Who’s On The Mat? Meet Barbara

  
Please tell us who you are?

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

Favourite asana? 

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

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

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

How did you get into yoga? 

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

Why is yoga important in your life? 

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

Your thoughts on the studio? 

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

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

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

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

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Ajna Chakra – About, Asana & Suggested Journaling Questions 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Third Eye Chakra Affirmations

I am in touch with my inner guidance.

I listen to my deepest wisdom.

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

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

Asana for Ajna Chakra

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

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

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

Click here for a beautiful guided meditation for Ajna chakra.

Journaling Questions for Ajna: 

Do I trust my intuition?

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

What inspires me?

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

What would I like to know more about?

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

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

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

Namaste.

Befriending My Nemesis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who’s On The Mat? Meet Cara

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Tell us a bit about yourself, Cara. 

I’m Cara Mia Delport, I live in Stellenbosch and I am a seamstress at Artscape’s wardrobe department. And I am also doing my Advanced Diploma in Costume Design part time at Elizabeth Galloway Academy of Fashion Design.

Favourite asana?

Warrior! Makes me feel like a pirate warrior and reminds me of ancients tribes doing rituals to connect with the sky.

Least favourite?

Plank…just not fancy enough for my liking and it’s quite hard.

Tell us about how you got into yoga? 

I wanted to start some sort of exercise that’s not too hectic. So my fiancé and I started to do yoga as something we could do together. And seeing as I have depression and suffer from anxiety, doing yoga helps me to focus and releases internal frustrations. It makes me feel happy and clean on the inside.

What do you like about our yoga studio?

I love the studio! And from the moment you step through the gate you feel calmness and acceptance, which I love and appreciate ❤

Tell us something about you that not many people know

I used to do ballroom and Latin dancing for 5 years in which I competed in World Champs and received 5 first places. And I am getting married in March 2016.

Namaste, Cara – we love having you in the studio!

 

 

Vishuddha Chakra – About, Asana & Suggested Journaling Questions 

   

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The fifth, or throat, chakra is perhaps the most misunderstood chakra – which is ironic since it is linked with understanding and being understood. Located in our throat, it is associated with speech, and our ability to communicate. But this chakra represents so much more! It is also linked to our ears, and our ability to hear – both physically and intuitively. It is the connection between our sense of who we are inside, and how we represent ourselves out in the world. 

In addition, it is the bridge between our lower chakras, where we play out most of our daily ‘human’ experiences, and our two ‘spiritual’ chakras (in the sense of the energies that move through them)– our third eye and crown.

One way that the complex nature of the throat chakra is reflected is in the element associated with it within classical subtle body systems – ether. While the lower four chakras are each associated with physical elements – earth (first chakra), water (second), fire (third) and air (fourth), the throat chakra element is ‘ether’, as in ‘ethereal.’ Within the historical systems that first defined these associations, ether represented the energy that bridges the physical and subtle realms – it both surrounds us and is in us. In modern terms, I think ‘vibration’ comes closest to this meaning, and certainly the throat chakra is deeply connected to vibration through sound – sound as speech, as music, and as simple tones.  

Because the throat chakra can be a difficult one to fully grasp, I think one of the best ways to do so is by looking at how blocks or weaknesses in our throat chakra manifest in our lives:

Difficulty Speaking: Although there are many ways to communicate, speech is our primary means of doing so, and from an energy body perspective, it’s a function of our throat chakra. 

Difficulty speaking might come in any form, physical, linguistic or psychological. It might be a stutter, difficulty projecting our voice, feeling perpetually tongue-tied, or a fear of how others will react when we speak. Of course, any fear or anxiety we feel is most likely also related to at least one other chakra, but any problem speaking is also linked to the throat.

Trouble Expressing What We Really Feel or Think: This means through any means – writing, movement, art, music – not only speech. All of us typically have one or more ways that we best express our thoughts and feelings, but if we have no outlet for this, it corresponds to a throat chakra issue. We might have developed emotional blocks in childhood from parents or caretakers who dismissed our emotions, or asked us to lie (as often happens to abuse survivors.) We might have patterns of ‘people pleasing’, where all of our expression is filtered through an analysis of how others’ might react, inhibiting true self-expression. Another possibility is that we ‘overtalk’ – engage in constant meaningless chatter as a way of avoiding communicating how we really feel or think.

Deception Issues: This may mean we ourselves have difficulty telling the truth, especially when it’s a difficult truth. It can also mean we have difficulty discerning the truth – both within ourselves, and in others. We are prone to both self-deception and/or deception by others. Our throat chakra is not just about our ability to speak truth, it’s about our ability to recognize it – it’s our ears as well as our mouth, listening a well as expressing, on intuitive as well as physical levels.

Disconnect Between Our Inner and Outer Selves: Our throat chakra is a bridge between our inner and outer selves – who we feel we truly are, and how we represent ourselves in the world. If we feel we need to hide parts of ourselves from others out of fear or repression patterns, this is associated with a holding or even blocking of our throat chakra. This doesn’t mean we need to tell everyone in our lives all about ourselves in order to have an open throat chakra. A balanced and clear throat chakra is more about an alignment between our true values and how we live and express them.

Difficulty Integrating Spiritual Insights and Daily Life: Our throat chakra is also a gateway or bridge between our psychological and spiritual selves. Our lower chakras represent our physical body (first chakra), emotional body (second chakra), mental body (third chakra), and relational self (heart chakra). Our third eye and crown chakra are linked to our intuitive, occult, and spiritual levels of being. Our throat chakra serves as the bridge between these two groups of chakras, just as our neck bridges our torso and head. When it is blocked we may feel as if we can not integrate spiritual experiences and insights into our daily awareness. For example, we may feel peaceful, calm, and wise within meditation or prayer, but not experience an increase in these feelings when we are off our meditation cushion or away from a house of worship.

Physically our throat chakra is linked to our throat, neck, mouth, ears, jaw and thyroid gland, so within energy medicine, problems with any of these are linked to issues with our throat chakra.

Suggested questions for journaling:

How do I express my unique creativity?

What healthy/unhealthy [foods/drinks/information/ideas] am I consuming?
How can I communicate my ideas, needs and wants clearly and compassionately?
What are the qualities of my voice?
Click here for a fun read on 7 ways to balance your throat chakra. 

 Source:  Lisa Erickson from Mommy Mystic; Elephant Journal 

Anahata Chakra -About, Asana & Suggested Journaling Questions 

  
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Anahata Chakra is more commonly known as the Heart Chakra. The literal Sanskrit translation of “anahata” is “unhurt, unstuck, or unbeaten.” The Heart Chakra is perfectly situated in the middle of your body, balancing the world of matter (lower three chakras) with the world of spirit (upper three chakras).

The Sanskrit word implies that deep beneath our personal stories of suffering and pain lies boundless love and compassion.

Determining whether your chakras are balanced is quite an elusive subject; people often seek healers or reiki masters to rebalance them, when it’s just as easy to look inward and dig deeper within yourself. 

Signs your heart chakra may be blocked include feelings of shyness and loneliness. If you have an inability to forgive or a tendency to lack empathy, then you may be leading with your head more often than your heart.

Flip that the opposite way and an overpowering chakra can include feelings of codependency, and looking outward for acceptance or fulfillment. Intense jealousy or harsh judgment of others is also a red flag.

If you fall into the blocked category, figuring out how to rebalance your chakras really boils down to repressed emotions. Whether it’s a traumatic event stemming from childhood that you can’t even remember, or a grudge you’re holding so tightly from last week. When you repress your feelings, your heart chakra’s balance gets out of whack.

Try to set these three intentions to extinguish your repressed emotions, whether you’re consciously aware of them or not:

1. Be open with your emotions.

Any way you want! Whether you write them down or scream out loud, you need to let them out. Be extremely honest and open with every word; don’t hold anything back. Write coming from the heart — it’s always painful, but it’s part of the healing process. Even if you have no intention of anyone else reading what you write, it’s so helpful to put your feelings into words so that you can become comfortable, aware, and at peace with it.

2. Stop clinging to your feelings.

You get what you give. Practicing yoga really helps with this, because it teaches you to live in the present moment. Dwelling in past loves or past problems only brings us down, and if we stress about the future then we aren’t living fully. Like most things in life, it’s easier said than done. Do yourself a favor and consciously work on this one!

3. Practice the art of acceptance.

A good rule of thumb is “If you can’t change it, forget it.” Why stress about something or someone you have no control over? It’s a waste of time and energy. Instead, focus on what you can control. That’s what will bring you contentment and happiness. Set your daily intention to going with the flow and letting it be.

Try incorporating these three reminders into your daily life, and always remember that love is the greatest healer. Especially love for yourself. Keeping this intention while practicing asana will help open your heart. A few great poses to aid you in “opening your heart” are camel pose, eagle pose, and a back-bending practice. The heart chakra is represented by the color green. Eat more dark green leafy vegetables and drink green tea.

  
Suggested questions for journaling: 

How do I show myself love and compassion?

How do I give love and compassion to others?

In what ways am I generous/stingy?

What am I grateful for in this moment?

How can I cultivate empathy for people close to me as well as acquaintances and even strangers?

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Who’s On The Mat? Meet Alesha

 

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Hello, and who are you? 

My name is Alésha Bredell and I’m a 24 year old MA Art philosophy student at Stellenbosch University.

What’s your favourite pose? 

Definitely Goddess pose (utkata kon asana). It makes me recognize and appreciate feminine strength.

Most dreaded pose? 

Side plank (Vasisthasana) – Just no!

Your yoga journey?

I started yoga when I was about 14. I did not enjoy sports much and after being at the Art school the entire afternoon, yoga in the evenings became one of my favourite physical activities. I remember being inspired by some of the older women at the studio I attended, standing on their heads. I still can’t do that today, but I am working my way up, slowly.

What do you love most about your practice? 

Yoga allows me the time to be with myself without over-thinking things too much, as I often do. Seeing that yoga has been part of my life for a few years now, it is always something I return to through many phases of my life where I learn and explore new depths every time.

Anything particular you like about practicing at Yoga With Nicci?

At Nicci’s yoga studio I have found a space where I feel welcome and at ease to ask questions and make mistakes. I have also recently become more confident in my practice and realized that every body is a yoga body.

Tell us something that not many people know about you. 

If I did not study art I would have wanted to become an archaeologist 🙂

Anything else that you’ve found through your practice?

Realizing and exerting physical strength, especially as a woman, is extremely important as such a realization and ability translates into many facets of ones life.

Namaste, Alesha, and thanks for participating! We’re happy you found out studio and hope to see lots more of you moving forward.