Cissy Nansere’s balancing act
Cissy Nansere is one of the most fearless and agile yogis in Uganda. The 26-year-old yoga instructor, is popular on Instagram, for creating beautiful shapes in front of beautiful backdrops. Cissy, who is also a passionate traveler, shared with us her mental health struggles and how mastering her balancing act led her to live her healthiest and happiest life.
I inherited the lifestyle I live today from my father. My father was an early riser, he exercised regularly and ate only healthy meals. We always woke up at 5am and I would get his things ready for his gym sessions. Because he would not take me to the gym, I found a way of exercising in our compound. I would do whatever felt like an exercise to me at that time, and now I realise that most of those poses I were actually yoga. After my exercise, I would then prepare our breakfast which was always an egg, a fruit, bread and tea. Our lunch consisted of matooke or rice or posho with vegetables. There was never any fast food on our menu; I ate my first pizza when I was 16 years old.
I grew up in Najjanankumbi on Entebbe Road and attended White Angels’ Primary School which was in the neighbourhood so I walked to and from school. However, I sat my P.L.E at Sir Apollo Kaggwa Primary School. Then I went to Mbogo High School, where I had the most unpleasant experience of my school life which forced me to transfer to East High School where I did my O and A-Level . I went to Makerere University. After graduation, I did not know what to do because while I had many interests I failed to find one that would give me the kind of fulfillment I was looking for. I ended up doing a course in wine and became a certified sommelier, but I did not practice it for long. I tried out modeling but I quit as a soon as I realised I could not live a scripted life. Being a model means you surrender your opinions and beliefs for the sake of the job. The client will dictate what you wear and how you wear it, as long as you are being paid to do exactly that; I am way too opinionated for that.My life changed in 2015 when I was involved in a car accident. The doctors told me I was saved by the seat belt I was wearing but it also injured my chest. I was ordered to go on bed rest which changed my life. I am an active person who is happiest when mobile; lying there on that couch day in day out got to my head. I developed depression and anxiety issues. To compound my problems, my relationship crumbled to pieces. As soon as I could move, I started going out to drink and hang out in bars till late just to numb my pain. The night life was not who I am and it did not help at all. Life became worse. Every time I thought I had hit rock-bottom, it just got deeper and I would find myself sinking even lower.Coincidentally around this time, I met and became friends with a yoga instructor who suggested I try out yoga to find healing. I had also seen people who practice yoga post their photos and its numerous benefits on Instagram and admired them. But just like everything in life, I needed a nudge to start and she was that nudge.So I started yoga,taking extra time to work on my chest. We would do some exercises that stretched the shoulders and opened the heart that I loved so much; by the end of the session, I was feeling very calm and assuaged. I got hooked. As I continued practicing, I quickly realised yoga is not about how you look but how you feel. The essence of this practice is to burn away the parts of our lives that are built up over the years that do not matter until you get to the part that is who you truly are. I learned that who I am is enough.
All my life I had been plagued by the fear of being alone. I therefore created bridges with everyone I met so that I would always find my way back to them. But discovering that I did not need anyone to complete me, gave me the courage to severe those relationships that were no longer useful to me. The healing did not come easy or fast; it was gradual. I would still experience late night panic attacks but I would get up, do some meditation and tell myself that I would be okay. And I was. Now I am able to switch my phone off at 9pm and sleep peacefully until morning. Do not get me wrong, it is good to have people in your life but it is much better when you are aware of your own enoughness.
Your mental and physical condition are interlinked, once one is cluttered it will spill into the other. The solution is to continuously simplify and edit down your life until you find happiness and fulfillment. Sometimes I wake up with this beautiful light feeling and I have to restrain myself because I feel I could just float away. It is amazing that I can lift my body and that it can do whatever it is meant to do efficiently.
I always advise my students (especially women) to stop sending negative energy and thoughts into their bodies because negative energy is responsible for all unhappiness. I encourage them to learn to love their lives where they are. I have learned that life cannot get better unless you love it enough to want to make it better. Bitterness does not get you there any faster. Be happy and appreciate what you have.
One thing I always strive to teach my students above anything else is controlling their breath. Breathing is proof that life exists. If you control your breath you can control your life. The slower or more deliberately controlled you can breathe the longer and healthier your life can be. Look at dogs; they breathe so fast which shortens their lifespan. The faster you breathe, the shorter your lifespan is. Also if you can control your breath, you can control your body thus prolonging your life.
My other big passion is travel; I have been to India where I fell in love with the Zen culture which simplifies life to the level where everyone who wants can experience unlimited happiness. In Europe, I was introduced to beauty (Paris) and luxury (Switzerland, Zurich and Copenhagen). Most people ask how I manage to travel, the truth is travelling is very expensive but also as they say, where there is a will, there is a way. I have made it a habit to save 10 per cent as general savings and 30 per cent for travel. I look for discounts on tickets and always buy them in advance which is cheaper.
Travelling has opened me to the reality of the many beautiful things, people that exist in the world. Leaving my physical boundaries and entering into this expansive world humbled me to the realization that I am just a tiny portion of the world. I have also experienced intense loneliness that has made me appreciate the people in my life more. There was this one time I was walking by the Eiffel tower, in Paris; the most romantic city in the world and felt this longing to have someone to share it with. But this loneliness has also been good for me, I have learned to be my own companion and even draw inspiration from it.