Today I’m chatting with Susanna Grace, a wellness practitioner and yoga teacher living in Yorkshire, England.

Susanna was born in South Africa and grew up in the Apartheid years of state-enforced racial separation and repression. In 1976 she left as a political exile to settle in England where she worked for many years as a social worker in the charitable and not-for-profit sector, predominantly with women, children, addiction and homelessness, including eight years in a Rape Crisis centre.

Following a year of declining health she was diagnosed with a tropical intestinal parasite and glandular fever which resulted in the onset of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and a long period of debilitating ‘house arrest’. A lifelong believer in natural remedies and alternative medicine, she used herself as a laboratory to test her theories of healing. Once fully recovered, she committed herself to teaching what she had learned and since 2005 has been a Yoga teacher and wellness practitioner.

Despite finding people fascinating and being committed to community-building, she identifies as an introvert and is most happy either drinking tea and reading, or walking under trees or along the sea shore.

Enjoy our ramble through the myth of Persephone and Susanna’s relationship with her body and her creativity.

Things we chatted about in this episode:

  • the myth of Persephone
  • how the whole natural world mourned the loss of Persephone when she was in the underworld
  • how this myth informs Susanna’s work as a therapist – seeing darkness as a soul wound that we must befriend, otherwise we feel kidnapped, trapped and exiled
  • how going from child to adult to mother and then losing a mother means the myth resonates differently at these different stages
  • on longing for an ideal supportive mother like Persephone’s mother – grief over the mother/daughter element, then working with the pressures of motherhood after becoming a mother herself
  • how much she loves the idea of rebirth and cycles and how there are steps we can take to bring ourselves back into the light
  • how Susanna had an eating disorder – became intensely interested in meditation and yoga at an early age – and internalized a sense of control through her body at the age of 16
  • how affectionate she feels for her young self and those ideals
  • having holy anorexia and what it means
  • anorexia as her soul wound, her descent into Persephone’s underworld
  • on being a ‘west facing woman’
  • on how the ‘clouds clear’ as one gets older
  • relationship with creativity
  • how much women’s poetry has fed her and brought a sense of kinship to her
  • growing up with a mother and brother as an artist, and first 2 life partners were artists – surrounded by visually creative people – how that can be daunting
  • how she curated collections of visually appealing bits of wood and such
  • wanting to go back to early love of colour and start crafting glass and colour with fused colour
  • creativity as being completely absorbed in the flow
  • writing as something that gives her great pleasure – poetry and journaling
  • relationship with body
  • fortunate to have been healthy as a child, in a hot climate, barefoot and minimally clothed. Had a very strong and unselfconscious childhood – inhabited her body like an animal in the free ways we like to cultivate
  • how sexual abuse closed off areas of her body and how that played into her holy anorexia and an intense desire to shed anything that wasn’t pure spirit/essence
  • the long road of healing from pushing herself to the limits with nourishment and healing around themes of power and loss of innocence as a child
  • feeling so blessed from a 44 year yogic practice to have a strong healthy body
  • how her body was a very fast car, but now in her 60s it’s not like that anymore
  • discovering a need to balance desire in her mind to do certain things with the inquiry into how she’ll feel physically if she does so
  • on coming to terms with aging and getting a softer body, and how the softer edges of her body are accompanied by a softer mind and heart
  • how much Janelle’s daughter loves the soft soft skin of her 93 year old great grandmother and the softness of her 50ish gramma’s hand – the beauty of the softening that comes with age
  • on how good walking feels

Resources from this episode:

Connecting with Susanna:

Connecting with Janelle: