Who’s On The Mat? Meet Christine

 Allow us to introduce you! 

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

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

Your least fave asana?

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

How did you get into yoga? 

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

What does your practice mean to you?

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

What floats your boat about our studio? 

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

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

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

Any final thoughts? 

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

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

Who’s On The Mat? Meet Floriane


Who are you, lovely lady? 

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

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

I’m a strategic growth consultant, Africa.

Do you have a favourite asana?

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

Any asana that you particularly dislike? 

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

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

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

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

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

What role did your practice play in your recovery? 

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

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

What does your practice mean to you now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anything you’ve learned about yourself?

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

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

Quick Bedtime Sequence for Chakra Balancing

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

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

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

Sleep tight! 

Who’s On The Mat? Meet Laura

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

Any asana you ❤️? 

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

Least fave pose? 

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

What first got you onto the mat? 

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

Where do you practice mostly and why? 

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

Namaste 😊

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

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

Blog: whimsyisforever.com

Who’s On The Mat? Meet Barbara

Please tell us who you are?

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

Favourite asana? 

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

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

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

How did you get into yoga? 

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

Why is yoga important in your life? 

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

Your thoughts on the studio? 

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

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

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

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

Ajna Chakra – About, Asana & Suggested Journaling Questions 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Third Eye Chakra Affirmations

I am in touch with my inner guidance.

I listen to my deepest wisdom.

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

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

Asana for Ajna Chakra

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

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

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

Click here for a beautiful guided meditation for Ajna chakra.

Journaling Questions for Ajna: 

Do I trust my intuition?

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

What inspires me?

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

What would I like to know more about?

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

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

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


Befriending My Nemesis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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