intuitive, supportive guides, and I deeply appreciate their classes. 

Anything you’re working on adding to your practice at the moment? 

I’ve been trying for a long time to do a headstand on a horse…with no success yet. Maybe I should rather start by trying the crow🙂

Thanks for your answers, Barbara. Let us know when you get that equine crow right! We love having your petite self in our studio space and look forward to when we see you teaching in the future 😊

Ajna Chakra – About, Asana & Suggested Journaling Questions 

As promised, here are the notes on Ajna (brow or 3rd eye) chakra which we focused on this morning. 

Did anyone else notice how resonant and calm the integrated “AUM” sounds were at the end of the class? Or how steady your standing balances were? Beautiful. Thank you. 

Next post: more about Sahasrara (crown) chakra which we started working with this morning. Next week we pull everything together in the closing chakra integration class. 

The sixth chakra is located between the eyebrows – the so-called 3rd eye. It governs our thoughts, honesty, inner and outer sight, our visions and our dreams, intuition and awareness. 

This chakra is associated with light and the colour indigo and as you work with it, it can be helpful to see the third eye as access to a cosmic vision, illuminating everything as it is without the filter of your past, your expectations or your judgment and allowing you to start seeing things as they really are, without the colour and projection of the ego.

The development of this chakra is vital for personal and spiritual growth because it helps us awaken from the illusions in life that we unconsciously accept as real … until our third eye opens, and we start looking beyond dualism

Most people are content to accept the commonly-held views of reality as presented and reinforced by popular media (TV news programs, movies, social media and books). Our early schooling teaches a simple or childlike view of the world that often extends, unexamined, into adulthood. It will take third eye chakra development in order to see past what we are told is true, and to make our own evaluation.

It means examining self-limiting ideas and developing wisdom that comes from a perspective that transcends the duality of good or bad, black or white. It means seeing and helping others to see the deeper meanings of the situations in their lives.

The sixth chakra is holistic in nature so when fully activated, both hemispheres of the brain function in synchronicity. The right hemisphere’s creativity and synthetic thinking is integrated and balanced with left hemisphere’s logical and analytical thinking. Nadi Sodona using Nasgra mudra is a wonderful breathing exercise for Ajna for this reason, but we simply didn’t have time for it in this morning’s practice. 

The third eye is not only the seat of wisdom, but also a seat of conscience. This is where you not only see what is going on, but you also know what it means. When your third eye is open, you not only see but you also understand.

Third Eye Chakra Affirmations

I am in touch with my inner guidance.

I listen to my deepest wisdom.

I seek to understand and to learn from my life experiences.

I am wise, intuitive, and connected with my inner guide.

Asana for Ajna Chakra

Any posture that you feel most able to connect with your inner self is a good place to start, including Child’s pose with the brow resting gently on the mat.

Eye cupping or eye exercises are a wonderful way of focusing on the gaze and sight, and any postures that see you crossing the midline of the body are powerful for integration of left and right sides of the brain (Garudasana – Eagle pose – is one of these). In addition, any postures that bring focus to the brow serve to harmonise the consciousness by balancing the lunar and solar energies within ajna chakra, increasing alertness and intelligence, and making the spirit feel aroused, enterprising and vivid.

Nasgra mudra is a hand position one which gentle but firm pressure is applied to the brow chakra, and can be used with any asana for the purposes of stimulating the third eye.

Click here for a beautiful guided meditation for Ajna chakra.

Journaling Questions for Ajna: 

Do I trust my intuition?

What behavior and thought patterns can I identify in my life?

What inspires me?

What beliefs do I have that cause me to judge another person negatively?

What would I like to know more about?

If you had one question to ask a psychic, what would you ask?

Name a time when you listened to your intuition and it worked, and name a time you didn’t follow your intuition and the results were unfavorable.

To tune into your sixth chakra: Take a break from watching the news and perusing your friends’ newsfeeds. Take ownership over what you consume; what you read and watch. Bust out the old magazines, and make a vision board. Write your vision down, and hang it somewhere you look every day. Read a book. Look at the sea. See the beauty everywhere, even when it’s the hardest thing to do.


Befriending My Nemesis

“Practice and all is coming”, they say. Phhhhhwwwwwhateverrrrr. 

My ongoing journey towards the elusive unsupported handstand is documented in this time lapse clip. I WILL DO IT for more than 5 seconds one day. As a kid I used to walk around on my hands and drop into unsupported handstands all the time. And then at some point I started practicing them against a wall and since then I simply do not seem to have the capacity to do it away from the wall. I practice, I practice, I rest, I laugh, I fall, I get pissed off and then I try again. I try different tips and different hand placements. Different surfaces. Different moods. Different weight distribution. And it eludes me. 

Headstand – no worries – totally stable and steady and happy away from any support. Strong, safe, almost unthinking in how natural and good it feels. Elbow balance, getting there. Handstand. Not today. Maybe tomorrow. 

They also say that the asana that eludes or annoys you is the one that you probably need the most. I don’t doubt that. And as with yoga in general, it’s got very little to do with flawless execution of a perfect posture, and more to do with the ability to maintain a compassionate and non-judgemental attitude of ahimsa – not just when flowing effortlessly in and out of your favourite shapes, but when you are repeatedly knocking your head, your pride and your confidence against a brick wall (or in my case today, a generously lush lawn). 

It’s at this point that the philosophy of yoga really comes into play and the embodiment of the philosophy has the opportunity to kick in. The “witness effect” – same as in meditation or mindfulness – when you observe as if from a distance and simply note what’s happening, with an attempt at neutrality, observing with interest but uninvolvement any emotions or patterns or sensations or thoughts that may arise.  

Easier said than done, especially when a seven year old is watching with great interest to see how Mummy reacts to not achieving what she set out to do. It really helped, in the end, because it was almost as if I was retraining my own perfectionist attitude and goal-orientated mindset and my expectation of Getting It Right, and I actually managed to just relax into it completely. I kicked up again and again. I fell again and again. I shrieked and I groaned and I sighed deeply and I giggled and started again. And it was as if my son was giving me the words that I needed to be telling myself – words that I would have said to anyone I love who was trying something and needed encouragement: “You’re doing so well, Mummy!”. “Keep going, Mum, great job” and “wow, you are really practicing hard”. In the end, I kept on with those words, even when he had got bored of watching me doing he same thing over and over (this clip is just one of many, many attempts). 

The wonderful lessons of yoga. Letting go of the desired outcome and the self-criticism and perceived failure at not achieving it, and instead just enjoying the fun and the privilege of kicking up on the lawn on a gorgeous lazy Sunday afternoon. Good enough for me. 

#patience #patience #patience #irritation #frustration #nemesis #bloodyeffinghandstand #giggles #realisation #lovethelesson #acceptance #yogapracticenotyogaperfect #practiceandalliscoming #yogawithnicci