The real story behind the Warriors

I was just reading up about the origins of some of the asanas, and came across this blog by Sports Yoga Hawaii that I thought was too good not to share. Read on to find out about how poor Daksha came to a particularly sticky end. Seems that there were a few lessons in ‘ahimsa’ that were not heeded in this particular story…

The original article was in Yoga Journal, where Richard Rosen talks about Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2) which is pretty much a standard pose in all yoga practices, and how few yogis (including myself) know the tale of its genesis. 

In Hindu lore, the powerful priest Daksha threw a huge yagna (ritual sacrifice) and invited everyone-except his youngest daughter Sati and her husband Shiva, whom Daksha despised (even if Shiva was supreme ruler of the universe).  Sati got word of this and suggested to Shiva that they go anyway.  Shiva, not wanting to incite her father’s anger anymore than he has already done, ask, “Why go, where we are not invited?”  Sati was hurt by her father’s refusal to acknowledge her marriage and her husband; she decided to go alone to the yagna.

When she arrived, Sati and her father got into an argument, which entertained the guests.  Sati was saddened and humiliated by this public argument with her father. When her father tried to taunt her again she remained silent, letting go of all desire to continue to argue with her father in hopes of defending her husband. She trembled with disgust and indignation at having been so cruelly let down by the one man upon whom she, as a daughter, should always be able to rely. Instead she made an internal resolve to relinquish all family ties. She summoned up her strength and spoke this vow to her father, “Since you have given me this body I no longer wish to be associated with it.” She walked past her father and sat in a meditative seat on the ground. Closing her eyes, envisioning her true Lord, Sati fell into a mystic trance. Going deep within herself she began to increase her own inner fire through yogic exercises until her body burst into flames.

When Shiva got word of Sati’s death, he was devastated.  He yanked out a tuft of his hair and beat it into the ground, up popped a his fiercest Warrior.  Shiva named this warrior, Virabhadra.  Vira (hero) + Bhadra (friend).  He ordered Virabhadra to go to the yagna and destroy Daksha and all guests assembled.

Virabhadra arrives at the party, with swords in both hands, thrusting his way up through the earth from deep underground; this is the first aspect (Virabhadrasana I/Warrior I).  Establishing his arrival for all to see he then sites his opponent, Daksha, (Virabhadrasana II/Warrior II).  Moving swiftly and precisely, he takes his sword and cuts off Daksha’s head, (Virabhadrasana III/Warrior III).

Shiva arrives at Daksha’s place to see the damage that Virabhadra had ravaged. After this vengeful action, Shiva absorbs Virabhadra back into his own form and then Siva becomes known as Hare, the ravisher. His anger is gone but now he is filled with sorrow. This sorrow turns to compassion when he sees the aftermath; the bloody work of Virabhradra. Shiva finds Daksha’s headless body and giving it the head of a goat, brings Daksha back to life. Overwhelmed by this generous gesture Daksha calls Shiva, Shankar, the kind and benevolent one. With Daksha’s pride put in check he bows in awe and humility to Shiva Shankar. The other gods and goddesses follow his lead and honor Shiva.

So the next time you find yourself doing a Warrior pose, just remember where it’s origins came from.

‘Balancing your Chakras’ workshop at my studio in Stellenbosch: 10 December 2011

Leli and I got such great feedback after our recent ‘Balancing your Chakra’ workshop in Stanford, that we are planning another one in December, this time at my studio in Stellenbosch. Full info below. All welcome but space is limited so please book ASAP if keen.

Balance your Chakras – a yoga workshop with Leli Hoch and Nicci Annette, Certified Yoga Teachers
Saturday 10 December 2011 | 9-11h30am | Stellenbosch
R 140pp

Imagine – A peaceful setting in this historical town. Intense yoga practice, quiet breath-work, meditation, relaxation. Unwind and relax in the frenetic run-up to Christmas. And afterwards, enjoy tea, Leli’s famous cake and like-minded company.

We invite you to invigorate your body, soothe your soul and discover a deeper and more profound notion of your Self.

Chakra is the Sanskrit word for wheel, and these seven “wheels” were thought of as spinning vortexes of energy, arranged vertically from the base of the spine to the top of the head, where we receive, absorb and distribute life energies.

Each chakra is associated with particular functions within the body and with specific life issues and the way we handle them, both inside ourselves and in our interactions with the world. Through external situations and internal habits, a chakra can become either deficient or excessive—and therefore imbalanced.

In our extended yoga class, we will focus on balancing all chakras through specific asanas (postures), pranayama (breathing exercises) and relaxation.

We teach a gentle Vinyasa yoga, inspired by a variety of powerful, lovely and humorous teachers. The yoga we believe in is fun. Above all, it is transformative, fascinating, and, at times, a challenging mixture of focused breath, asanas and meditation, a way of holding space and moving through it. We are on that journey ourselves and probably always will be.

Our classes are suited to all levels: from beginners to intermediate students, young and old, male and female, from the frenzied urban mind to the chilled green soul and everyone in between.

What yoga seeks is union: a union between the body and mind, a union between friends and enemies, right and wrong, hot and cold and light and dark. Helping two forces, forces that at first appear so different, to form a harmonious connection. This is yoga.

The studio at Yoga With Nicci is on the banks of the Eerste River in Die Laan, opposite the beautiful mountain walks and dam of Coetzenberg, and just a few minutes’ walk from the town centre, the Botanical Gardens and a whole lot more. See for full directions.

Spaces are limited, so please book ASAP:

Nicci 078 563 8152 |

Balance Your Chakras Invitation

Sipho, NoSipho and using yoga to fall pregnant

When The Band and I lived in California, and after trying (unsuccessfully) for years to fall pregnant, we were told by two separate fertility specialists that it was never going to happen naturally and that IVF was the only option. We were devastated. We discussed it at length, and finally decided to go ahead. To cut a long story short, I had the Lupron in the fridge, ready to start injecting into my belly when, one morning, The Band (with a beautiful and timely wave of intuition) got cold feet about the whole thing. He just said that something didn’t feel right. So I didn’t inject, and thank heavens because a few weeks later we found out that I was pregnant.

Fast forward three years: we now have not one, but two miracle babies. We cannot believe our luck and we are continuously grateful for having been blessed so very comprehensively. They have even been given Xhosa names by our friends at Morgan Bay in the Eastern Cape: Danny is Sipho and Isla is NoSipho, both meaning gift. And that they truly are.

I know that I am one of the lucky ones who somehow defied medical evidence and went on to fall pregnant, carry to term and produce two perfect babies. Yet, it is our own experience of the whole process of trying to fall pregnant – the incredible rollercoaster of emotions that you unavoidably find yourself riding, the intense emotions of hope, the crippling disappointment at the end of each month when your period arrives once again, the elation (after one positive pregnancy test) and the absolute devastation (at the subsequent loss), and all sorts of feelings inbetween – has made me incredibly passionate and empathetic about those who are having their own difficulties. It has made me acutely sensitive to how so many people just take it for granted (myself included, initially) that if and when you make the decision to have a baby, it will just happen. It means that I flinch when I hear people nonchalantly chatting about how they will wait for a few months/years before they have their next baby because they want the age gap to be exactly 2 years (or whatever). And that they will not give birth towards the end of the year as it affects sport etc. So much is just assumed – it’s almost as if having children is seen as our God-given right.

Through my training as an infant massage instructor, I have heard so many stories about parents who have had similar experiences, and find that there is a growing warmth and compassion within my heart for all those who have struggled, are struggling, may struggle in the future. Having just finished a specialised module in pregnancy teachers’ training, I am very excited about really ramping up my prenatal classes and working with pregnant ladies, but I am also feeling inspired about showing those who are trying to fall pregnant, how amazingly beneficial yoga can be in this respect. I was immersing myself in my yoga practice when we were trying to fall pregnant, and I have no doubt that it was one of the things that helped me to just relax, let go and allow myself to surrender to whatever bigger plan was at work for me and my husband. Ironic that we were yet another couple who got to the point of utter desperation (we were actually vehemently warned to stop trying to fall pregnant, as if, by some miracle, fertilisation did take place, it would be guaranteed to be ectopic…) and only then, once we stopped worrying and stressing and trying so hard, the miracles started coming thick and fast.

So, I have been reading up about more and more would-be parents and how they are increasingly turning to yoga for a more natural approach, in an attempt to bypass the conventional infertility treatments that can cause so much emotional stress, financial strain and painful side effects.  According to the authors of Six Steps to Increased Fertility (Simon & Schuster, 2000), 20 percent of couples in the U.S. are estimated to have fertility difficulties (those numbers may be underreported), and in 1999, the newsletter HealthFacts reported that the treatment of infertility is a $2 billion a year industry.

Judith Hanson Lasater (Ph.D., physical therapist and registered yoga teacher and journalist for Yoga Journal) makes an interesting point: that, ironically, yoga poses were traditionally used to decrease the sexual energy of practitioners, following the belief that one could transform sexual energy to make it more available for self-realization. Today, however, the reason that couple are starting to turn to yoga is to increase their chances of pregnancy by lowering stress levels, allowing the energy centered in the pelvis to flow freely, and opening up and softening the pelvic organs. Rather than paraphrasing Judith’s inspiring article on Yoga Journal ( I quote from it below:

“According to Rahul Sachdev, M.D., a specialist in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, New Jersey, incorporating the health-enhancing benefits of yoga with traditional and innovative medical intervention can relieve the stress associated with infertility, thus vastly increasing the chances for conception. “Women who are infertile, especially in the long term, are extremely stressed out,” explains Sachdev. “One study has shown that the stress levels of an infertile woman are actually similar to those of someone just told they have HIV.” Dr. Sachdev says he has no doubt that stress can lead to infertility. “What is controversial,” he adds, “is the question of whether or not stress relief creates fertility.”

The answer to that question seems to be a resounding “yes” for couples who took part in a program supervised by Sachdev at St. Peter’s Medical Center in New Brunswick, New Jersey, which was based on the ongoing programs at the Mind-Body Institute at Harvard University created by Herbert Benson, M.D., researcher and author of The Relaxation Response (Wholecare, 2000). The program incorporated stress reduction practices like yoga and meditation, emotional support such as group discussions and sharing, and changes in diet, including cutting down on caffeine, alcohol, fats, and sugar.

The results were remarkable: Couples had a 50 percent fertility rate within one year of finishing the program. What made the results even more astounding is that regardless of the cause of the woman’s inability to conceive, whether it was unexplained infertility or low sperm counts, participants were helped in encouragingly high numbers.

Other recent evidence echoes the positive effects of yoga for infertile women. In 2000, Harvard Medical School researcher Alice Domar, Ph.D., published the results of a study in Fertility and Sterility (Vol. 73, No. 4) that showed women who participated in her program, which included relaxation and yoga, were almost three times more likely to get pregnant than women who didn’t. In Domar’s 10-week mind-body workshop, 184 infertile women who had been trying to get pregnant for one to two years were put into a cognitive behavioral group. This group received methods for emotional expression, nutrition and exercise information, and relaxation training—including yoga, meditation, muscle relaxation, and imagery. Interestingly, the group also learned cognitive restructuring, identifying recurrent negative thoughts, such as “I will never have a baby” and changing that thought to “I am doing everything I can to get pregnant.” The results: 55 percent of the women in the group using yoga and other techniques got pregnant within a year, in contrast with 20 percent of the women in the control group who conceived in that same time period.

According to Roger Cole, Ph.D., physiologist and yoga teacher, stressful emotions activate the sympathetic nervous system, causing the adrenal glands to release epinephrine into the bloodstream. Many strong emotions like fear and anger, which are actually other names for stress, can cause the body to produce more cortisol and fewer sex hormones. All of these changes are part of the “fight or flight” response, which prepares the body for emergency action but also interferes with its ability to repair itself and digest and assimilate food, and increases the chances of infertility.

One of the most powerful effects of epinephrine is that it constricts blood vessels. Dr. Sachdev says this constriction may also occur in the uterus, thus interfering with conception. This coincides with the yogic idea of apana, the downward moving prana, or energy, which for women is centered in the pelvis. Allowing apana to flow freely could be the key for reproduction to occur. Yoga poses like Salamba Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Supported Bridge Pose, done with the sacrum on a bolster and the knees bent) and Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose) help to gently stimulate apana energy, as well as increase micro-circulation in the reproductive tract.

In addition to allowing apana to move more freely, certain asanas help to soften and “make space” in the pelvis and let go of tension in the abdomen. Women in Salamba Baddha Konasana (Supported Bound Angle Pose) and Savasana (Corpse Pose) should pay special attention to the belly and pelvic region. On the inhalation, they can imagine that the belly is soft and infused with energy; on the exhalation, they can imagine that all impediments to conception are leaving with the breath.

Alice Domar recommends yoga to the participants in her study not only to relax but also to establish a more loving connection with a body they may feel angry at for failing them. Domar also recommends partner yoga because it allows a couple to be physical together in a nonsexual way, since sex often becomes emotionally charged and linked with failure.

The good news is that improving the general health of the whole person, such as getting proper nutrition, sleeping more, cultivating healthy relationships, and keeping a positive body image will greatly increase the chances of fertility. The better news is that couples who successfully use these tools to bring new life into the world often find a whole new lifestyle emerging—one that not only helps them have a baby but that also helps them become less stressed and more patient parents. “I don’t know if yoga is the reason I got pregnant, but it helped us let go of our tension and frustration so much,” Maria says. “We are really grateful we found it.” Maria has also continued her practice after the birth of her child. “It helps my feelings of stress and of being overwhelmed by being a part-time mom and trying to work part-time at home. I can’t imagine my life without it now.”

I echo Maria’s sentiment: I don’t know if it was yoga, letting go, taking the pressure off, a combination of all the above or simply divine intervention, but with such compelling reasons as to how yoga could help with infertility (and with all the normal benefits that it brings), it seems like one of those situations where you have absolutely nothing to lose and an entire world to gain.

Enlightened Motherhood

Isn’t it a gorgeous feeling when you feel that someone ‘gets’ you? As in, really seems to understand you, what’s going on in your head, your life, your heart?

Today was a particularly challenging day what with two niggly children, an errant dog, a collapsed wall, a 3 year-old’s birthday party to plan, my electricity getting cut off because my payment was one whole week late, Internet banking that won’t work for some reason… and have once again been sitting here pondering how very easy it is to just allow oneself to descend into a funk, and how very challenging it can be to keep consciously practicing all those wonderful yogic traits that we know we should be aspiring to and incorporating into our daily lives. I actually emailed The Band earlier (after being particularly revolting and grumpy to him) to apologise for my behaviour, and to try to express how I feel I’m letting not just him but myself down by not being able to practice what I preach all the time.

That in itself helped, in that it gave me pause to reflect on the fact that it has been a pretty full-on day (week) and was a reminder that the very first principle I should be employing here is ‘ahimsa’ – compassion, non-violence, the concept of doing no harm – in deeds as well as thoughts: not just towards the electricity provider or my dear but wayward dog or my beautiful, precious children, but specifically towards myself. Not seeing myself as a failure if I get stressed out when everything goes comprehensively pear-shaped, or feeling frustrated that I’m not managing to do as good a job at being a mum, a wife, a yoga instructor, a friend as I would like. It’s all about growing up I guess, and at least working towards who and how you would like to be, rather than wanting instant gratification and ‘success’, right here and now.

And then I stumbled upon a blog that made me feel even better because it’s so familiar, it was almost as if she had read my mind. Jessica Berger Goss writes for Yoga Journal and I so loved her latest post that I have copied and pasted it below.

To Nag or Not to Nag

November 14, 2011

by Jessica Berger Gross


date.jpgI don’t want to nag. Truly, I don’t. Then why can’t I seem to stop?

 In my ideal world, every word that passes from my lips to my husband’s ears would have to do with deep things, meaningful things, pure things, sattvic things.

 Why then, this morning did I come downstairs and start on my list of THINGS TO DISCUSS.  Chores, bills, decisions, planning, paperwork, the laundry pile.

Have you?

Could you?

Why didn’t you?

None of this feels very yogic, or enlightened.

The problem is, I don’t know if I can stop. If I don’t continually run through the to do list, who will? (I have the great fortune to be married to a kind and good, handsome and gentle, brilliant man who also happens to be the very definition of an absent minded professor, at least when it comes to things around the house.)

That’s what my head says.

My heart says take a moment to become quiet and still. My heart says show my husband how much I love him, instead of how much I want from him. My heart says talk to Neil and explain why keeping the house clean and orderly makes me a happier, healthier person.

I remember–all of a sudden–how much Neil does. Every early morning with Lucien, all those bedtimes.  The bills and his career and figuring out how to fix the broken kitchen cabinet. Reading to Lucien at dinner every night–and that’s after cooking us dinner.

My new intention is to find a way to keep our family moving forward–organized and oiled–without getting bogged down in the process.  My shoulders fall into place down my back even thinking this way.  

I can’t say I will stop reminding, remembering, nudging, but right here I set the intention to put my to do list second and my family first.

Feedback from our Chakra workshop in Stanford

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It was such a strange and wonderful experience to wake up on Saturday morning and know that I was going to be presenting my first joint yoga workshop with my friend and fellow-teacher, Leli Hoch. She is one of those passionate people who makes things happen, and it almost seemed surreal to realise that we weren’t just in the planning phase anymore, but were actually about to roll it out! I lay in bed for a few extra minutes, visualising all the yogis who were also starting to stir and stretch and wake up in their own parts of the Cape, before beginning to make their way towards Stanford.

After picking up my dear friend Claire in Somerset West, we stuck to the N2 to get to Stanford as quickly as possible (even so it took a bit longer than I anticipated, what with getting lost in conversation and admiring the stunning scenery along the way). It was a perfect morning, quite cool but with vibrant patches of blue sky and a beautiful warm sun peeping through the clouds. The venue itself could not have been more lovely. Leli really did herself proud by finding it. The yoga ‘studio’ itself is a renovated old barn with gorgeous reed ceilings, simple wrought iron chandeliers, Cape Dutch windows looking out towards the beautiful mountains and huge expanses of fynbos. The cottages on the farm are all whitewashed with green doors and windowframes, and all in all it was just so tranquil and picturesque.

In the end the studio was pretty much filled to capacity – we had 18 people in total, and it really did lend itself to a very special energy. Once we got started, I experienced a now-familiar sense of wanting to pinch myself to remind myself that this was actually happening, that these people were all here for us, because of us, and reminding myself that my dream of becoming a yoga teacher has actually become a reality! It was a very special moment indeed, and although it felt to me like the morning was over way too quickly, I enjoyed every single minute of it. One of the things that I  most enjoyed is the diversity of the people that came to join us: from all sorts of backgrounds, differing levels of ability (we had some teachers and some beginners and many inbetween) and all ages and stages of life. I truly embrace the fact that yoga can be such a wonderful leveler, helping us all to forget about all the superficial layers of life, and to focus rather on what we have in common and how connected we all are. I had a really powerful, quite emotional moment where we were moving through a sequence of asanas and I found myself marveling at all these beautiful women (interesting that there were no men) who had made the conscious decision to do something so peaceful, so spiritual, so gentle, so positive on a Saturday morning. There wasn’t the chance to have any indepth conversations with anyone afterwards, but I genuinely felt a very real connection to every single person who was there, and I feel inordinately privileged to have the opportunity to come into contact with them, even just for a few hours of my life.

We closed the workshop with tea and Leli’s spectacular ginger cake and crunchies in the sunshine afterwards (is there no end to this woman’s talent?!) before all going our seperate ways. I hope that everyone enjoyed it as much as Leli and I did. We have a lot to learn and have had some very valuable feedback from some of those who attended, so we look forward to getting better and better, and appreciate the learning opportunity.

Claire and I took a slow drive back to Stellenbosch, going via Kleinmond to pop in to visit another friend and fellow-teacher, Corinne, who is also The Potter (I put it in capitals as she really is the only one who is worthy of wearing that crown) – another supremely talented person who is a wonderful artist both in and out of her yoga studio.  Clarence Drive was as spectacular as ever, with beautiful stormy weather and clouds pouring down over the mountains towards the sea. A perfect ending to a very special morning.

A big thank you to everyone who came, and also to the lovely Nina from Yoga Awakening Africa for donating all the YAA magazines.

Some of the comments we have received:

“Thank you for the lovely Chakra Yoga class. It was a wonderful experience!  We thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of the class, specifically the walking and eating meditation. We also loved the gentle breath work and visualization techniques that accompanied the various sets of asana’s.  There is nothing that we would change about the practice, however we would love to try the Rainbow meditation next time. We would also like to thank you for the lovely tea and cake. ”

“You two make a lovely yoga teaching team…so we were blessed as well! Thanks for a stunning time!!! My only complaint is that it was to short…maybe till 13h would have been good. I would also like to have a full day in the winter months when I’m not so busy at the guest house!”

“Loved the morning… really liked the venue, the light, the meditations, the quietness, the sequence, the enjoyed the sway between the two of you, the cake and crunchies ofcourse delicious, inspiration as one finds in such spaces of intention… to connect… ofcourse… needed more hands on adjustment where needed if needed.   Maybe some more time during savasana …  I was just so happy to be there and receiving all the benefits that these small details  really are small in comparison to the goodness of the experience – thank both so much!   Hope we can look forward to more classes of this nature.”

Countdown to Chakra-time

Less than 24 hours from now, my friend/fellow yoga teacher, Leli Hoch, and I will be just coming to the end of presenting our first joint yoga workshop. I am so looking forward to it! We did our teachers training together at Ananda Sanga in Somerset West but even though we have the same theoretical background, our personal styles are quite different and I think they will complement each other beautifully. We are expecting about 15 people so there will be a wonderful energy. Ooh, I can’t wait!

The theme of the workshop is ‘Balancing your Chakras’ and we have put together a sequence of mini-classes that will talk to each chakra individually, including specifically chosen pranayama and meditation for each one.

We are presenting it at the beautiful Stanford Valley Guest Farm I am looking forward to getting out to the Overberg almost as much as I am doing the actual workshop. If I wake up early enough, I will take the coastal route via Clarence Drive, which surely has to be one of the most scenic routes in the world. It is one of the things that makes my heart swell with pride at being South African. The Amalfi Coast in Italy is breathtaking and the Pacific Coast Highway via Big Sur in California is absolutely spectacular, but I still think that this takes the cake. Of course I am biaised! But I am allowed to be. Surely that’s what being patriotic is all about?

The last time Leli and I did something together was when we attended a Southern Africa Yoga Safari retreat with the awesome Cheryl Lancellas in early October. It was at the Blue Butterfly Retreat centre just outside Tulbagh, and a truly memorable experience (more about that in another blog). Our dear friend and fellow teacher, Nicole Shea, also attended with us, before coldheartedly abandoning us to join her husband in Malaysia (we miss you, Nicole). It was not just a wonderfully restorative weekend but also huge fun getting to know each other a bit better, and I really look forward to the next one.

Who knows, maybe if this workshop is a success (as I am fully expecting it to be), Leli and I will be able to roll it out internationally… Malaysia here we come!


Not green after all: why my studio will be a beautiful shade of violet.

The color purple is the color of
the imagination and spirituality

 The more I read up about this, the more it seems that the colour purple (violet – or in my case, the shade from which aubergine originates) is the way to go. I was loving green, but then when I went into the paint shop to buy the stuff, it just looked so pedestrian and tame…

The color purple relates to the imagination and spirituality. It stimulates the imagination and inspires high ideals. It is an introspective color, allowing us to get in touch with our deeper thoughts. Just perfect for a studio.

The difference between violet and purple is that violet appears in the visible light spectrum, or rainbow, whereas purple is simply a mix of red and blue. Violet has the highest vibration in the visible spectrum.

While the violet is not quite as intense as purple, its essence is similar. Generally the names are interchangeable and the meaning of the colors is similar. Both contain the energy and strength of red with the spirituality and integrity of blue. This is the union of body and soul creating a balance between our physical and our spiritual energies.

Purple or violet assists those who seek the meaning of life and spiritual fulfillment – it expands our awareness, connecting us to a higher consciousness. This is yoga! For this reason it is associated with transformation of the soul and the philosophers of the world are often attracted to it. In the meaning of colors, purple and violet represent the future, the imagination and dreams, while spiritually calming the emotions. They inspire and enhance psychic ability and spiritual enlightenment, while, at the same time, keeping us grounded.

The color violet relates to the fantasy world, and a need to escape from the practicalities of life. It is the daydreamer escaping from reality.

From a color psychology perspective, purple and violet promote harmony of the mind and the emotions, contributing to mental balance and stability, peace of mind, a link between the spiritual and the physical worlds, between thought and activity. Violet and purple support the practice of meditation.

The color violet inspires unconditional and selfless love, devoid of ego, encouraging sensitivity and compassion. Violet can be sensitive to all the different forms of pollution in the world today, whether it be air pollution, noise pollution, visual pollution or the pollution in our food chain. This sensitivity makes violet susceptible to illness and allergies, vulnerable to its everyday surroundings.

Violet encourages creative pursuits and seeks inspiration and originality through its creative endeavors. It likes to be unique, individual and independent, not one of the crowd. Artists, musicians, writers, poets and psychics are all inspired by violet and its magic and mystery.

Violet is the color of the humanitarian, using its better judgment to do good for others. Combining wisdom and power with sensitivity and humility, violet can achieve a lot for those less fortunate.

The color purple is specifically associated with royalty and the nobility, creating an impression of luxury, wealth and extravagance.

Purple has power. It has a richness and quality to it that demands respect. Purple is ambitious and self-assured, the leader.

Positive keywords include unusual and individual, creative and inventive, psychic and intuitive, humanitarian, selfless and unlimited, mystery, fantasy and the future.

Some of the things that the colour purple/violet is said to represent:

Inspiration: Original and sound ideas are created with violet – some say to use it when looking for inspiration during brainstorming sessions.

Imagination: Violet inspires creativity with intellect – it is also stimulating to dream activity.

Individuality: Violet is unconventional, individual and original. It hates to copy anyone else and likes to do its own thing.

Spirituality: Violet assists us during prayer and meditation, helping us to get in touch with our deeper subconscious thoughts. This is presumably why many churches feature violet in their stained glass windows.

Now to just get started with painting my studio!

Wrestling with Patanjali

Despite my best efforts, tonight I am struggling with some very simple yogic principles. If we go back to the basics, it’s all about the ‘Yamas’ – principles of self restraint, as in the Yogic doctrine. These are things that we should aim to avoid in order to avoid causing harm to the individual or society as a whole.  It basically taps into why, if you just focus on the physical aspect of yoga (as so many practioners are want to do thesedays), you are unlikely to make much advancement upon the spiritual path.

I embrace these principles and I am working hard to incorporate them into my daily life. Yet, tonight I find myself feeling, well, pissed off with one of my most dear people in the whole world, and struggling with the whole concept of practicing compassion and forgiveness. I probably just need some time to sort through all these thoughts in my head. A good night’s sleep will definitely help, and I know that it will all look better in the morning. But I am struck by how simple it is to practice these principles when one is feeling good about life in general, and then when life throws you a curveball, you really need to dig deep to keep living them. It’s a fact though: the people who you love most are the ones who can most let you down if you feel they haven’t come to the (theoretical) party. And right now (even though I’ve settled down from a roar to a gentle hum) I am feeling a bit challenged in terms of being accepting, loving, and non-judgemental to the person in question. It really is a case of putting theory into practice, and it’s not always easy.

And so I continue along my spiritual path as referred to above… (much more about the Yamas and Niyamas at a later date).

Yoga for people who can’t be bothered to do it

A great book review by Getaway Magazine’s Adel Groenewald: I was automatically drawn to the title and had a good giggle when I read the final line: ‘…the wandering, fragmented journey is an enthralling read for anyone not looking for self-help and inspiration’.

Reciting this rather lengthy name in a bookstore usually results in a referral to the yoga/self-help section. Yet this collection of travel tales is quite literally the opposite. Geoff Dyer is on an undirected, and rather unmotivated, search of his home. He’s certain that his real home is not it, one of his reasons being that the most memorable moments in his life happened away from this home. Yoga for people who can’t be bothered to do it is a memoir of personal experiences as Dyer explores the world in his laid back fashion, guided by his own curiosities and moods rather than guidebook activities.

Whether it be in New Orleans or Paris, Dyer is never a tourist. Rather, he goes to these places to do ordinary activities in them. While in Cambodia he writes: “Some men are fussy about always going to the same barber – or hairdresser, rather – but I like having my hair cut by cheap barbers all over the world.” He tends to deromanticise places, making them seem even more attractive than in standard, idyllic descriptions. Yet there are a few places that forced even him stop in his tracks and stare in amazement.

Dyer is an honest writer. While in Ubud with his girlfriend he admits to completely forgetting some of the scenery and casually confesses that these details are lost forever. When lonely in Detroit he makes no secret of his less than enthusiasm for being there, but knows that it’s better than being at home. His conversational style gives the reader the privilege of being his best friend on the road, there for the crazy times and there for the sad times.

Each chapter jumps to a different, and sometimes unexpected, country. But there’s a lot of fun to be had as Dyer takes the reader to a full moon party in Taiwan and chases after the ultimate Amsterdam experience. He stays true to his personality and tends to find himself in several hilarious situations. Whether he finally finds his true home is for you to find out. Either way, the wandering, fragmented journey is an enthralling read for anyone not looking for self-help and inspiration.

Yoga for people who can’t be bothered to do it (257 pages) is published by Vintage and costs about R120.

Some more info about pregnancy yoga classes

With thanks to Nina from Yoga Awakening Africa (awesome chick) and Anne Combrink of Ananda Sanga (my own personal guru):

Some more info about pregnancy yoga classes.

Pregnancy Yoga classes, taught by a Yoga Teacher with additional and specialised training in this field, provide opportunities for expectant women to develop greater vitality and awareness of their bodies. These classes also deepen their relationship with their unborn baby. Gentle postures, breathing, visualization and relaxation are learned which cultivate flexibility, calmness and confidence in preparation for labour and childbirth. Women are empowered to develop their ability to access greater relaxation, comfort and enjoyment. Calm, strength and flexibility ease the birthing process, thus reducing pain and increasing the joy of giving birth. With the guidance of the Pregnancy Yoga Teacher, women prepare for an active, normal and natural birth.

Birth and Nurturing the Baby are Natural.
It may seem strange that a mother needs to prepare for birth and motherhood; after all they are completely natural, instinctive and biological functions. Women’s bodies are ideally designed and adapted to carry, give birth to and nourish their young, just like any other mammal. However, unlike other mammals, humans appear to be the only species that has such difficulty fulfilling this instinctive potential.

This has not always been the case though. Many cultures, throughout the ages, have honoured and respected the power of women to give birth and nurture their young as central to life. It is only in our ‘modernized’ world that the power of women as birth-givers has been steadily degraded and replaced by the science of obstetrics.

Why Practice Yoga in Pregnancy?
Attending yoga classes that are specifically adapted for the pregnant woman means that a conscious choice has been made to devote some time to honouring and nurturing yourself and your unborn baby during this special time. As yoga brings your mind and awareness into your body it awakens the awareness of your baby inside and deepens your connection with your child. You will feel more in touch with your inner self, more connected to nature and you begin to discover that the power to give birth and nurture your baby lies within yourself. This is also very helpful after the birth.

Physically …
During pregnancy, energy levels fluctuate and may leave you feeling exhausted for no reason. Your body is using enormous amounts of energy to ‘create’ a brand new human being and misusing your body can result in excess tiredness. Physically, yoga teaches how to keep the posture correct as the centre of gravity changes throughout the nine months; it strengthens the back, tummy, shoulder, arm and leg muscles to be able to carry the baby comfortably and easily; it keeps you fit and thus an adequate supply of oxygen and nutrients flowing around the body and to the baby; it improves circulation of other fluids in the body helping to prevent swollen ankles and other oedemas. These seem to be ‘side benefits’ when you consider how yoga prepares the body physically for the birth. It helps to open up the hips and pelvis, creates more flexibility, and strengthens muscles that are needed for the ‘pushing’ stage of labour. After all, what does ‘labour’ mean – hard physical work! Therefore it makes sense to prepare the body with stretching, breathing and physical exercise.

Mentally and Emotionally ….
On other levels, yoga helps to bring your whole being into balance. It influences the mind and body positively, benefiting you emotionally. Yoga, especially with a focus on breathing, quietens the mind, allowing you to feel more peaceful within yourself. It is calming and reduces anxiety – you feel more present in your body and thus mentally and emotionally balanced.

Pregnancy is a natural state of ecstasy and celebration. There are many peaceful and blissful times to be enjoyed during these months. Yoga can help you make the most of the contentment, well-being and fulfilment which women can experience when they are pregnant. Its benefits will continue in the many pleasurable hours you will spend with your baby after the birth.

Preparing for Birth and Coping with Labour
In most traditional societies, women are encouraged in pregnancy to build up their strength and improve their fitness in readiness for the birth. On the whole they give birth easily and we can do the same.

The processes of birth are involuntary, they happen without your conscious control. The sensations experienced during the hours of labour as your body opens to give birth are very powerful. They take you to your limits of endurance. There are times of extremes both pain and pleasure, ecstatic highs and deep dark lows involved in the extraordinary inner journey which brings your baby to birth.  Yoga is a wonderful preparation for this. It teaches you to make space between thoughts to focus on what you are feeling in your body and to surrender and let go, which is exactly what you need to do during labour.

Breathing lies at the very heart of yoga practice – without mindfulness of breath the postures are lifeless and static. In Pregnancy Yoga classes breathing correctly and deeply, as well as using the breath as a focus, is learned. Breathing properly throughout pregnancy and labour are important for your baby, who is depending on you for his/her oxygen supply. To be able to concentrate on the breath – the source of all life – can help you get through the most difficult times in your labour.

Many of the yoga postures learned in the class are similar to the positions women instinctively assume in labour. These positions are then spontaneously applied during the labour allowing comfort and ease for the different stages.

Overall Benefits of Pregnancy Yoga
All in all the practice of yoga brings awareness of breath, body, mind and feelings, which enables the mother-to-be to stay in harmony with her child throughout her pregnancy. It gives her the confidence to follow her instincts while giving birth and as a mother.

For more information: contact me at or call or sms me on +27 78 563 8152. I look forward to hearing from you!

Anne Combrinck (BSc; NHD(Chem); YTC; YTherapyDip), a Yoga Teacher and mother, used yoga to prepare for her son’s birth and has been teaching yoga to pregnant (and post-natal) women for many years.

She also trains Yoga Teachers and facilitates a workshop to further train Yoga Teachers to specialise in Pregnancy Yoga Teaching. There is a Pregnancy Yoga Teacher training workshop coming up in November 2011.

Contact her for more information: Tel:(021) 855-1470 or email: