1 As a woman, a mother and a yoga practitioner, tell me what do you find the most important teaching you’ve discovered from this practice and what would you share to those who are on this path?
Listen to your body – look after your body and be grateful to it for what it can do and tolerant of it for things it cannot do – whether you are a beginning yoga practitioner or an ageing one like myself. Yoga should not be a competition either with others or with oneself.
2 What is Feminism to you? How do you feel women can support each other?
On a personal level, i feel that gender is the most important defining property of an individual – it transcends such other properties such as race, nationality, class, education. Three of my closest friends, going back over 50 years, are African women. One of them has never had any formal education, one had 6 years of formal schooling, one (like myself) has a ph.d degree. Our common identity as women transcends all the ‘differences’ in other aspects of our lives. On a public level, feminism means fighting for girls and women to get equal access to education, health care, jobs, salaries, political and economic opportunity.
As for supporting each other – being aware of other women’s situation and reaching out where possible – networking among women – avoid malicious gossip about other women.
3 In ashtanga practice, how do you feel we can keep the community strong and supportive for one another?
Most of the year, I practise on my own, so the only times I feel really part of a community is when i attend Petri and Wambui’s retreats in Finland in July and Koh Mak in January. I do feel much supported by the energy generated at those retreats and I have felt humbled and flattered when much younger people ask me about my continuing Ashtanga practice at my age.
4 With this practice we are constantly challenging ourselves both mind and body. This requires a lot of self discipline, focus and consistency in our daily routine. In this moments we are opening ourselves up, we are vulnerable and processing whatever emotions that rises. What would be your advice in these situations? What did you find helpful to you?
I think it is important to at the very least get started on one’s practice, even if one is feeling low energy – once I have worked through Suryanamaskara A and B, I almost always feel the energy to continue. I am less concerned about consistency as i feel that as I age, there are days and situations where i need to focus most of my energy on other things, but i do have goals – at the very least get as far as Navasana and then even the closing inversions! ‘little and often’ is my motto!
5 In this modern world we are surrounded by distractions, whether it’s the constant stream of negative news, social media and the perfectly manufactured image of how to liveness life, our appearance and body shaming. It has the power to knock us off balance. How do we nourish ourselves? How do we find acceptance?
I try to limit my social media participation and not to allow myself to be emotionally involved in things that I know I cannot change. I have just spent three weeks traveling in Britain meeting family members and old friends, and with each of them, we agreed ‘no discussion of Brexit and no discussion of Trump’ – one way to avoid engaging with negative news in 2019! As for issues of appearance and body shaming – I will be 77 years old this coming July and I think I am pretty much immune to these issues – though I do like to keep my hair short and tidy.
6 Who are the women that inspire you, who are the women that you admire?
On a personal level – both my daughters Wambui and Wanjiru. On a public level – Jane Goodall the environmentalist, the late Wangari Maathai (also an environmentalist).
7 What are your daily rituals and routines that you feel ground you?
My husband makes coffee for us every morning – and then I make the rest of breakfast for him! We try to do this wherever we are – since we travel for much of the year (Spokane,Washington State USA; Nairobi; Finland; Koh Mak) it is hard to establish firm routines for the rest of the day.
8 What makes you feel safe and secure?
I like to be surrounded by an organized space – both my apartments (Spokane and Nairobi) are small and pretty full of ‘stuff’ but I try not to accumulate too much and to keep things in order – I feel safe in a tidy space and am gradually trying to reduce the number of items that surround me.
9 Which element of nature do you feel most connected to?
10 Our energy is always shifting in our monthly practice, as female practitioners when we receive our ladies holiday, whether its a seasonal change or when we travel to different climates. How can we find a balance and a grounding when we feel these changes happen?
I try to listen to my body and not to overdo it when traveling – whether walking, being with friends, and also yoga. As i said above in answer to questions 4 and 5 – ‘little and often’ is my motto especially for the yoga practice.