More coverage about my studio in Yoga Awakening Africa

New studio open in Stellenbosch

DECEMBER 1, 2011
Beautiful new studio has now opened in Stellenbosch

Yoga with Nicci.

This studio is situated 16 Die Laan, Stellenbosch.  Nicci has a beautiful studio in the wonderfully historic area of Stellenbosch where she teaches Hatha Yoga in the Integral Vinyasa style.
She teaches a gentle style of yoga with a lot of emphasis on warming up the body thoroughly before and throughout the practice, so the risk of injury is minimal. Whilst you enjoy all the benefits of a wonderful physical workout, the emphasis is on mindfulness and constantly bringing the awareness back to the breath: the focus of the practice is to bring mind, body and spirit into a state of balance and harmony. Every class ends with a period of relaxation, which is one of the most important elements of the class.

Beginners are welcome.
All levels of yoga are taught
Pre-natal (pregnancy yoga) classes.
There is ample, free parking and a separate, private changing / shower area.

Be sure to visit this beautiful new studio the next time you are in Stellenbosch

Contact Nicci for class times and rates | |             +27 78 56 38 152       |


My interview with Yoga Awakening Africa

YAA Interview: Nicci Annette

DECEMBER 1, 2011

1.       Name: Nicci Annette

2.       DOB: 3rd October 1973

3.       What style of yoga do you teach? I teach Hatha yoga in the Integral Vinyasa style.

4.       Where do you teach? At my studio in a beautiful leafy street in the centre of historic Stellenbosch.

5.       How long have you been practicing yoga? For almost fifteen years.

6.       How long have you been teaching yoga? I’ve taught informally friends and family for a number of years, but have been officially teaching since May this year.

7.       Who have you trained with and where? I attended an intensive Teachers’ Training Immersion course in Santa Monica in 2007 with Patti Quintero and Billy Asad, and after moving back to South Africa in 2008 and having my two beautiful children, I completed my 200 hours YTT with Anne and Martin Combrinck at Ananda Sanga in Somerset West earlier this year. I will have gained my certification for specialised prenatal yoga teachers’ training by the end of December, having just completed this course, once again with Anne Combrinck at Ananda Sanga.

8.       What lead you to teaching yoga and at what point did you decide that you wanted to teach? I have been inspired by a number of incredible teachers through the years and have been humbled by their wisdom, how much they could teach me, and what a difference they made to so many lives, on so many levels – physical, emotional, spiritual. I started toying with the idea of teaching when I lived in California, and it was after attending the Immersion Course with Billy and Patti that I knew for sure that this is what I wanted to do with my life.

9.       What do you love most about teaching? It’s hard to pick only one thing! I love being able to share my passion and to spread the word about how yoga can transform lives. But if I have to choose one thing, it would probably be the beautiful sense of peace and calm that fills the studio at the end of a class – the way that yoga has the ability to calm and restore even the most frazzled mind and body.

10.   What do you love most about yoga? I love the fact that it is such an ancient philosophy, yet is so relevant to modern life.

11.   What is the greatest challenge you have overcome with the help of yoga? I struggled for a long time to make peace with the idea of God, a greater force, the powers that be, call it what you will.  I was spiritual but didn’t want to label myself or put myself in a box. I felt uncomfortable with how judgemental orthodox religions could be. I felt confused as to what the ‘right’ answer was, and how to make sense of this niggling feeling that there must be more than the ‘here and now’, yet how it could possibly be just one answer or explanation when so many people believe such different things. Yoga gave me a way to understand that there is a spiritual unity behind all the diversities in the entire creation and that ultimately there is a way for all to live harmoniously as members of one universal family.

12.   What advice do you have for people who have never tried yoga? Take off your shoes, open your mind and just try it. It may be the best thing you ever do.

13.   Do you have a regular practice? With two very busy children under the age of 3, it’s sometimes a challenge to find a regular time, but I do my best to incorporate it into my daily life.

14.   Favourite Asana? Chakrasana

15.   Strongest Asana? Virabhadrasana II

16.   Least Favourite Asana? Padmasana

17.   What are your other interests? I’m an Infant Massage Instructor and the whole space of mums and babies is one of my great passions. I love reading, walking in the mountains, playing my guitar, spending time with my family and friends.

18.   Any thank yous? My wonderful husband who has supported me both practically and emotionally in following my dream of becoming a yoga teacher. My parents for selflessly offering me the space for my studio. And all the wise teachers who have gone before me and paved the way for me to continue my own journey.


Beautifully explained: The Eight Limbs of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra

For anyone who has wondered about what the ‘Eightfold path’ is all about, and what on earth the Yoga Sutras of the sage Patanjali were talking about, this is a superb article that sums it all up.

The Eight Limbs , The Core of Yoga by William J.D. Doran

The practice of yoga is an art and science dedicated to creating union between body, mind and spirit. Its objective is to assist the practitioner in using the breath and body to foster an awareness of ourselves as individualized beings intimately connected to the unified whole of creation. In short it is about making balance and creating equanimity so as to live in peace, good health and harmony with the greater whole.

This art of right living was perfected and practiced in India thousands of years ago and the foundations of yoga philosophy were written down in The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, approximately 200 AD. This sacred text describes the inner workings of the mind and provides an eight-step blueprint for controlling its restlessness so as to enjoying lasting peace.

The core of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra is an eight-limbed path that forms the structural framework for yoga practice. Upon practicing all eight limbs of the path it becomes self-evident that no one element is elevated over another in a hierarchical order. Each is part of a holistic focus which eventually brings completeness to the individual as they find their connectivity to the divine. Because we are all uniquely individual a person can emphasize one branch and then move on to another as they round out their understanding.

In brief the eight limbs, or steps to yoga, are as follows:

Yama : Universal morality

Niyama : Personal observances

Asanas : Body postures

Pranayama : Breathing exercises, and control of prana

Pratyahara : Control of the senses

Dharana : Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness

Dhyana : Devotion, Meditation on the Divine

Samadhi : Union with the Divine

The first two limbs that Patanjali describes are the fundamental ethical precepts called yamas, and the niyamas. These can also be looked at as universal morality and personal observances. Yamas and niyamas are the suggestions given on how we should deal with people around us and our attitude toward ourselves. The attitude we have toward things and people outside ourselves is yama, how we relate to ourselves inwardly is niyama. Both are mostly concerned with how we use our energy in relationship to others and to ourselves.

The yamas are broken down into five “wise characteristics.”

Rather than a list of dos and don’ts, “they tell us that our fundamental nature is compassionate, generous, honest and peaceful.” They are as follows:

I. Yamas (Universal Morality)

1. Ahimsa – Compassion for all living things The word ahimsa literally mean not to injure or show cruelty to any creature or any person in any way whatsoever. Ahimsa is, however, more than just lack of violence as adapted in yoga. It means kindness, friendliness, and thoughtful consideration of other people and things. It also has to do with our duties and responsibilities too. Ahimsa implies that in every situation we should adopt a considerate attitude and do no harm.

2. Satya – Commitment to Truthfulness Satya means “to speak the truth,” yet it is not always desirable to speak the truth on all occasions, for it could harm someone unnecessarily. We have to consider what we say, how we say it, and in what way it could affect others. If speaking the truth has negative consequences for another, then it is better to say nothing. Satya should never come into conflict with our efforts to behave with ahimsa. This precept is based on the understanding that honest communication and action form the bedrock of any healthy relationship, community, or government, and that deliberate deception, exaggerations, and mistruths harm others.

3. Asteya – Non-stealing Steya means “to steal”; asteya is the opposite-to take nothing that does not belong to us. This also means that if we are in a situation where someone entrusts something to us or confides in us, we do not take advantage of him or her. Non-stealing includes not only taking what belongs to another without permission, but also using something for a different purpose to that intended, or beyond the time permitted by its owner. The practice of asteya implies not taking anything that has not been freely given. This includes fostering a consciousness of how we ask for others’ time for inconsiderate behavior demanding another’s attention when not freely given is, in effect, stealing.

4. Brahmacharya – Sense control Brahmacharya is used mostly in the sense of abstinence, particularly in relationship to sexual activity. Brahmacharya suggests that we should form relationships that foster our understanding of the highest truths. Brahmacharya does not necessarily imply celibacy. Rather, it means responsible behavior with respect to our goal of moving toward the truth. Practicing brahmacharya means that we use our sexual energy to regenerate our connection to our spiritual self. It also means that we don’t use this energy in any way that might harm others.

5. Aparigraha – Neutralizing the desire to acquire and hoard wealth Aparigraha means to take only what is necessary, and not to take advantage of a situation or act greedy. We should only take what we have earned; if we take more, we are exploiting someone else. The yogi feels that the collection or hoarding of things implies a lack of faith in God and in himself to provide for his future.v Aparigraha also implies letting go of our attachments to things and an understanding that impermanence and change are the only constants. The Yoga Sutra describes what happens when these five behaviors outlined above become part of a person’s daily life. Thus, the yamas are the moral virtues which, if attended to, purify human nature and contribute to health and happiness of society.

II. Niyama (Personal Observances) Niyama means “rules” or “laws.” These are the rules prescribed for personal observance. Like the yamas, the five niyamas are not exercises or actions to be simply studied. They represent far more than an attitude. Compared with the yamas, the niyamas are more intimate and personal. They refer to the attitude we adopt toward ourselves as we create a code for living soulfully

1. Sauca – Purity The first niyama is sauca, meaning purity and cleanliness. Sauca has both an inner and an outer aspect. Outer cleanliness simply means keeping ourselves clean. Inner cleanliness has as much to do with the healthy, free functioning of our bodily organs as with the clarity of our mind. Practicing asanas or pranayama are essential means for attending to this inner sauca. Asanas tones the entire body and removes toxins while pranayama cleanses our lungs, oxygenates our blood and purifies our nerves. “But more important than the physical cleansing of the body is the cleansing of the mind of its disturbing emotions like hatred, passion, anger, lust, greed, delusion and pride.”

2. Santosa – Contentment Another niyama is santosa, modesty and the feeling of being content with what we have. To be at peace within and content with one’s lifestyle finding contentment even while experiencing life’s difficulties for life becomes a process of growth through all kinds of circumstances. We should accept that there is a purpose for everything – yoga calls it karma – and we cultivate contentment ‘to accept what happens’. It means being happy with what we have rather than being unhappy about what we don’t have.

3. Tapas – Disciplined use of our energy Tapas refers to the activity of keeping the body fit or to confront and handle the inner urges without outer show. Literally it means to heat the body and, by so doing, to cleanse it. Behind the notion of tapas lies the idea we can direct our energy to enthusiastically engage life and achieve our ultimate goal of creating union with the Divine. Tapas helps us burn up all the desires that stand in our way of this goal. Another form of tapas is paying attention to what we eat. Attention to body posture, attention to eating habits, attention to breathing patterns – these are all tapas.

4. Svadhyaya – Self study The fourth niyama is svadhyaya. Sva means “self’ adhyaya means “inquiry” or “examination”. Any activity that cultivates self-reflective consciousness can be considered svadhyaya. It means to intentionally find self-awareness in all our activities and efforts, even to the point of welcoming and accepting our limitations. It teaches us to be centered and non-reactive to the dualities, to burn out unwanted and self-destructive tendencies.

5. Isvarapranidhana – Celebration of the Spiritual Isvarapranidhana means “to lay all your actions at the feet of God.” It is the contemplation on God (Isvara) in order to become attuned to god and god’s will. It is the recognition that the spiritual suffuses everything and through our attention and care we can attune ourselves with our role as part of the Creator. The practice requires that we set aside some time each day to recognize that there is some omnipresent force larger than ourselves that is guiding and directing the course of our lives.

III. Asanas (Body postures) Asana is the practice of physical postures. It is the most commonly known aspect of yoga for those unfamiliar with the other seven limbs of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. The practice of moving the body into postures has widespread benefits; of these the most underlying are improved health, strength, balance and flexibility. On a deeper level the practice of asana, which means “staying” or “abiding” in Sanskrit, is used as a tool to calm the mind and move into the inner essence of being. The challenge of poses offers the practitioner the opportunity to explore and control all aspects of their emotions, concentration, intent, faith, and unity between the physical and the ethereal body. Indeed, using asanas to challenge and open the physical body acts as a binding agent to bring one in harmony with all the unseen elements of their being, the forces that shape our lives through our responses to the physical world. Asana then becomes a way of exploring our mental attitudes and strengthening our will as we learn to release and move into the state of grace that comes from creating balance between our material world and spiritual experience. As one practices asana it fosters a quieting of the mind, thus it becomes both a preparation for meditation and a meditation sufficient in and of itself. Releasing to the flow and inner strength that one develops brings about a profound grounding spirituality in the body. The physicality of the yoga postures becomes a vehicle to expand the consciousness that pervades our every aspect of our body. The key to fostering this expansion of awareness and consciousness begins with the control of breath, the fourth limb – Pranayama. Patanjali suggests that the asana and the pranayama practices will bring about the desired state of health; the control of breath and bodily posture will harmonize the flow of energy in the organism, thus creating a fertile field for the evolution of the spirit. “This down-to-earth, flesh-and-bones practice is simply one of the most direct and expedient ways to meet yourself. … This limb of yoga practice reattaches us to our body. In reattaching ourselves to our bodies we reattach ourselves to the responsibility of living a life guided by the undeniable wisdom of our body.” To this B.K.S. Iyengar adds: “The needs of the body are the needs of the divine spirit which lives through the body. The yogi does not look heaven-ward to find God for he know that He is within.”

IV. Pranayama (Breath Control) Pranayama is the measuring, control, and directing of the breath. Pranayama controls the energy (prana) within the organism, in order to restore and maintain health and to promote evolution. When the in-flowing breath is neutralized or joined with the out-flowing breath, then perfect relaxation and balance of body activities are realized. In yoga, we are concerned with balancing the flows of vital forces, then directing them inward to the chakra system and upward to the crown chakra. Pranayama, or breathing technique, is very important in yoga. It goes hand in hand with the asana or pose. In the Yoga Sutra, the practices of pranayama and asana are considered to be the highest form of purification and self discipline for the mind and the body, respectively. The practices produce the actual physical sensation of heat, called tapas, or the inner fire of purification. It is taught that this heat is part of the process of purifying the nadis, or subtle nerve channels of the body. This allows a more healthful state to be experienced and allows the mind to become more calm. As the yogi follows the proper rhythmic patterns of slow deep breathing “the patterns strengthen the respiratory system, soothe the nervous system and reduce craving. As desires and cravings diminish, the mind is set free and becomes a fit vehicle for concentration.”

V. Pratyahara (Control of the Senses) Pratyahara means drawing back or retreat. The word ahara means “nourishment”; pratyahara translates as “to withdraw oneself from that which nourishes the senses.” In yoga, the term pratyahara implies withdrawal of the senses from attachment to external objects. It can then be seen as the practice of non-attachment to sensorial distractions as we constantly return to the path of self realization and achievement of internal peace. It means our senses stop living off the things that stimulate; the senses no longer depend on these stimulants and are not fed by them any more. In pratyahara we sever this link between mind and senses, and the senses withdraw. When the senses are no longer tied to external sources, the result is restraint or pratyahara. Now that the vital forces are flowing back to the Source within, one can concentrate without being distracted by externals or the temptation to cognize externals. Pratyahara occurs almost automatically when we meditate because we are so absorbed in the object of meditation. Precisely because the mind is so focused, the senses follow it; it is not happening the other way around. No longer functioning in their usual manner, the senses become extraordinarily sharp. Under normal circumstances the senses become our masters rather than being our servants. The senses entice us to develop cravings for all sorts of things. In pratyahara the opposite occurs: when we have to eat we eat, but not because we have a craving for food. In pratyahara we try to put the senses in their proper place, but not cut them out of our actions entirely. Much of our emotional imbalance are our own creation. A person who is influenced by outside events and sensations can never achieve the inner peace and tranquility. This is because he or she will waste much mental and physical energy in trying to suppress unwanted sensations and to heighten other sensations. This will eventually result in a physical or mental imbalance, and will, in most instances, result in illness. Patanjali says that the above process is at the root of human unhappiness and uneasiness. When people seek out yoga, hoping to find that inner peace which is so evasive, they find that it was theirs all along. In a sense, yoga is nothing more than a process which enables us to stop and look at the processes of our own minds; only in this way can we understand the nature of happiness and unhappiness, and thus transcend them both.

VI. Dharana (Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness) Dharana means “immovable concentration of the mind”. The essential idea is to hold the concentration or focus of attention in one direction. “When the body has been tempered by asanas, when the mind has been refined by the fire of pranayama and when the senses have been brought under control by pratyahara, the sadhaka (seeker) reaches the sixth stage, dharana. Here he is concentrated wholly on a single point or on a task in which he is completely engrossed. The mind has to be stilled in order to achieve this state of complete absorption.”xiii In dharana we create the conditions for the mind to focus its attention in one direction instead of going out in many different directions. Deep contemplation and reflection can create the right conditions, and the focus on this one point that we have chosen becomes more intense. We encourage one particular activity of the mind and, the more intense it becomes, the more the other activities of the mind fall away. The objective in dharana is to steady the mind by focusing its attention upon some stable entity. The particular object selected has nothing to do with the general purpose, which is to stop the mind from wandering -through memories, dreams, or reflective thought-by deliberately holding it single-mindedly upon some apparently static object. B.K.S. Iyengar states that the objective is to achieve the mental state where the mind, intellect, and ego are “all restrained and all these faculties are offered to the Lord for His use and in His service. Here there is no feeling of ‘I’ and ‘mine’.”  When the mind has become purified by yoga practices, it becomes able to focus efficiently on one subject or point of experience. Now we can unleash the great potential for inner healing.

VII. Dhyana (Devotion , Meditation on the Divine) Dhyana means worship, or profound and abstract religious meditation. It is perfect contemplation. It involves concentration upon a point of focus with the intention of knowing the truth about it. The concept holds that when one focuses their mind in concentration on an object the mind is transformed into the shape of the object. Hence, when one focuses on the divine they become more reflective of it and they know their true nature. “His body, breath, senses, mind, reason and ego are all integrated in the object of his contemplation – the Universal Spirit.”xv During dhyana, the consciousness is further unified by combining clear insights into distinctions between objects and between the subtle layers of perception. “We learn to differentiate between the mind of the perceiver, the means of perception, and the objects perceived, between words, their meanings, and ideas, and between all the levels of evolution of nature.” As we fine-tune our concentration and become more aware of the nature of reality we perceive that the world is unreal. “The only reality is the universal self, or God, which is veiled by Maya (the illusory power). As the veils are lifted, the mind becomes clearer. Unhappiness and fear – even the fear of death – vanishes. This state of freedom, or Moksha, is the goal of Yoga. It can be reached by constant enquiry into the nature of things.” Meditation becomes our tool to see things clearly and perceive reality beyond the illusions that cloud our mind.

VIII. Samadhi (Union with the Divine) The final step in the eight-fold path of Yoga is the attainment of Samadhi. Samadhi means “to bring together, to merge.” In the state of samadhi the body and senses are at rest, as if asleep, yet the faculty of mind and reason are alert, as if awake; one goes beyond consciousness. During samadhi, we realize what it is to be an identity without differences, and how a liberated soul can enjoy pure awareness of this pure identity. The conscious mind drops back into that unconscious oblivion from which it first emerged. Thus, samadhi refers to union or true Yoga. There is an ending to the separation that is created by the “I” and “mine” of our illusory perceptions of reality. The mind does not distinguish between self and non-self, or between the object contemplated and the process of contemplation. The mind and the intellect have stopped and there is only the experience of consciousness, truth and unutterable joy. The achievement of samadhi is a difficult task. For this reason the Yoga Sutra suggests the practice of asanas and pranayama as preparation for dharana, because these influence mental activities and create space in the crowded schedule of the mind. Once dharana has occurred, dhyana and samadhi can follow. These eight steps of yoga indicate a logical pathway that leads to the attainment of physical, ethical, emotional, and psycho-spiritual health. Yoga does not seek to change the individual; rather, it allows the natural state of total health and integration in each of us to become a reality.

Sources: HolisticOnLine Yoga Mind, Body & Spirit, by Donna Farhi Light On Yoga, by B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga Mind & Body, Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center The Essence of Yoga, Reflections on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, by Bernard Bouanchaud Notes: Yoga Mind, Body & Spirit, by Donna Farhi, page 7. Donna Farhi, page 9. Light On Yoga, by B.K.S. Iyengar, page 34. Farhi, page 11. Iyengar, page 35. Iyengar, page 36. Farhi, page 15. Farhi, page 17. HolisticOnLine Iyengar, page 41. Iyengar, page 44. HolisticOnLine Iyengar, page 48 Iyengar, page 49 Iyengar, page 51 HolisticOnLine Yoga Mind & Body, Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center, page 154 HolisticOnLine

Of Beheaded Puffs and Bouncing Hadedas **

Over the course of last weekend, I had three separate and chilling experiences of the blinding lack of respect for life that so many people seem to have.

Okay, The Band refers to me as a bunny hugger, and he has a point: I have been brought up that way and I can’t actually imagine living my life in any other way. I have no doubt that to many, many people, I am the weird one, who chooses to rather scoop a spider up in a glass and release it outside than stomp on it; who would take the time to fish the odd bee, beetle or bug out of the pool before diving in myself; who would swerve to drive around a chameleon on the road (safely, of course!) and then pull off and park to run back into the oncoming traffic to rescue it, rather than have it squashed to a pulp.

I don’t expect that everyone should share my opinions, and I am fortunately way past the age where I used to see it as my duty to try and bring people around to my way of thinking. It was exhausting, and I would inevitably get too emotional about it all and lose my credibility (if I had any to start with).

Now, I just listen, or watch, and then make up my own mind about who is a kindred spirit, or who I can still enjoy time with, but who is definitely not someone that I ‘get’ or who ‘gets’ me.

So, back to this past weekend. On the Friday night, during a truly special evening in the most spectacular setting, where I was feeling very excited about being in the company of a group of supposedly like-minded people, the host took great relish in describing exactly how he beheaded, with an axe, a huge puffadder in the garage a few days before. Don’t get me wrong, I realise that they have small children and pets and need to look after their own, but for heaven’s sake: they live on the slopes of a mountain covered with fynbos, and inevitably have to share their territory with other species. My suggestion of putting said snake in a bucket and releasing it somewhere up in the mountain was met with disdain, something along the lines of this having been a particularly naughty snake…

It was a lovely evening and I really like the people in question, and hope that we spend a lot more time with them. But (for me) there is a definite awareness now of some very fundamental differences that may preclude any deepening of the friendship, because on such a very basic level, we clearly don’t see eye to eye. (And I’m sure that they may think of me as a bit of an idealistic fairy-type, and that’s also fine).

The next day, The Band and I went to a braai at a very dear friend’s house. Divine time, divine food, divine company. And then her husband started describing in great detail about how he shot a hadeda just off their stoep (he just didn’t like the way it was picking around in his garden) and how it bounced numerous times: off the step, into the garden, tried to fly but hit the deck again in the neighbour’s garden, then into the road etc etc… I am made of strong stuff but I think I may have flinched each time he detailed the bump back to earth of this beautiful, proud, irridescent bird. A fine line for me, between not wanting to create a scene by saying exactly what I thought, and also not wanting to compromise my beliefs. I think I may have just excused myself from the table because I found it so hard to actually sit there and participate in the conversation.

The next day, during lunchtime while the children slept, I went for a long walk along the beach at Strand. And was amazed to see a very gentle and homely looking mum showing her two young boys how to pop the bluebottles with ones heel as one walks along the shore. Granted, bluebottles can be a pain (literally and physically) to bathers, and once they have been washed up on the beach, probably aren’t going to survive anyway, but I just don’t get the need to willfully destroy them, especially with such relish, as if it’s a fun thing to do and a necessary skill to impart to the next generation. Kill, kill, kill. We are at the top of the foodchain so we can do what we want, how we want, when we want. Something just seems very wrong to me about that attitude.

I have been brought up to respect every single form of life, from a worm in the garden to a bee caught inside a window. I feel proud and priviledged that I have had these beliefs instilled in me, and I can almost feel my heart swell when I hear my 3 year old talking gently to any ‘goggo’ that he may have found in the house or garden. It’s not about being all fairy-like and effeminate, it’s just about having reverence for all the other life forms that also inhabit this beautiful planet that we live on, and trying to get along in the most harmonious way possible. There is enough space for all of us.

** A puff adder is a a venomous snake species found in Africa and the southern Arabian Peninsula. A hadeda is large, dark brown, glossy ibis found in South Africa and other African countries.

Generosity vs charity

My wonderful nanny, Noloyiso, has just moved her 10 year old son down to the Western Cape from where he’s been living in the Eastern Cape with his granny (her mum), like so many other families where the mother/father/both have to work far away from home in order to earn the money required to support the family.

It is school holidays at the moment (so my 3 year old son, Daniel, is at home with my 11 month old daughter, Isla) and so I suggested to Nolo that she brings Zukhanye to work with her the next few days before she goes on leave. She agreed and they both arrived here this morning.

Daniel immediately fell in love with Zukhanye. He is a charming little guy with bright eyes and a dashing mohawk. The two of them have spent the day playing themselves half to death, with not a harsh word between them. They have bounced on the trampoline, done circles on the back stoep with the two (motor)bikes, built sandcastles in the sandpits, made a house under the table on the front patio, played with all the toys, read books, and even caught a few zees when all the excitement got too much and they succumbed to sleep.  They shared lunch, strawberries, toys and giggles, and seemed to find a way of communicating perfectly, even though Danny can’t speak Xhosa and Zuki can’t speak English. Danny howled when it was time for us to take Nolo and Zuki home, and his last words before he drifted off to sleep tonight were ‘I love Zukhanye’.

Why, then, have I had this prickling sense of discomfort the entire day? All I had thought by inviting Zuki around was that it would be nice for him to be near his mum after almost a year of not seeing her, that it would be nice for her to have him in her sights rather than wandering around Khayamandi with some ‘cousins’, and that for Danny it would be nice to have a buddy to play with. And of course the fact that I love playing ‘happy families’ so somehow for Nolo to have her little boy and my little boy (her usual charge) together, it would all be a bit lovey-dovey.

I was gripped by how very much, how sickeningly much, we have. The size of our house, the fact that when I said to Danny to show Zuki his (Danny’s room), I knew that it is twice the size of Nolo’s entire ‘house’ (container). The fact that I was the fun one who was playing with the kids while Nolo cleaned the toilets and mopped the floor. This perpetuation of the stereotype of the white ‘baas’ and the black ‘worker’. Every thought that I had about how much Zuki would enjoy the various things that we have on offer here, was counterbalanced by the realisation that we have so very much, and that perhaps, instead of having the desired affect of making Zuki happy, it would make him sad for all that he didn’t have. Danny with his dozens of toy cars, and Zuki mesmerised by just one. It made me want to pack them all in a bag for him, but then again made me shudder at the thought of giving this beautiful, proud child the impression that he was a charity case.

I am probably overthinking this, but wow, especially in the run up to Christmas and all the mindless overspending that goes with it, it has made me stop and consider how much we take for granted and how very, very much I have to be grateful for.

And I hope that for Zukhanye the fact that he is with his mum at long last is good enough for him, and more than makes up for any lack of toys, trampolines, books etc. I’m sure it does.

Feedback: Balancing your Chakras workshop

Just a short post to say what a wonderful experience it was to have Leli and another 8 yogis in my little studio for our workshop on Saturday past! As I am just starting out on my teaching journey, I sometimes only have two or three people per class, and to have the whole space packed full of willing, commited, and enthusiastic people was very special indeed. Without being too airy fairy about it all (and I know The Band would roll his eyes if he read this), I swear I can still feel their energy in the room when I sit there now.

Me and Leli still have a lot to learn and it’s early days in many respects, but we definitely had more of a rhythm this past Saturday and I think we both felt so much more relaxed, and really enjoyed ourselves.

We had a lovely mixed group – ages from late 20s to late 60s, some experienced yogis and one absolute beginner, and even a beautifully pregnant yogi who is so comfortable in her practice that she did the most magnificent Chakravakasana and headstand!

We worked through the chakras, with asanas focused on opening each one, with a short pranayama and meditation practice associated with each one. This included a walking meditation for Muladhara chakra, a loving kindness meditation for Anahata chakra, a rainbow visualisation for Agna chakra etc. So it wasn’t just two and a half hours of physical work but very much the more classical thang.

I hope that everyone who attended gained something valuable from the workshop, and I know that I have come away from it feeling buoyed and (if possible) even more positive about the future of my little violet studio!

The Reluctant Mom: my new hero

I recently was referred to this blog by my best friend, and the more I read her posts, the more I love her. I found it so liberating to read that there are a whole bunch of mums out there who absolutely embrace their maternal status but simultaneously embrace their need for time away from the sprogs, and who can also be really honest about the fact that motherhood is not always fun!  As The Reluctant Mom herself says, ‘I love being a mom, I just don’t love everything about it, all the time’ (or something along those lines). I’ll pop a cork to that!

About “Reluctant Mom”

24 November 2011

I thought it might be good to just as little update on me in the “about me” page – as the stuff written below is still valid, and I feel a bit “reluctant” to go and change it, as it is still what is going on.

Reflecting on this year.

I am slightly better now than I was to begin the year.  This year has had a series of downwards spirals, that really just turned in to me clawing at the sides of a bottomless pit.

I can honestly say that there were several moments where I sat on the edge of my bed crying and saying: “I am slipping in to madness, and I am worried that this is my last glimpse of mild sanity…”

So that was not all good.  Actually all pretty shit, no way to brighten that one up at all.

Depression and General Anxiety Disorder have held me hostage much of this year.  It really was one of my hardest and lowest down patches.  In some instances I was a willing accomplice (Patty Hearst Syndrome) but in many I was being dragged backwards behind an ox-driven cart.

Presently I am in a “feeling much better” space.  I am enjoying my life, work, my children and my lot in life.  I am well medicated, seeing a psychiatrist and a psychologist who assist me in keeping my fingers firmly stapled to the ledge.

My relationship has its ebbs and flows.  Kennith is a good guy, if not a great guy.  We argue and we disagree.  And I think it is difficult to be in a relationship with me, when I am not always present.  It has been difficult to just be …… I can’t explain this unless you have been there before.

I am sure that this year has not been a total joy for him.  No doubt he has had several moments where he has been left questioning why exactly he has tied his yoke to a “reluctant mom/wife/person” but I am glad he has decided to hang in there for a bit longer. The good egg he is.

I hope that as I get better, I will have more “energy” to focus on improving our relationship, and being a better partner.  Right now I am pretty sucky if the truth be told.

I feel more in synch with my kids in the last two months than I think I ever have.  I really enjoy them and smile when I think of them.  I enjoy just being with them.  But that being said I am still easily overwhelmed (as I am this week) and I need to keep a check on this, before I find I am putting myself into a situation that I cannot cope with.

Connor is a sensitive caring soul with a soft and gentle nature.  He is a beautiful boy, who is a good soul.   He helps me so much, and I think he is an old soul, who sees more than he lets on.

Georgia is a child that tests my mettle, and often leaves me confused, frustrated and befuddled. Kennith has suggested she will be a “creative” and we need to really find a different way of dealing with her.  I adore her and I find her so challenging, but I do need to find a better way of “coping” with her differences, and have not mastered this.

Isabelle is a third child, but who has decided to surpass her siblings to she is not left behind.  She has shown herself to be the shortest person in our house with the most clout.  She tests me each day, and most days I fail, dismally.  She starts school in January, so I am hoping that peer pressure helps her with her speech, and maybe reduces her frustration.

Work is great.  I do not say that flippantly. I really love what I do and fortunately it lends itself to some flexibility – so I can sometimes sit at my dining room table in my shorty jammies and continue working.  That has been a life line to me.  But I do struggle to find the “balance” between working and stopping working when I get home.

My blog.  My blog has become more important to me, than it was. I do not earn a living from my blog.  I don’t make any income.  It is purely a work of love and obsession.   My ramblings, mutterings and cussing have assisted me in finding me (as flippant as that sounds.)

I try never to go back and change a blog post. I leave it – as you would a diary insert – it has the feelings and emotions that I felt on that day at that time.  My blog changes as I do, and my thoughts felt on one day, at one time, were true to that time.  But I change and I often rethink my thoughts and may think differentlyc or learn something I did not know before.

Because I said it here does not make it so. Forever. I am entitled to change my mind.  I hope I do in some instances.  Try not to hold me ransom when I have said something once.

I am glad you have found my blog – and I also hope that some of my shit resonates with you.  I love my kids, and I like my kids, I just am not a cookie cutter mom. I am easily frustrated when I am with my kids.  I am easily frustrated when I am with YOUR kids, so it is not just mine.

I do struggle to keep sane in my insanity.  Right now I am on a yellow lifeboat and I am bobbing along quite nicely with my bottle of Chenin Blanc <presently looking for a sponsor wine farm, so please apply if you stock Chenin Blanc>

I find motherhood fkn hard and challenging.  I am not going to tell you that it is easy, or that I love it so damn much. I often sit and wonder if I could and would run away from it all, and just leave it behind.  Could I or would I?  But I am here and I chip away at each day.

I realise I am just a bit out of synch with the cupcake-making-craft-doing moms that I see.   I like to drink wine, lots of it, and I like to use a baby sitter, and spend evenings out without my kids.

I do love my kids – I just don’t want to be with them 24 hours of each day.  I can’t balance work, my kids, my relationship and my life, and my tentative grasp on sanity.  I have not found the secret. Yet.

So that is me … and this is my blog.




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I realized that I have been blogging for more than a year – my reason for blogging is about to turn two on the 10 June 2010.

I have three children and have always battled with motherhood – I find everything about it challenging and nothing about it came easily to me.

Kennith and I put off having children until I was 29 – when I mean put off, I mean, I put him off having children.  I was looking for a way to convince him that we really did not want children, as I really did not want children.

I gave in, and we had our first son when I was 29 – and really I like to compare it to the little Dutch girl – or was it a boy –  with her finger in the dyke (large dam rather than large dame type).

When Connor came along it was like an entire universe opened up to me.  And I am not necessarily talking about the happy universe where fairies and pixies play and giggled, it is more the universe where Stephen King gets his inspiration.

I focused my energies and the preparation on choosing the right colour for the bedroom, buying the right pram, would I wash all his clothes once or twice before packing them into his new cupboard – those sorts of details.

What I did not factor in was how the arrival of this 3 plus kilogram little person would create so much stress between Kennith and I that we felt our stable and very secure relationship was crumbling right before our eyes.

I could never factor in how the arrival of this baby would suddenly bring to life all my issues regarding my childhood and the issues I have regarding my mother and some of the choices she made.

The arrival of this baby made me anxious, paranoid, depressed and severely unhappy.

But, and I really must say but, I was not unhappy with him – of course I loved him with that fierceness of a love that a mother feels for a her child.  She knows she would lay down her life for him at the drop of a hat – no the pain and the unhappiness I felt was for me, my life, my relationship and well pretty much everything.

I struggled with ‘bouts of depression that had moments of light relief and others with shadows of wanting to end it all.

I hated myself.  I hated the fact that I could not cope.  I felt dreadfully alone and I began to hate Kennith because it was all his fault – well who else was I going to blame?

I felt abandoned and angry because I was becoming more dependent on him.  Dependency is a very ugly and frightening word for me.

Kennith assisted by decided nothing says abandonment quite like going off to do a two-year MBA!!

I decided – I, not we, I – at my darkest lowest point, that I wanted to have a second child.  I can’t explain rationally why, it was a primal urge and had all the makings of a breakdown.

We had Georgia in 2005.  If I thought things could not get any worse, I was severely deluded.

All that could go wrong did, we were living in a house of misery and somehow we were getting through the days.  Over the period of 2005 through to end 2006 I can honestly say we were not living, we were surviving.

But with these things, things do get better and they did.

We realized we were in trouble, and somehow find the resolve and the strength to make it better.  We started making more effort just to be present, just to be there for each other and to really value what we had.  I am not trying to indicate at all that it was not difficult.  It was hellishly hard, and running in our separate directions definitely seemed so much easier than trying to walk this path together.

Things got better each year, and my depression definitely got easier to handle, and our children flourished.

In late 2007 we decided to start “talking” about a third child.  We discussed, chatted, planned and finally fell pregnant late in 2008 – we welcomed Isabelle in June 2009.

And here is where my story begins.

I was convinced I had got over all the hard stuff.

I had endured the relationship issues, I had survived two children – often getting through difficult times alone.  I knew the realities of the situation.  I was no longer under false illusions of how easy or difficult it was going to be.  I had experience, I had this all waxed .. well that is what I thought.

However …. yes there is always a but …. but I thought ‘a however’ would sound better.

I had always nurtured illusions <delusions> that I would be a stay at home mom.

I would happily prepare kids for school, drop them off, do some of my freelance work, maybe start a business from home, and grab the kids later and well do kid-mom stuff.

That is sort of the picture I had in my mind.

When Isabelle popped up on the scanning monitor in the OBGYN office I thought, well this is the time.  I need to gear myself up to be at home with her, nurture her, and be there with her to see her gurgle, and take her first step and reach for me when she is crying – I am going to be that mom.

I work for a great company, and I really enjoy what I do.  But I thought I am going to go on maternity leave, finances are going to force me back to work, but I will work until she is about a year and then, I will resign and start this “stay at home mom” life that is all the rage.

The problem I did not factor in to this issue – was me!

I am so depressed being at home I start to slide into a rather dramatic I-think-I-am-going-to-harm-someone depression.  I just cannot cope.

I become erratic (more than usual), and start to go off the edge of my very thin postcard.

I realized while on maternity leave with Isabelle, with crushing clarity, that I am just not designed to stay home.  I will probably kill myself or sell my kids to the circus.  I am embarrassed and frustrated that I can’t do it – but the truth – as cutting as it is – is that I make a better mom working than a mom staying at home.

I am happier and saner when I brush my teeth and put my work clothes on and drive off to work, than if I stayed at home.

Recently someone asked me – a good friend – “But why did you have children if you don’t like being with them?”

Initially I thought I would bitch-slap her, but then I thought about it, and can understand how it seems …. that there are other moms  like me who love/adore their children, but do not want to be with them twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  I know we are not meant to say it … because that will mean we love them less.

I love being a mom.  I just don’t like being a mom all the time.

I hide from my children, I miss the days of lying on my bed reading, undisturbed.  I would rather be out with my friends eating copious amounts of pasta and drinking wine, than sitting with my kids doing arts and crafts.

Initially the guilt I suffered for thinking like this consumed me.  Again I felt it was just me.

The moms I saw were perfectly turned out and just love being with their off-spring all the time, but that was not me.  I would see these clicks of moms at my kids schools and they were just so into everything their kids did – and I kept thinking, I need a gap to go and drink wine, I would much rather not sit and watch my child practice hockey or playball – that is why I pay these other people to do these things with my kids, so I can go off and do something else.

While on maternity leave in June 2009, I started jotting down some of my thoughts about my experiences through motherhood and the daily battles I have being me.  I was seeing a psychiatrist at the time and had just started on my new script of Zoloft.

When I started blogging, it actually made me start feeling better, just putting it out there.

But then I started to get responses from other women – who felt the same as me – possibly with less wine and Zoloft, but they echo’d some of the things I was going through.

I can’t tell you how liberating and amazing it felt, that it was not just me crying in the bathroom at 2am, there were other moms like me, who maybe did not quite fit the mould.

So, to sum up who I am, I am a mom of three delicious children, I adore them so much, and if I could have a fourth I would, I also love being away from my children and being with my friends and a large bottle of wine.

I struggle with motherhood nearly every day, and nothing about it comes easily to me.  I stopped faking it was easy and that I was coping around 2007.

Since then my life has got easier, not easy, just easier and just a little saner.