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.

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Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n Roll. Kind of.

Okay, not quite. But ‘rape, wine and guitar lessons’ doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as glibly.

Anyone who takes their interest in yoga beyond the mat and into the texts written on the subject will come across Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra which refers to the ‘eightfold path’, also known as ‘ashtanga‘ which literally means ‘eight limbs’ (ashta = eight, anga = limb in Sanskrit). These eight steps basically act as guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life: ‘they serve as a prescription for moral and ethical conduct and self-discipline; they direct attention toward one’s health and help us to acknowledge the spiritual aspects of our nature’ (I quote shamelessly from Yoga Journal’s http://www.yogajournal.com/basics/158).

The limbs make sense to me in a way that a lot of other ‘moral truths’ or ‘rules’ don’t. Not every limb or even every part of every limb resonates entirely with me but as a whole I find them a very helpful guide to living a ‘good’ life.  They work for me on many levels.  The first limb, yama, deals with one’s ethical standards and sense of integrity, focusing on our behaviour and how we conduct ourselves in life. Yamas are universal practices that relate best to what we know as the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Stick with me if your eyes are starting to glaze over – I’m getting to the point).

Niyama, the second limb, has to do with self-discipline and spiritual observances. Regularly attending temple or church services, saying grace before meals, developing your own personal meditation practices or making a habit of taking contemplative walks alone are all examples of niyamas in practice. Incidentally, I don’t say grace but I do give thanks to all sentient beings who were involved in preparing the food that I am about to consume. It blows my mind every time I do it. 

Breaking it down further: the five yamas are ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (continence) and aparigraha (non-covetousness) and the five niyamas are saucha (cleanliness), samtosa (contentment), tapas (heat/spiritual austerities), svadhyaya (study of the sacred scriptures and of the self) and isvara pranidhana (surrender to God or a higher being as you know it).

Now svadyaya is where the rape, wine and guitar lessons fit in. Svadhyaya or self-inquiry ‘encompasses all learning, reflection and experience which is said to result in a greater understanding of our own fundamental nature. Self-study is perhaps the most crucial of the niyamas because at some point we must all reconcile to the fact that although higher consciousness is within everyone’s grasp, no guru, priest or other person can do the work for us’. Or, in  my case, no psychologist, marriage therapist, trauma counsellor, friend, parent, sibling or social worker.

I’ve never kept it a secret that I was raped when I was 14. Ten days after my 14th birthday, to be precise, in my own bed, in  my own house with my parents and sister sleeping soundly in their own rooms. It goes without saying that it was a terrifying and traumatic event in my life and affected each and every one of us in all sorts of ways. We all went through our own processes of dealing with it and the fall-0ut that ensued, and as I found myself heading towards my mid-thirties, I remember feeling quite good about how well I’d handled it and assimilated the experience into the rich tapestry of my life. Ha! How I smile fondly at my younger self when I think back on that now. As it turns out, it took me having my own two children and deepening my 20-odd years of precious yoga practice before I really started seeing things the way they actually were, and that what I thought was me finally coming out of the wilderness was actually me just starting to enter a dark and very convoluted path through a very dense forest with lots of scary beasts lurking around every ominous corner.

They say that the teacher appears when the student is ready. I give thanks on a daily basis – (literally, every night when I write in my gratitude journal) – that a kick-butt band of phenomenal teachers appeared at the very moment that my walls truly started crumbling and my eyes started opening to what a catastrophe my emotional life had actually become.

The last number of years have been a massive, massive growth curve for me. With the help of these incredible people and the svadhyaya that I speak of above, I came to see how what had been a coping mechanism for years (drinking wine to make the bad times bearable and the good times better) had gone completely haywire and was starting to badly affect not just me but some of the people closest to me. I came to admit for the first time how utterly horrific, sad, heartbreakingly awful the rape was. How it had affected our whole family. How a mask that I had learnt to put on as a confused and hormonal teenager became a permanent feature that eventually I didn’t even realise that I could take it off if I wanted to. I had no idea how to.

The Yoga Sutra says that as we progress on our path of self-study ‘we develop a connection to the universal Divine laws and the spiritual masters who revealed them. It is not only meant for those dedicated to matters of the spirit however but has great practical meaning for anyone who recognize there is room for improvement in our lives’ – and frankly, who doesn’t! ‘Svadhyaya represents an ongoing process through which we can assess where we are at a given moment. It is like attuning our inner navigator and finding meaningful answers to questions: Where am I now, and where am I going? What is my direction, and what are my aspirations? What are my responsibilities? What are my priorities?’

We often find ourselves on cruise control, acting habitually and being so swept up in the momentum of our daily lives that we don’t take the time to check where we are or where we are headed. It’s  not been painless to stop and take stock of all that I was doing that was entirely automatic and unintentional and downright destructive at times, but it’s been worth it and it can surely only continue to be worth any discomfort or work. I’m told that that uncomfortable space is exactly where transformation happens. The mantras and textual studies offered by the classical tradition function as references from which we can measure where we are. To take the forest analogy a bit further (bear with me, I know it’s tenuous): I am not out of it yet but it’s no longer a tunnel at the end of the light that I see, rather the light at the end of the tunnel. And it’s hard to look away from that gorgeous light because it’s finally straight ahead rather than winking at me from around yet another corner. I feel like I’m walking into the light. It’s warm, it’s safe, it’s beautiful and it’s so welcome in my life.

Oh, the guitar lessons (aka rock ‘n roll): in the process of embracing the bruised 14 year old who is and always will be very much a part of me, I’ve dusted off my old guitar and started to take lessons again – after almost 30 years, at the ripe old age of 40. My teacher is an uber-cool musical whizz-kid who is young enough to be my child, but we seem to get on well and share a love for all things jazz and blues so it’s surely a matter of time before I’m carving out a career as a rock chick.

On second thoughts, I’ll stick to teaching yoga.

For more about the eightfold path and to see where a lot of this post stems from, visit http://www.yogajournal.com/basics/158.

Trying to conceive? Already pregnant? Give yourself and your unborn baby the gift of prenatal yoga.

If you are reading this, the chances are good that you are either pregnant (congratulations!), or hoping to be soon. Even if you’ve never done yoga before, starting it when you are pregnant can be one of the best things you could do for yourself and for your baby. When paired with a cardiovascular exercise such as walking, yoga can be an ideal way to stay in shape during your pregnancy. This age-old practice keeps you supple, tones your muscles and improves your balance and circulation, with little, if any, impact on your joints.

Another reason that yoga is beneficial is because it helps you learn to breathe deeply and relax, which will come in handy as you face the physical demands of labour, birth, and motherhood. In fact, one of the first things I will teach you in a pregnancy yoga class at my Stellenbosch yoga studio is how to breathe fully.

Different breathing techniques (pranayama) can help to prime you for labour and childbirth by training you to stay calm when you need it most. When you’re in pain or afraid, your body produces adrenalin and may produce less oxytocin, a hormone that makes labour progress. A regular yoga practice will help you fight the urge to tighten up when you feel pain, and show you how to relax instead.

Medical experts at the Mayo Clinic have even touted prenatal yoga as “a multifaceted approach to exercise that encourages stretching, mental centering and focused breathing.” Along these same lines, according to a report in the April 2009 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter, rigorous studies have found scientific proof that yoga helps the body deal with stress by slowing heart and breathing rates and lowering blood pressure –  which can benefit new mums after the baby’s born, too.

The benefits of yoga aren’t limited to your physical well-being. Taking a prenatal yoga class is a great way to meet other pregnant women — to become part of a community of like-minded people who are going through a similar experience. Being in a positive, supportive environment with others like you can give you a regular emotional boost and keep you motivated to continue exercising.

Whether you have been practicing yoga for a while or are a beginner, it is extremely important to seek out a yoga instructor who is specifically trained in prenatal yoga, someone who knows what asana are safe and what to avoid, and how to advise you to modify your practice according to your own pregnancy.  As far as I know, I am the only yoga teacher in Stellenbosch who is qualified to teach pregnancy yoga, having completed my advanced PTT module at Ananda Sanga in 2011.

I kept going with my regular yoga practice with both of my pregnancies but only once I had done a one-on-one prenatal yoga class with Anne Combrinck at Ananda Sanga  where she taught me how to adapt my practice to pregnancy. For those who have never done yoga before, I strongly advise that you attend the prenatal classes that I offer at my yoga studio in Stellenbosch (once you are past 12 weeks), but for those of you that already have a strong practice, you are also welcome to join the regular classes, but be prepared to adapt and modify when we are doing twists, belly work etc. I also offer one-on-one classes  just to show you the basics of how to do this, if that’s what you’d prefer.

“Nicci completed her Yoga Teacher training with distinction, in 2011. She has subsequently gone on to complete a Pregnancy Yoga Teacher training also and is a confident, competent and wonderful Yoga Teacher. ” Anne Combrinck – Principal Educator at Ananda Sanga.

Please contact me for more information and / or class times.

For more information about why prenatal yoga can be so beneficial, read on…

Five excellent reasons to do pregnancy yoga at my yoga studio in Stellenbosch! (Source: Amy Lynch, MindBodyGreen.com).

Looking specifically at a pregnant woman’s body, yoga can specifically work the areas with the most need in a class geared toward pregnant women. Below are some of the most important pains, areas of interest and common pregnancy issues yoga can safely and gently alleviate and improve.

1. The Breath: Breathing is not something we often think about throughout the day. It is a mechanical function of the body. We never really have to remind ourselves to breathe, but we should, especially to prepare our body for the process of labour. Breathing is a very important part of delivering a baby, it helps to relax the body and take your mind from the pain and strain.

2. The Pelvic Floor: The pelvic floor is a hammock of muscles that form a bowl attached to the pelvis. This muscle supports the vital reproductive and digestion organs, as well as the baby during pregnancy and plays a vital role in sexual intercourse for both men and women.

During pregnancy it is especially important to exercise your pelvic floor muscle as it has to support a greatly increased load at this time. Although pregnancy is not the only factor for a weakened pelvic floor, aging and inactivity can play a role; it can weaken from pregnancy and childbirth. Although not the cause, a weak pelvic floor can be the start of some health problems. That is why it is very important to work with these muscles, especially after childbirth. Like any other muscle in the body, the pelvic floor can be re-strengthened. The symptoms of a weakened pelvic floor include urinary or stool incontinence, constipation or incomplete bowel or bladder emptying, diminished sexual satisfaction, painful intercourse, inability to reach orgasm, sagging or prolapse of the uterus, bladder, or rectum, and low back or lower abdominal pain.

A strong pelvic floor muscle can enable a woman to carry a baby more comfortably during pregnancy and will help both the mother and baby during labour and delivery. Stimulating blood flow in the pelvic area after childbirth quickens recovery from any stitches or episiotomy. Women who have had Caesareans also need to strengthen their pelvic floor muscles as it is the gravitational pressure of pregnancy that weakens the muscles, not the physical event of birth.

3. The Posture: As the babies and bellies grow and change, so does the centre of gravity. One of the things that allow humans to walk upright is the balance between the lower back muscles and our four abdominal muscles. However, when our abdominals are weak, this can cause our lower back muscles to over compensate and over work, causing pain and strain in the lumbar area. When the belly moves more forward with growth, this stretches the abdominals beyond their original shape, weakening them and this causing lower back pain during pregnancy when none may have ever been experienced before, especially in the third trimester. Although pregnancy is not the time to do major core work, it is recommended to gently work all four abdominals to keep them a little strong. After your baby is born, it is common for women to find some separation has occurred between the right and left side of the abdominals, exercises that bring the belly toward the spine can help bring the abs back to pre-pregnancy shape.

Yoga can also help alleviate the pressure the lower back is under during the shift in gravity. By stretching the upper leg muscles and the lower back, tension will start to release. Partnered with the smart abdominal work, your body will feel less pain as it goes through the journey of pregnancy.

4. The Feet: Surprising to most, the foot actually has 26 bones, 33 joints and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. And although our feet get us around the entire day, we rarely take the time to take care of them, or check how we are using them, especially as that centre of gravity moves over the nine months.

With the shift of the centre of gravity in your body as your pregnancy progresses, this changes our stance and pressure in our feet and joints. The two most common problems become over pronation and oedema. These problems can lead to pain at the heel, arch, or the ball-of-foot. Correct alignment and awareness taught in a yoga class can help to alleviate these problems.

5. The Hips: Prenatal yoga can help bring back flexibility and comfort to the groups of muscles and bone structures in the front and back of the hips. Hormones released during pregnancy soften and relax joints and cartilage between bones in our pelvis to prepare it for child birth. However, getting the muscles ready is good to facilitate an easier birth for mom and baby.

In front, we have our hip flexors, which work to flex, or bend, the hips. This brings our knee and thigh up and in line with our hip joint and toward our chest. Lunges are a great example of the work of the hip flexors. It is imperative to keep these flexible so we can easily open our legs without too much strain for delivery, as well as bend the knees close to the chest to assist with birth. Yoga can also stretch the ligaments in the pelvis, hip and leg areas, all making the positions and pushing in labour easier.

Our muscles are, however, antagonistic, which basically means when one works, the other does the opposite to allow the action. So, in order for the hip flexors to contract, the back of the hips need to relax. This is why it is essential to work the front and back of the hips in stretching, relaxing and strengthening to find balance. Again, low lunges are the perfect way to stretch the hip flexors while contracting them on the other side and the same for the muscles in the back of the hips. However, your yoga teacher can give you many poses for this area of the body.

What else can yoga do?

Research suggests that prenatal yoga can have many benefits for pregnant women and their babies. Studies have suggested that practicing yoga while pregnancy can also improve sleep, reduce stress and anxiety, increase the strength, flexibility and endurance of muscles needed for childbirth.

It can also decrease nausea, carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches and shortness of breath, and decrease the risk of preterm labour, pregnancy-induced hypertension and intrauterine growth restriction — a condition that slows a baby’s growth.

But don’t forget, yoga is also a perfect workout after you have your baby as well. When you feel ready to move, starting out with gentle yoga, simple breathing and stretching is a great way to start your body moving again. As you may have already guessed, or experienced, finding time to practice as a new mum is hard. A good time to start is take 15 minutes while your baby is napping to work with a gentle yoga sequence each day can work miracles for energy and body strength. Also, as your baby feeds, try practicing pranayama, the relaxation from deep belly breathing and action of the muscles helps to speed up the recovery time.

As always, check with your physician before you begin any new exercise practice.  Please feel free to contact me for class times or if you have any questions. I hope to meet you soon!

Adventure Boot Camp and a 2 1/2 Hour Heated Yoga Session: Lessons Learned

I recently did two things that I’ve never done before: a 4 week Adventure Boot Camp and a 2 ½ hour heated yoga session. Both taught me all sorts of things about myself, or reminded me of things that I’d forgotten.

It’s easy as a teacher to tell your students to not worry about what they look like or not to compare themselves to anyone else in the class. It’s not as easy to do it yourself when you are surrounded by a room full of the bendiest, stretchiest and toned bods you have ever seen in your entire life!

I had to keep reminding myself to go within – to tune everything else out and to just focus on what was going on on my own mat.

I had to listen to my body like never before, because it was a pretty advanced session with a number of asana that were out of my range of capability, and whilst I was sorely tempted to try some out, I knew that the risk of injury was there.

I remembered how scary it can be to go upside down for the first time! I have been doing headstands and shoulder stands for as long as I can remember, and so it’s easy to become complacent about how frightening it can be to someone who’s never done it before. We were doing handstands up against the wall, which I’m happy doing, but we were doing double-legged kick-ups (they had a fancy word for it which escapes me now) with our ankles bound. It takes a lot of strength and confidence, and whilst I do think that I may have had the physical ability, I totally lost my bottle after a few botched attempts that almost saw me face-planting. Feeling that wobble and the fear that came swiftly afterward was the best lesson I’ve had in a long time. I never push my students to do anything that they are nervous of doing – just not my style, and just not good teaching, and definitely not ‘good’ yoga – but it was a good reminder that the fear that some people do feel is very real and I am grateful that this will teach me to be even more empathetic than I try to be usually.

See above – I wrote ‘botched’ attempts. As I wrote it, I realised that I’m doing it again – self-criticism, which is one of the things I encourage my students to leave outside the door. So, at the time, I had to work with myself to not feel that I was failing, but just to observe that that’s how it was on that particular day. Another day it may be different, or not – and that’s fine. And writing it now, once again catching myself and saying ‘no, it wasn’t botched, it just was beyond your range of capabilities at that particular time. And that’s fine’.

Other things that were constantly there: letting go of competitiveness and comparison; being grateful for being injury-free; feeling revitalised by the excitement of doing something new!

The second new thing for me was attending Adventure Bootcamp, 3 mornings a week for 4 weeks. I wanted to boost my cardio fitness and had heard so many good things about ABC that I wanted to try it out. I typically get my cardio workout by walking in the mountains every second day or so, but recently a lot of my walking buddies have been tied up and I’m loathe to go into the mountains on my own (sad but true). So, with great trepidation, I arrived on Day 1, only to find out that I was the only new girl. Horror! Self-conscious, awkward, feeling extremely conspicuous, I had to work with all sorts of emotions that arose. Partnering up with a buddy brought up a reminder of being at school and being anxious that I would be the one that wouldn’t get picked! So I had to keep reminding myself that I am an almost-40 year old mum of two, not a gawky teenager, and that I was fine, with buddy or without.

The competitiveness thing really reared its ugly head at Bootcamp! I am inherently competitive (I used to be the one who would race the person on the next rowing machine in the gym when they had no idea that we were in competition. I used to even race cars up a steep hill if I was walking…I had it bad). Yoga has been a real tonic for me in this regard – letting go of all that, and coming to a place where you realise that it’s not about beating someone else or being ‘better’ than them, or winning. It’s about listening to yourself, knowing your own capabilities and limitations, and respecting and accepting that. And being motivated from within rather than by measuring yourself against someone else. Big lesson for me.

I had forgotten how quiet I tend to go when I’m in a new group. I am fortunate to have a group of extremely special friends who I feel very comfortable with, meaning that I don’t often catch myself second-guessing myself and what I’m saying or how I’m acting, knowing that I am accepted as I am, warts and all, but here I was being hyper-sensitive to how everyone looked at me, wondering whether I was fitting in okay, wondering if I was fit enough, friendly enough, over-friendly etc. So it was a big thing for me to keep that inner dialogue going, telling myself just to breeeeaaaathe and to be myself, and that that is always good enough. More than good enough – that’s number one prize – being true to yourself and finding the ‘authentic you’, as the lovely Misha at Yoga Life described it.

I also realised again how easy it is for us (myself included) to make up our minds about someone very swiftly, based on a first impression, and that very often what you think you see is rarely the full picture or story. Yes, those first few seconds are important and our intuition is a powerful thing, but there is often so much else that we aren’t aware of that may colour how a person is coming across. I was constantly reminded of my aunt’s beautiful quote: ‘Be kind, because everyone is going through something’ (I think it was actually Plato that originally said ‘Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle’). That woman who isn’t overly chatty? She’s not rude, it turns out her sister has just been diagnosed with breast cancer, has a 2 year old daughter, and the prognosis doesn’t look good. The one who is hugely competitive and wants to win every single exercise and race? Turns out she’s deaf, huge fun, and feels a huge amount of pride and accomplishment at being ‘the best’ in a world where she’s always had a challenge that most of us wouldn’t even begin to understand.  And so on.

And even though I was initially a bit daunted by how close-knit the group seemed, by week 2 I was instead looking forward to this lovely sense of community – no, more than that – sisterhood – that exists within the group. Women rock – we are all so unique and that’s the beauty of something like this: there is space for everyone to be themselves without feeling the need to conform.

We are all human. We are all works in progress. We are all learning things all the time, and we are all doing our best, given what we know and what is going on in our lives. It’s been a good lesson to be reminded of all these things. Oh, and I signed up for my second boot camp, and now I’m not the new girl anymore!

Pairing Yoga and Wine?

Just read an interesting article by yoga instructor Jill Lawson called ‘Pairing Yoga and Wine Blends Complementary Health Benefits’. Being a wine lover who is fortunate enough to live in South Africa’s beautiful wine-growing region, it comes as no surprise that I literally inhaled (sorry) the facts she cites, but I’m pretty sure that there are a lot of yogis out there that will be up in arms about what she is saying. I’m curious to see what sort of reaction she gets, but I trust that those nay-sayers note that she’s not advocating over-indulging, but rather freedom of choice, moderation and balance.

Read the full article below or click here to go straight to the original post.

Increased levels of heart-healthy high-density lipoproteins, better sleep, and reduced anxiety are just a few of the shared benefits of yoga and…can you guess? Wine!

As yoga rises in popularity, yoga and wine retreats are also making an appearance as some of the most sought after vacations in the world of self-pampering spa-like escapes.

In addition to booking a week of yoga and wine tasting at some fabulous resort with some fabulous instructor, such as Wine and Yoga in Tuscany with Sadie Nardini, yoga studios and businesses are also taking advantage of the delightful combination loved by so many.

For example, The W Hotel in San Diego is on the cutting edge of the wine and yoga craze by offering the popular Vino and Vinyasa series sponsored by Lululemon Athletica. Consisting of an all-level vinyasa flow class followed by wine and appetizers, yoga and wine lovers can take to the hotel’s rooftop to strut their poses before satisfying their palates.

But, it is not just businesses and retreat centers who are keenly tuned in to the dynamic relationship between wine and yoga. Colleen Saidman, wife of acclaimed yoga teacher Rodney Yee, has partnered with Estancia winery to assist in their campaign to sell wine. Pairing wines with health tips, Saidman believes that yogis need not steer clear of drinking alcohol, but rather find an appropriate balance and avoid overindulging.

As with anything, moderation is the key. Just as too much yoga can cause injury and harm to the body, drinking too much wine also has its own set of nasty side effects. While yoga may help relieve the symptoms of a hangover, the idea is to find the perfect pairing that fosters one’s health, not conquers it.

All people may not accept drinking, even in moderation. Some yogis may even frown upon drinking wine after yoga, or at any time for that matter. Everyone has his or her own personal preferences of how to act, and either belief shouldn’t arouse judgment or condemnation.

I personally love a smooth and light glass of pinot noir after flowing through a slow and mild vinyasa class. The lingering finish of savasana is the best precursor to the bouquet of oak and berries that is to follow. The first sip feels nothing more than a continuation of my yoga practice; body relaxed, mind at ease, and heart warm and happy.

About Jill — Yoga Instructor Twitter: @JillLawsonYoga http://www.jilllawsonyoga.com/
Jill Lawson has been a fitness professional for 20 years, and has concentrated on yoga for more than 10 years. She has a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, and a master’s in physical education. This yogi lives in Southwest Colorado where she teaches yoga and Pilates.

Ladies and gentlemen, here’s….. Derryn!

I’m delighted to announce that a new instructor is joining my yoga studio in Stellenbosch, starting this week!

Derryn Searle is a beautifully positive person whose smile lights up every room she walks into. Some of her passions are yoga, music and teaching, and she particularly shines when the three are combined in her classes. Derryn trained at Yoga Life in Cape Town and offers a wonderfully energising Vinyasa flow style that will get you moving and a spring into your step, strengthening the body while calming the mind.

What this means for the studio at Yoga With Nicci is that there are more classes on offer, and you will be able to choose between two different instructors/styles. Try us both out to see what resonates better with you! Or just pick and choose, depending on your schedule.

Contact me for more info about the new class schedule, fees etc.

And in her own words, here is what led our radiant new instructor to yoga:

Derryn Searle – What led me to yoga

When I look back on my life, discovering yoga has been the most natural progression for me. My journey as a young adult began with my passion for ballet and music as I was growing up, which culminated in my studying music at university and becoming a musician and teacher. After having taught music for many years in Durban, I arrived in Stellenbosch 8 years ago with new ideas and dreams of opening my own décor store, Cocoon. This was a wonderfully creative and busy time in my life learning how to run a business along with being a mother, and getting to know people in Stellenbosch.

At the same time, I started practising yoga in Stellenbosch first with Johan Kotze  and Ina Gerber who introduced me to Iyengar Yoga, and later for many years with Adele George. I fell in love with yoga and the wonderful sense of well-being and calmness that I felt after every class, and soon it became very much part of my daily life. Practising yoga has transformed my life, cultivating strength, stillness and endurance in my body, steadiness and calmness in my mind, and a wonderful lightness of being!

My regular practice of yoga brought me to the realization that I wanted to teach yoga and train as a yoga teacher, which made perfect sense as I have always loved teaching.

Earlier this year I completed my YTT 200 Hr Teacher’s Training with Yogalife in Cape Town. Trained by Marley Vigdorth from Denver U.S.A. and Dave Porter, owner of Yogalife, we were trained to teach Vinyasa Flow Yoga which is a steady flowing sequence of connected yoga postures linked with the breath. This is an exhilarating yet calming yoga, usually accompanied by beautiful and inspiring music, and appeals to all ages. It helps focus the mind, improves posture and alignment, builds strength, stamina and flexibility, and releases stress, bringing balance and healing in our lives. On and off the mat, yoga feeds body and soul.

I am so looking forward to joining Nicci and teaching yoga with her in her beautiful studio in Stellenbosch. Hope to see you there!

Spring has sprung and there is a buzz in the air….

…and it’s not just the bees humming about all the gorgeous jasmine that has suddenly come into bloom or even an extended Brahmari pranayama session. No, there is a buzz around my little yoga studio in Stellenbosch that is getting louder and louder, in the most exciting manner possible! Let me explain…

I’ve been conspicuously absent from my blogging over the last while, and it’s because I’ve had the incredible fortune and privilege to become involved in a non-profit called TRADE-MARK (www.trade-mark.co.za) that a former colleague from my WWF days (World Wide Fund for Nature, not the wrestling crew) – Josh had the idea a number of years back and has recently got some funding to set up a website and get things really moving forward, and we are currently in the process of waiting to hear from DG Murray Trust as to whether a proposal for funding that we lodged with them, will come through. It’s an agonising wait, especially because it is going to determine whether or not I will be getting paid a salary! I will be the first paid member of staff and so it’s a really big deal to all of us. More about TRADE-MARK in a bit…

Anyway, I’ve committed a set number of hours a week to Josh and TRADE-MARK, and what with that, the usual time pressures that come with having two small children and also trying to keep up with my regular yoga classes that I teach in Stellenbosch, there’s not been much time left over for blogging. I love every one of my three ‘jobs’ (as mentioned above) but I really have been feeling increasingly that something needs to give. I wasn’t quite sure how or when or what it would look like, but I did know that I wanted to keep up with all three of them – a real juggling act, and one in which I didn’t want to drop any of the balls. So I started putting it out there (as the cliche goes) – the fact that I was very open to any form of help, support, helping to share the commitments or to take a bit of pressure off.

And wow, did the Universe listen! Literally, in the last few days, things have been falling into place in the most wonderful way possible. I can’t go into too much detail now as I’m still finalising things, but there are going to be some very exciting developments coming to Yoga With Nicci in the next while. I will keep you all posted – watch this space!

TRADE-MARK

Just a bit more about this phenomenal non-profit, as promised: TRADE-MARK is a non-profit organisation (registered as a Trust) that connects the best tradespeople – tilers, pavers, painters, carpenters – in the townships in the Helderberg basin with those who require their services. We have a rigorous selection process and a performance monitoring system that ensures both accountability and the highest quality service.

The idea was conceived by Joshua Cox in 2007.  Simon, a friend from the township of Diepsloot (an expert tiler/paver) was struggling to secure regular work. 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.
There are many skilled tradespeople, just like Simon, living in the townships in South Africa. Marketing opportunities for these individuals are basically non-existent because of the lack of resources. Most of these tradespeople are sub-contracted to do work, intermittently. Others advertise their services on cardboard placards, or compete with numerous other tradespeople on the roadside for casual work. Some tradesmen, against all odds, have managed to secure jobs directly with customers and have established their own businesses, sub-contracting and finding their own work through word of mouth, handing out flyers, or advertising on Gumtree.
We hand-pick the best of these tradesmen: individuals with initiative and drive, who communicate well, and already have experience in dealing with customers but are not able to market themselves sufficiently to secure ongoing work.
Our vision is a South Africa in which people’s quality of life is determined more by hard work, diligence and integrity than the economic situation they are born into, that these qualities are recognised and rewarded and not masked by people’s preconceptions, that members of our society lead by example and play an active role in bettering this country, and that the gap between the rich and poor is continually being narrowed.
Our mission is to handpick highly skilled and diligent tradesmen (painters, pavers, tillers and carpenters) who live in townships around Somerset West, invest in them as leaders and role models in their communities (through additional skills training, create marketing opportunities for them to grow their individual businesses, and to encourage South Africans to become proactive in improving our country by offering them attractive choices to spend their money in the communities most in need.
Check out the website http://www.trade-mark.co.za to see how easy and straightforward it is to post a job. Just a few clicks and you’re there, and you will then be contacted by a skilled, vetted tradesman who will give you a free quote. Once the price is agreed, there is a simple contract to be signed by both parties, and after the job is done, you will be able to give feedback which we will share with the tradesman in question. Our tradesmen are top-notch guys who communicate well, run their own ‘businesses’ and who know that their reputati0n in what is going to take them forward in life.
It’s a brilliant concept, especially in this day and age where everyone is complaining about the lack of employment in South Africa, but it seems that not very much is being done about it. I have met some of the guys already, and look forward to meeting them all in time, and they are inspirational in terms of how they have risen about their circumstances and are achieving such success. This is not by any stretch of the imagination a bleeding heart charity, trying to give handouts – we are a middle man to help these entrepreneurs market themselves a bit better and to just get a little bit of a boost. We actively dis-incentivise them to become reliant on us to keep providing them with jobs – to avoid us being solely reliant on donor funding and also to empower the tradesmen, we charge them a 10% fee of whatever they quote for a job, but this is only for the first job – anything they get off the back of that first job is all theirs. Such is the calibre of our guys that we have had them insisting on giving us the 10% even for jobs that they got off the back of subsequent jobs (for example, Johannes from Sir Lowry’s Pass Village who did such a great job of painting a house that the guy’s neighbour asked him to do his own- Johannes was so appreciative of our initial lead that he insisted we take the 10%. We had to argue hard but we did it and he kept the full fee!)
We have got through the first two steps of the application process, and hopefully it’s just a matter of time before we get the good news that we’ve got the funding and we can really run with this. I am absolutely confident that it’s going to happen, because the way that things have been working out with my yoga studio just seem to be clearing the way for me to continue doing something that I love so much (teaching yoga in beautiful Stellenbosch) whilst also being able to really add value to TRADE-MARK, and still having the flexibility to be present and engaged with my little ones. Even as I write that, I can’t believe how beautifully things are lining up. Eternally grateful.