My name is Nicci and I OM. 

Judge me if you wish but, without fail, the yoga classes I teach at my small yoga studio in Stellenbosch end with the chanting of three OMs. I always give people the option of staying silent because I know that many would rather crawl naked over broken glass than make weird yogic mooing sounds, but I love it and here’s why. 

Everything in the universe is pulsating and vibrating – nothing is really standing still! The sound Om, when chanted, apparently vibrates at the frequency of 432 Hz, which is the same vibrational frequency found throughout everything in nature. It is a mantra, a vibration and an intention all rolled into one. 

As such Om (pronounced AUM) – as I understand it – is the basic sound of the universe; so by chanting it we are symbolically and physically tuning in to that sound and acknowledging our connection to all other living beings, nature and the universe.

In addition the vibrations and rhythmic pronunciation also have a physical affect on the body by slowing down the nervous system and calming the mind similar to meditation. When the mind is relaxed, your blood pressure decreases and ultimately the health of your heart improves.

Finally it is also a way to delineate the time of our practice from the rest of our day and signify that this is a special time in which to care for ourselves and practice being mindful.

All in all, beginning and/or ending a yoga practicing with Om helps to connects us to our practice in a deeper way than just with physical postures.

So tell me, do you love to Om or does your heart sink when that time comes around? Do you join in with gusto or do you clench your jaw and pray for it to be over? I’d love to hear. 

Source: Sam Sanders, Mindbodygreen.com 

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Ayurveda & Dosha Types for Beginners

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Malasana / Garland Pose – a beautifully grounding pose for when I am feeling the effects of a Vata overload (South Easter to blame)

I posted recently about how the incessant wind that we’ve been having in Stellenbosch lately tends to make me go stir crazy, and that it’s got to do with Vata overload. Unsurprisingly, I had a few people asking me what that’s all about. So here’s a post as promised.

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

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

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

The 3 Dosha types:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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:  

Guided Meditations for Svadhistana and Manipura Chakras

In the second class of the Chakra balancing series we’re currently doing at the studio, we focused on Svadhistana and Manipura chakras (2nd and 3rd). On Saturday past, my printer had run out of toner so I wasn’t able to print hand-outs as I would have liked, and I promised to post the guided meditation scripts that I used on the blog. Here you are: with special thanks to Wanderlust for these gorgeous words.

WATER

Svadhistana: A SWEET OCEAN MEDITATION

While you are earth, you are – quite surely – also water. Everything ebbs and flows, drips, drops, pours, splatters, trickles, ripples, soaks, splashes… everything is nurtured and nourished by water.

Sit on the edge of a cushion, pillow or blanket. Weave your fingers together, touch the tips of your thumbs and rest your hands in your lap. Close your eyes. Connect to the rise and fall of your breathe.

Imagine you are sitting in a small boat, a canoe perhaps. With each inhale that arrives, feel the sensation that you are floating on top of the water. With each exhale, you are drifting further and further from shore. Feel the vastness of the ocean below you. The possibility of the sky above.

Now, imagine that a wave rolls underneath you and rocks your boat. And then another. And another. Feel them come and go, come and go, holding within them life’s ever-changing nature.

Think of the many waves of your life. Some have lulled you with their gentleness, their consistency and comfort, while others have been giant, drag-down tsunamis that you nearly drowned in. All have integrated into the great big ocean that makes up the tapestry of you. You are each wave, but you are also the entire ocean. Honor all that has brought you here.

Ask yourself: Do I give myself permission to feel the fullness of all of my feelings in any given moment? Think of what you have stuffed inside or shoved away… What part of your emotional landscape in waiting to be acknowledged? On the other hand, ask yourself: What parts of the past am I clinging to? What am I ready to let go of?

Roll onto your back into Baddha Konasana with the soles of your feet together and your knees wide. If you need some support, prop blocks or pillows underneath your legs. Place your hands on your lower belly. Feel the vulnerability of this position, your body’s expression of total openness and receptivity. Ask yourself: Do I allow for pleasure in my life? And feel the space to listen…

Dance, swim, DTR, take a warm bath with essential oils of cardamom and sweet orange, eat sweet potatoes, sprinkle cinnamon on everything. Do/wear the things that make you feel sexy. Express your sensuality through movement-based practices. This part of you needs tending always. Look for the sweetness in life. Stop and smell the roses, as they say. And then walk on.

May you feel each of your feelings fully, and then surrender them to the flow.

FIRE

Manipura Chakra: A FIRE MEDITATION

In the same way that fire turns matter into heat and light, this is where you take what you’ve been given and make the best of it. And then some.

Without a strong third chakra, we remain stuck in the sameness and drudgery of a passive life. Manipura is action, doing, going through the eye of the needle, breaking inertia.

Note: Light a candle, or better yet, complete this meditation in the middle of a circle of lighted candles.

Sit on the edge of a cushion, pillow or blanket. Cup your left hand and make a fist with your right hand, extending your right thumb up. Place your right fist in your left open palm, and draw your hands in front of your solar plexus (located just below the sternum and above the navel). Close your eyes. Connect to the rise and fall of your breathe.

Imagine that your right thumb is a flame, flickering at the center of your being. With each inhale that you take, watch the yellow flame grow just a little bit brighter. Imagine a warmth spreading from this area of your body and filling you from the inside out…

Now, imagine that you have gathered a little stack of sticks. On each stick, write a word or phrase representing something in your life that is no longer serving you, something that you are in the process of letting go of, or need to be. Remember that some things must be let go of hundreds of times before we are free from them, maybe thousands. Forgive yourself this process, for letting go is one of the hardest things to engage with…

Now, place each stick into your flame. Watch it catch fire. And burn. And as each stick is completely burned, imagine that a gust of wind travels into your hands and carries the ash away from you, far far away.

Ask yourself: Do you have the energy to do the things you want to do? Do you have the confidence to do the things you want to do? What gets in the way? Oftentimes our energy is drained in one area of our life, and we are left lifeless before the mountain of wonderful, enriching experience that could be…

Stand up, with your feet a little wider than hips distance. Reach your arms overhead, weave your fingers together, and extend your pointer fingers. As you inhale reach up high, and with your exhale sweep your arms through your legs while shouting, “HA!” Inhale your arms back into the sky, exhale shoot your arms through your legs, “HA!” Do this ten times, and then pause, hands in prayer at your heart. Feel what has been stirred…

Boil sliced ginger for a tea, build a campfire, eat a spicy curry, take a heated yoga class, go for a run, massage some sandalwood into your sternum, make a plan, and execute.

Fire teaches us that power results from combining and integrating, rather than fighting and dominating. Remember, there is ease and grace in true power. And you are powerful beyond measure.

You can change.

Yoga For Children starting at Yoga With Nicci in 2016

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I am so excited to make this announcement! For a long, long time now I have been wanting to offer yoga for children at our little Stellenbosch yoga studio, but simply have not had the time or the bandwidth to do it myself, despite the many requests I have had over the years.

And then, as has happened with all of the teachers at our studio, the right person just appeared!

Nia Thorpe-McFall will be teaching children’s yoga at the studio from early next year, and will be offering a kiddies workshop just as the schools break up for holidays in a few weeks, just to give you – and your little ones – a taster of what it’s all about.

Nia is highly qualified to lead our little ones in the ancient practice of yoga and mindfulness.

Nia is highly qualified to lead our little ones in the ancient practice of yoga and mindfulness.

She was recommended to me by a fellow teacher and when we met a couple of weeks back, there was an instant connection. I have two little ones (as most of you know) – seven and four – and I just know that Nia is exactly the sort of person that will be able to do enchant and inspire them and all their peers. She is calm, gentle, smiley person who commands ones attention despite the fact that she is softly spoken. She has a lovely way of making you feel like you are the only person in the world when she is talking to you, and I can understand exactly why she gets such wonderful results from the kids that she teaches.

Originally from the UK, Nia is a qualified primary school teacher who has taught here in South Africa but also in the UK and Spain. She has practiced yoga since she was in the womb and dedicates time daily to enjoy a self-led intuitive yoga and meditation practice. She has studied yoga under the British Wheel of Yoga and has done children’s yoga training through Yoga Beez, a Yoga Alliance teacher training provider.

Previous to becoming a primary school teacher Nia worked in the field of art curation and education as well as supporting NGOs. “I thoroughly enjoy teaching children yoga as a way to enhance their natural intuition and imagination- they are such natural yogis! With my background in formal and informal education I really understand that children need to work on balancing out their pressures and determining a more productive, confident understanding for life. I therefore aim to make each class I teach both fun yet grounding and do this by incorporating creativity, playful movement and peace.”

Aside from private and group lessons for children, Nia and her business partner also offer a powerful approach called ‘Calm Classrooms’ which encourage children to slow down from the inside out and provide meaningful tools they can draw on for their whole lifetime. These resources are currently in use by therapists, schools, teachers and parents, and I am a massive believer in the value that the tools of mindfulness and more can bring to our children as they make their way through the world.

You can find out more about Nia on her website and watch this space for further details on the upcoming workshop. Classes will be on a Wednesday moving forward next year and will cater for two age groups – to be confirmed but more than likely along the lines of 3-5 and 6-12.

We can’t wait to welcome Nia to our studio and we know that any mums and dads that already know the benefits of this amazing practice will be delighted to have someone properly trained and passionate about passing them on to the younger generation.

The Gentle Beauty of Yin Yoga – Love It Or Your Money Back!

Yin yoga was developed to penetrate deep into connective tissue expanding flexibility while invigorating the energy centers of the body (nadis) to release blockages and increase your energy flow.

Yin yoga was developed to penetrate deep into connective tissue expanding flexibility while invigorating the energy centers of the body (nadis) to release blockages and increase your energy flow.

Many people have asked me about Yin yoga after seeing it on our new October schedule – what it is, why they should try it and why it’s different to our usual flow classes. And since we aim to please at our little riverside yoga studio, here is some information that may help you to decide whether it’s something you want to add to your practice (the answer is yes, by the way):

A quiet, meditative yoga practice, also called taoist yoga, Yin focuses on lengthening connective tissues and is meant to complement yang yoga—your muscle-forming flow that is most often practiced in Western studios. Yin poses are passive, meaning you’re supposed to relax muscles and let gravity do the work. And they’re long—you’ll practice patience here too.

Yin Yoga uses gentle long held postures practiced with an attitude of compassionate acceptance to awaken the more Yin parts of our physical, emotional and spiritual selves. It is an amazing practice that is dominantly seated, that focuses on bringing health and vitality back to body/mind/spirit through the manipulation of the fascia (connective tissue), the energy body and all sensations and emotions that come along for the ride. Its a profound practice, very insightful and carries a wealth of healing knowledge that can be applied to anybody. A lot of yin is allowing yourselves to be tender and wise within our own forms.  There is so much wisdom in the water and tissues in the body, we simply must create a safe and relaxed setting for this wisdom and energy to flow. Yin helps to still the body, setting it shapes that allow us to target the areas where energy tends to get stuck.

Yin focuses on the hips, pelvis and spine mostly but because the body cannot be separated into parts and sides, yin yoga examines the body as a connected unit of tissues that communicate, contain or liberate other aspects of the body. We can all relate to that feeling stuck or out of place feeling in the body. We know what it needs to flow, with inside and out.

Yin has a few simple principles. Find the shape that works for you. Victoria will guide you into the pose but you may find that you need to adjust it slightly to suit your own body (as with ‘normal’ yang yoga) – until it feels right. Turn the muscles off, relax the body, deepen the breath, stay present and hold for time. Seems simple right? Looks like it from the external appearance,but on the inside we are looking for and hanging out in the places in the body where we tend to hold, resist and feel stuck in. It’s in the tension in the body that we can unlock the keys to healing, realigning and becoming stable in who we are. The long holds and focus on breath in Yin means that classes have this air of meditation and the same feeling of otherworldiness only long breathing sessions and moving of blockages can do. I recently did one of Victoria’s Yin classes and I felt like I was floating by the end of the class – even speaking felt like it was too loud and jarring after the peaceful atmosphere she created so masterfully. Her beautiful Norwegian accent and her ability to hold the silences without needing to fill them with words just helped to make it a truly magical experience.

I really, really, really recommend that everyone tries one of these classes at least once. See it as the biggest and kindest gift and token of self love that you could give yourself this month. You will not regret it. In fact, if you don’t like it, I will give you your money back. So please, go to one and feed back to me how it was, so I can put my money where my mouth is. No pressure, Vic!

I took a lot of this information from a lovely site called ‘Love Light Yoga’ – check them out if you want to show them some love.

Call it social empowerment, call it ‘spreading the love’, call it what you will – there is no doubt that what we are doing is changing lives

An article that appeared in Homecoming Revolution a while back.

Nicci Annette Yoga With Nicci (1)

Name: Nicci Cloete Annette

Age: 39

Home Country: South Africa

Country returned from: UK and USA

Years lived abroad: 10

Occupation: Marketing & Operations Manager for TRADE-MARK (www.trade-mark.co.za), a non-profit organisation that supports township tradesmen build up their own businesses and break through the barriers to financial independence; Owner and Yoga Instructor at Yoga With Nicci, a private yoga studio in Stellenbosch.

What made you decide to return home and start a business?

I only ever intended to leave South Africa for 2 years and so didn’t even bother applying for the ancestral visa that I qualified for, instead going straight for the working holiday visa. At the end of the two years however I wasn’t quite ready to go home yet as I realised there was so much more I wanted to see and do – plus the small matter of having met my now-husband from Northern Ireland. We got married a few years later and after 8 years in London, moved to the west coast of America where he had the opportunity to open an office for the UK-based software company he worked for.

By this time I was already yearning to return home but it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss out on and we spent two wonderful years out there, however when we were told by two independent medical specialists that we would never be able to have children on our own, we decided to try the IVF route and that South Africa was the right place to do it – from a financial perspective but more specifically because of the support back here from my family and our mutual friends. My husband had fallen in love with SA during our many trips back home and so it was with great excitement and a fair amount of trepidation that we returned early in 2008. As it turned out (and it seems like it often does work out this way), the moment we stopped focusing on me falling pregnant, it just happened naturally and so when we touched down at Cape Town International, I was almost 3 months pregnant, and we had not a job between us, no place to live, but a firm belief that we were in the right place, and that as uncertain as the future seemed, we trusted the process to unfold just as it should.

Another thing that appealed to both of us hugely and made us choose to settle in SA rather than return to the UK – aside from the obvious like the weather, lifestyle, social networks that we’d both built up here – is the way in which we’d seen our friends carve out real niches for themselves in the business world and seeing how they seemed to be managing to find a balance between work and play.  Unlike London where it seemed like almost everyone was ‘working for the man’, in South Africa we had friends who were doing their own thing – one running a successful flower export business, another his own design agency, another a play group for small kids and new mums, another her own architectural landscape company, and so on. There were others in more conventional jobs too of course, but these people also seemed to be finding a way to make a comfortable living whilst taking advantage of all that our incredible country has to offer.

Having spent hours commuting to and from work each day and knowing how ludicrously expensive childcare is the UK was also a major factor in our decision – we hoped that South Africa would offer us an opportunity to spend as much time as possible with our little ones, rather than having to work every hour of the day in order to finance a crèche for them to grow up in.

What company do you work for and what do you do there? If you are an entrepreneur, tell us about your business.

I have two part-time jobs: first and foremost, I work for a brilliant non-profit organisation called TRADE-MARK (www.trade-mark.co.za) which supports township tradesmen by helping them to market their businesses and ultimately to break through the barriers to financial independence.  As I currently only work part-time, this allows me to keep teaching yoga on the side at my yoga studio in Stellenbosch (my second job), but we are confident that we will shortly be receiving some more funding that will enable me and the founding director, Josh Cox, to both work fulltime for TRADE-MARK. The concept is Josh’s brainchild – his friend Simon, from the township of Diepsloot, was struggling to secure regular work despite being an expert tiler. By providing Simon with business cards and a written reference, he was suddenly able to secure contracts of up to R30 000. It became clear that with added credibility and a few marketing resources, high-quality tradesmen from the townships were able to secure significantly more business.  I met Josh when I worked at WWF South Africa when I first arrived back in SA, and from the first day he told me about what he envisaged for TRADE-MARK, I was hooked. He went about making it a reality and after having my two (miracle) children and qualifying as a yoga teacher, when Josh approached me to come on board I leapt at the opportunity.

My job entails helping to hand-pick the best township tradesmen: individuals with initiative and drive, who communicate well and already have experience in dealing with customers, and then helping them to market themselves sufficiently to secure on-going work and to keep growing their businesses.

In terms of setting up my own yoga business, I was extremely fortunate in that my parents allowed me to use a space at their home which lent itself perfectly to being transformed into a yoga studio, which meant that I didn’t have the burden of paying rent when first starting out as a teacher. Initial outlays financially included transforming the space into a studio and paying for a website, and it was slow going at the beginning to get people through the studio doors, but what with regular blogging and use of social media to get my website picked up by the search engines, I now have a regular stream of students and as of a year ago, have a second teacher offering classes at the studio. You’ll never get rich as a yoga teacher, but it’s hugely rewarding, I love what I do, and it’s something that I hope to continue doing on the side line for as many years as I’m able, as we continue to grow TRADE-MARK.

What’s the hardest bit about doing business in SA?

I found it quite an adjustment initially upon returning in terms of the speed at which things happen. I used to work in the murky world of recruitment in London where it was 1000km an hour, with very little pause for breath. I used to find it frustrating (and still do sometimes) at how much slower things can seem to happen here, not just in terms of the pace at which things get turned around but also technically and logistically: the comparatively slow speed of the Internet and even the erratic electricity supply when we first arrived back could really make it challenging to get a full day’s work done at times.

Another thing that I find very hard is to be confronted on a daily basis with the shocking prejudices that still exist in South Africa, and the stark disparity between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have not’s’.

What’s the easiest bit?

Switching off the computer, stepping outside into the magnificent Africa sunshine, taking a deep breath and giving thanks for being able to call such a stunning part of the world ‘home’. I also love the fact that it’s a lot less formal than the UK dress-wise – what a pleasure to be able to work in an office where people are wearing plakkies and jeans rather than the obligatory black suit! 

What advice would you give someone who is thinking of returning home and starting a business / finding work?

Do your homework – research what business opportunities exist in your area of expertise, chat to people here who are doing something similar about what they have learnt, what they’ve done right and wrong, and what they’d do differently.  Also, really check out the cost of living here – we did our homework in this regard and even so have found that it’s significantly more expensive than we anticipated. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the turn-around in securing a job is possibly going to be slower than you may envisage, and if your partner isn’t from here, make sure you’ve got all their paperwork in order before you come back – and pay for professional help with anything bureaucratic if you can afford it – tax, immigration etc.

How are you making a difference back in your home country?

At the risk of sounding clichéd and twee, it’s an absolute privilege to be back in South Africa, using the skills I’ve gained along the way to help to uplift people from my community who’ve not had the same opportunities granted to me. It’s not rocket science and I am so aware that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean, but basic things like using my experience of sales and marketing to help to pull jobs for our tradesmen, or like simply having access to the Internet, a printer and a car to help the guys put together and deliver professional quotes – these things are making a massive and tangible difference to the small group of tradesmen that we work with, as well as their extended families.  Call it social empowerment, call it ‘spreading the love’, call it what you will – there is no doubt that what we are doing is not only improving the individual tradesmen’s financial situations, but giving them hope for the future. We are so excited about what lies ahead for the organisation and about our imminent funding coming through – and this all feeds into the communities that the guys come from, creating ripples of hope, positivity and garnering a can-do attitude.

What is your opinion on what the Homecoming Revolution is doing?

Helping to reverse the brain drain by encouraging South Africans to tell their stories about coming home in an honest and non-biased way – although if you are truly and proudly South African, you will always be a little bit biased about all that this beautiful country has to offer.