Namaste 2014

Last year wasn’t much of a blogging year for me, but I’m hoping to make amends this year!

2013 was a fast and furious year.  A new relationship, a new job, some surprises, some shitty news, some wonderful times, and  some lovely trips.  And, always, ashtanga, a ballast in the storm, even if, as I go into my fifth year of practice, there’s more plateau than ever before, backbends disappear and reappear, and sometimes just getting up and unrolling my mat feels like a very big accomplishment.

December is my  favourite time in Joburg, even when I’m not actually in Joburg.  The normal grit and pace is tempered by a mass exodus to the sea, a big heavy exhale, roads are calm, emails remain unanswered, and there is a collective agreement that work will only resume in the second week of January.  And here we are in that very week, the slumbering giant awaking, industry cogs beginning to whir.

I inevitably feel a little overwhelmed at the thought of a whole new year, especially I guess this year with its lack of a job right now, and the relentlessness of time passing.  I think though, if there is one resolution I’ll make a daily practice, it’ll be to let go of comparisons to other people and the perception I have of their lives.  No good can come of it.


Ashtanga in Bali

I’m just back from a magical time in Bali. I spent  10 days in the lovely Ubud attending the Ashtanga Yoga Bali Conference, with a few days in Canggu practicing with Nick Evans at Samadi Bali, a really magical practice space.

I feel I might be processing all that I learnt for a long while to come!  What a profound and beautiful experience, learning from such wonderful teachers in such an incredible place.

The sweat, the humidity, the neon colours of Bali.  The stories and the complete immersion in yoga, with sudden bright flashes of clarity and insight.  All of it with so much lightness, kindness and laughter.

Thank you a million times!

Villa Mandi pool Tropical colours Shala Mysore mornings The panel Ombre Ubud Buddha Tanah Lot


Sorry for the nonsensical post earlier this morning!  I was showing some newbie bloggers how easy WordPress is to use, and just like that I clicked ‘publish’ instead of ‘preview’.  Easy indeed!

Anyway, here is a real post with limited gobbledygook!  And a very happy post too!

A spontaneous set of clicks (seems I am prone to a spur-of-the-moment click!), led me to purchase a ticket to Bali and a space at the Ashtanga Yoga Bali Conference 2013  taking place in Ubud.  How amazing!?  

I am beyond excited! (Even if I will be eating courgettes and rice for the foreseeable future!)


Not so okay veganism

Vegetarians make some people feel uncomfortable.  Vegans make many people feel very uncomfortable.

I’ve had an interesting day.  I’ve turned down work because I don’t feel I can freelance (albeit briefly) for a company that makes its money selling animal products, and I’ve returned a pair of bloody gorgeous shoes, because, well, they are the outcome of a bloody process.


I’ve also had someone declare I’m a hypocrite because I have leather products in my cupboard.

And I’d agree.  It is hypocritical to refrain from eating all animal products and yet still have a leather belt.  The thing is, for me veganism is a process, and a new one at that.  I’m not about to throw away any animal products I’ve accumulated over the last 15 or so years of consumerism – that  feels entirely wasteful and disrespectful.  I am however going commit to not buying new leather belts and shoes and handbags,  or leather wallets, or cars with leather seats, or any of the other animal-sourced merchandise abounding the world over.

The honest truth is that this is the hardest thing about being a vegan for me.  Not giving up cheesecake and milk chocolate; no, it’s the shopping.  I like shopping. I have a career in fashion and I love clothes.  And shoes.  And watches.  I often get swept away by aesthetics.

The other truth is that as uncomfortable as my dietary choices make people feel, they make me feel a lot more uncomfortable.  It’s hard to discern when enough is enough; whether it’s fair for my omnivore boyfriend not to have meat in the fridge, when worrying about where my food has been grown, where my clothes were made, how heavy my carbon footprint is, and whether my cosmetics (and medication) are tested on animals is going to tip me over the edge and do my head in.  This is often the case.  How do I reconcile my desire for certain things with their potential moral load?

It’s also uncomfortable to make people feel uncomfortable.  Social situations become a minefield and I’m quizzed often and usually to the point of exhaustion about why I eat the way I do.  It’s uncomfortable to know that people are wondering what the hell they are going to feed me at a dinner party and it’s a complete pain in the ass when a coffee shop doesn’t offer soya milk, not to mention the absence of vegan dishes on most restaurant menus.

The crux of the matter is that no-one enters into veganism lightly, and certainly not to make you feel uncomfortable about your own food choices.  Any discomfort is entirely your own.

Okay veganism

I’ve been a vegan before (for about two years in my late teens), and I’m 95% vegan these days (the other 5% made up of the odd bit of eggy/buttery cake, Sunday croissants, dinners cooked lovingly for me where the pasta may contain eggs, the odd scoffed piece of milk chocolate, and social gatherings where I can’t be too sure if there’s parmesan in the pesto).  I’m reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer at the moment,  have watched parts of Earthlings again, and am enjoying the insight of South African Veg-IT, and all are leading me further down the path of a fully plant-based diet.

The hardest bit is the social aspect: most people can cope with cooking for a vegetarian, but few manage the idea of vegan cooking without a little blanching.  In actual fact though, it’s really not that hard.  There are MANY wonderful blogs dedicated to the art of tasty and nutritious vegan cuisine, The First Mess being one.

I made an utterly mouthwatering dinner today based on a recipe on The First Mess (spaghetti squash noodle bowl with lime peanut sauce), although I swopped out the squash for what I had in the house (orange sweet potatoes and carrots).  I’ve made the dish with butternut squash before though, and it’s sublime.  I used baby spinach instead of kale (kale seems exceedingly hard to come by in SA), used almond butter to replace the peanut butter (this makes very little difference to the deliciousness of the dressing, while boosting the nutritional aspects a bunch), and replaced the grapeseed oil with extra virgin olive oil.  I also added some smoked tofu.

So much yum factor.





How to practice

I read this great article the other day about the importance of a daily practice.  I’ve been practicing ashtanga and teaching for a while now and I’m faced with the same questions from students again and again.  Ashtanga requires some serious commitment – I get it – so here are my answers on how to get that daily practice, wherever you might be right now.

I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible.  That’s much like saying you can’t run around the block because you can’t run a marathon.  Flexibility comes with the practice – it is not a prerequisite.  In fact, inflexibility might be your greatest teacher and allow you to tap into yoga’s lessons so much faster than flexy-bendy girl.

I can’t get up so early in the mornings.  Hey, it’s never easy.  In winter it’s cold and dark; in summer it’s warm and light – staying in bed is always comfortable and seductive.  David Swenson taught me this: just get up and put your yoga clothes on.  If you’re still tired, go back to bed.  If you make it to your mat, just do some sun salutations, and if you’re still thinking about your duvet, go back to bed.  I often use this strategy and tell myself I’ll just do the standing and finishing sequence today – by the time I get to the end of standing though, I’m awake and ready to carry on with the whole 90 minutes.  Just get up.

I can’t practice six days a week.  So don’t.  If you have a young practice or have just returned to ashtanga after some time apart, don’t set yourself up for failure.  Committing to a six day a week practice and expecting to go from zero to hero is self sabotage (again, are you going to run 20km four times a week when you currently only run 5km once a week?).  Three days a week is ample.  Allow your practice to grow organically – over time you’ll naturally start adding days and building up to that six day a week practice.

A dedicated six day a week practice is no mean feat.  In fact it usually involves some dramatic lifestyle changes – eating habits, sleep routines, relationships and perhaps even career changes.  Often these happen quite easily over time though – the more you practice, the more you change.  Allow your practice to change you.

Mysore freaks me out.  Yes, a Mysore class can be intimidating.  Or rather, the thought of a Mysore class can be intimidating.  Once you are on your mat, moving in a room filled with people breathing and practicing, this intimidation falls away.  The thing to remember here is that everyone in the room started out not knowing how to do one sun salutation.  No one knew the sequence and those people busting out the crazy postures are the ones who have been practicing their butts off for years, and most likely have the most respect and compassion  for anyone beginning their ashtanga journey.  Give your teacher and the other practitioners in the room the benefit of the doubt.  Give yourself the benefit of the doubt.

Can’t I just self-practice at home?  Self-practice is the end goal, sure, but hell it can be hard. When your practice is still young, it’s important to practice in a studio with a teacher who can help and advise you, and a community who can support and inspire you.

I can’t do X, Y, Z posture. The thing to understand here is that you’ll never be able to ‘do’ any of the postures.  Sure the more you practice, the closer to your toes you’ll get, and binding and jumping through/back for instance might become possible. But there is no end game to a posture, no perfection, only more layers to explore – slower, deeper, stronger, with more extension and consciousness.  As with life, wherever you are in a posture is exactly where you need to be – can you be okay with that?

How you are on your mat is how you are on in your life.  Do you constantly compare yourself to others, berate your body, shy away from things that are hard or that scare you?  Do you ignore your body when it tells you something hurts or is wrong?  Do you make excuses instead of doing what you know you need to do?

Treat yourself with some compassion and kindness.  Allow your ashtanga journey to teach you about yourself, to change you over time and to be your drug of choice.  You know it: practice and all is coming.


Body Worlds

Over the weekend I went to Sci-Bono to have a look at the Body Worlds exhibition. It was quite extraordinary – a whole universe within each of us.

There’s a moment of the ick factor knowing the bodies were once real people, and then just pure wonder at the magnificence of the human body, the intricacies of the systems keeping us moving, thinking and feeling, and the importance of ‘using it or losing it’.

I was again reminded of the reasons I practice yoga (which I from time to time forget after practicing pincha mayurasana again and again for months on end ;-)).  A strong, flexible body (and a strong, flexible mind) will go a long way to easing the path to old age.

I’m finding getting older quite a tough thing to deal with, an adjusting and readjusting of my sense of self.  The twenties are filled with feelings of immortality, brazen youthfulness and incomprehension of years passing and the body changing … until suddenly you notice a wrinkle that doesn’t unwrinkle.

It’s such a small portion of our lives that we spend young.  Here’s hoping though that with the help of yoga, I’ll spend a large portion of my life feeling youthful.


Body Worlds

Detox/retox February!

I’ve been detoxing for the last two weeks.  It was actually really manageable (read: I wasn’t hungry and didn’t feel deprived or even a little bit sad).  I did however spend an inordinate time in the kitchen cooking and washing dishes, feeling like a much less sexy version of Nigella.  I’d suggest the broccoli soup, lentil and sweet potato stew, broccoli and chickpea salad, oat and banana pancakes, and insist upon the blueberry and mint smoothie and mango and tahini smoothie.  Delight.

My chocolate and caffeine cravings didn’t really abate though and I do find a very early morning practice a thing of wonder when I’ve got a shot of espresso in me.  Hello focus.  Hello energy.  Hello prana.  So, you could say that I’m re-toxing (and this guy is in my kitchen’s future).

2013 has so far been a whirlwind – new job, new adventures, a feeling of things falling into place (and a whole new life in a matter of days!) – and my ever present anxiety kept at arm’s length, despite some considerable change and stress.  My ball juggling skills are at an all time high (and my to do lists at an all time extreme length), but my goals to keep some perspective and not think too far into the future seem to be mostly intact.

Deep breathing.

Blueberry/avo/mint smoothie




Summer loving

There’s very little that beats a proper beach holiday, especially one spent with your family on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast.  My childhood was spent in Natal – the Drakensberg, Ballito, Southbroom – and there’s something about those long, steamily lethargic days, palm trees, breezy sugar cane, occasional shoes and a wide assortment of creepy-crawlies that makes for a true mind/body break.

After the yoga/sea swimming/pool swimming/book reading/afternoon napping routine I established, I feel like I might have a handle on 2013.  The overarching theme of my 2012 was ‘anxiety’, deeply coloured chartreuse.

2013 will be light, easy and the colour of drizzly Zinkwazi sunsets – stimulating, diverse work, health, love, a lot of humour and perspective, continuing bravery, some exotic travel, and steady, seamless flow. I’m ready.

2012-12-24 13.41.12

2013-01-04 17.15.37

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Don’t let the door hit you on the way out

2012.  Not my favourite year.  Not many people’s favourite year.  Roll on 2013.

I enjoyed 2011.  It was tumultuous, but I felt like I came into my own, discovered myself again, got a little braver and faced up to some loss.

2012 was a slog.  I feel like I had to face ALL of my stuff, ALL of the time, backed up by a voracious pace of months speeding by, deadlines to meet, events to attend, hearts to mend and self analysis to see to.

In terms of the ‘wasn’t all bad’, I did finally stand up from backbends and drop back by myself (buoyed up by some heady love hormones which kicked the Jaws theme tune I’d been hearing for months in the teeth), buy a Gregor Jenkin table (which makes my eyes glad), see Scandinavia, practice with David Swenson and Laruga Glaser, and have many moments of happiness with my many dazzling, funny and wonderful friends, including getting lost at OppiKoppi for 7 hours and sleeping in a drunk stranger’s tent (which was a frozen, dusty hell at the time, but hilarious in hindsight).

I also then had to face some startling disappointments, deal with some overwhelming anxiety and contemplate depression (and my various feelings about being “depressed”) for the first time in many years. Some boredom-induced creative block, and some information overload and what must be over-stimulation ADHD, left me high and dry and unable to write, with just a deep down rage on the simmer.

I’ve also become extremely time sensitive with age – when I was in my 20’s months would pass with me feeling love sick and heartbroken.  Now I feel like there is no time to waste being sad … that doesn’t mean though that I’m not sad – I’m just more aware of time passing, days disappearing, with me feeling bereft in the ‘prime of my life’.  Added to this I’ve also become more aware of my body changing as I head into my 30’s, triggering more feelings of clocks ticking time away.  Tick tock.

In closing I’m hoping the Mayans were right.  Bring on a consciousness shift.