Only The Good Staff – Women of Prana Chai

Women Prana Chai

We had a conversation with the women of Prana Chai for this year’s International Women’s Day edition of Insider News:

What has been important to you as a daughter? A sister? A life partner? A mother? As a friend and a member of the community?


The people in my life are important to me: my family, particularly my husband Chris, and many of my friends but in particular my friend Sarah. Both of them are wise beyond their years and are brilliant communicators. I'm always learning from them; they are great at explaining what they are thinking and they address concerns when they come up and resolve them, rather than letting them build up into a huge problem. 


Namaste: the spirit in me honours to the spirit in you. This is one of my favourite expressions when I think about the people in my life. I live for namaste moments; to have people open up to me about their vulnerabilities, failures, fears, and emotions; and I get to do the same. 

Being vulnerable and sharing fear was challenging for me growing up - I just thought I needed to be happy and strong ALL THE TIME. But then I realised it wasn’t healthy to think that way. Now I am embracing my sadness, fear, and anger, as much as my joy and excitement.


I have always tried to be kind, to speak with love and honesty, and to put my heart into everything I do in life. I try to inspire others with my actions instead of my words. I always try to be supportive and mindful of others, and respect and honour myself.


Being myself is always the number one priority for me. I strive to be honest and to not tell lies to myself. Being called Unnie (older sister) in my community actually gives me an awkward feeling because from the moment that I was called that, I felt as though I had a duty to be a real Unnie...

Any name that indicates social relationships or stations makes me feel the same way (except for job positions). I immediately feel pressure to play the role perfectly to suit the expectations of others.

I just wanna be me all the time! Being a daughter or a sister only explains blood relations between me and my family, nothing more than that.


Being in a relationship, it’s really important to me to be there for my partner. I always listen to what they need and support them in the best way that I can - and vice-versa (hopefully)! I am a big sister but the truth is my brother is a super-successful computer geek and I feel as though I look up to him now, the way he looked up to me when we were kids. 


Being supportive of my friends, family, colleagues and everyone around me is important to me. I value honesty and loyalty in all aspects of life. Life is too short to worry about the little things so help those around you, check in on our loved ones every now and then and show them that you are there for them whatever they may need. I value open-mindedness in opinion and commitment in life. I was always taught to treat others how you want to be treated and that's important to me. 

Who have been your female role models? What about them do you admire? 


Definitely my Nan. She's turning 90 this year and she has been on her own since she was in her 40s. I admire that although she was widowed at a young age she found the strength in herself to keep going. She had great resilience and still does. She always told us to say ‘yes’ when we’re asked to go somewhere. This attitude has kept her social life going and has added to what could otherwise have been a very lonely life. I think this wisdom is going to be important for the future as our population ages. Nan has always told us to wear bright clothes, to keep the world from being too gloomy and doomy. When my first daughter was born I made my whole family wear bright colours to the hospital to meet her - ‘I listened, Nan!’


Marie Forleo is one of my role models. She is an entrepreneur, writer, philanthropist, and unshakable optimist, who is dedicated to helping others become the person they most want to be. She has created a socially-conscious digital empire that reaches millions of people. What I like about her the most is her balance of playfulness and seriousness in her work. She treats a book tour like a Beyoncé concert and a TED talk had a baby and then threw a block party. She is creative, raw, business-savvy and compassionate.

I also admire Brene Brown and Elizabeth Gilbert for their courage and creativity. 


I have always found inspiration from different people and places, depending on the period of my life that I’m in. Sometimes I draw inspiration from people close to me and sometimes I get it from strangers. What they all have in common is a sense of joy and peace within themselves. I admire those who manage to find true happiness in their life by achieving their goals and pursuing their dreams. ‘Successful people’ to me have nothing to do with fame or money; rather, the purpose and accomplishment of dreams.


I admire Eleanor from The Good Place, Netflix’s TV show. I love her. She's very upfront all the time and never lets her voice be buried, even when she's saying things that are different. That's real confidence.


As a closeted queer kid growing up I always admired Ellen … it was like wait … I can be queer and funny too, AND people will like me. It was really eye-opening. As an adult, Michelle Obama has been a real and honest role model for me. I admire the way she’s involved with her family, she stands up for what she believes in, and, she loves Beyonce - who doesn’t? Her book was beautifully written. I was able to see her speak last year and her life has just been amazing and inspiring. 


I wouldn't say that I have a female role model at all. I admire people who have created something from very little. Those who may have been given a hard start to life but their persistence has led them to great achievements. Whether that's through innovation, artistic talent, entrepreneurship or however they define success. 

What words of wisdom do you want to share with younger women?  


Learn how to manage your money. No matter your age, you need to learn the basics of how to get along in the world; be it with only a few bucks, or a million. I highly recommend reading The Barefoot Investor by Scott Pape. I only wish I had read it in my 20s rather than my 40s; I might be retired by now! 

Have a face-to-face conversation with someone every day and ask that person questions, lots and lots of questions. I feel like this particular skill is going to be lost as we continue to evolve into digital beings; having the skill to communicate verbally helps us build meaningful relationships. 

Enjoy failing - it’s shit at the time, but I've learned some of the best life lessons from my failures.


Always follow your heart's desire and your calling, no matter where it might take you. Be true to yourself and always treat others the way you would like to be treated. Always believe in your strength and don't let anyone convince you that you are anything less than powerful.


Life is not happening to you; it is happening for you. And it is happening FROM you. So don’t wait for something to happen: go create, ask questions, never stop trying, welcome challenges, have fun and be the decision-maker of your life. 

It is totally okay to feel lost, frustrated, scared, unsure or anxious ... 

You are always enough!


Pho is good for a hangover.


Bloom where you’re planted. Someone shared that with me years ago. 

Make the best of any situation, wherever you are, and DON’T be afraid to be the person that you want to be. The longer you wait, the more time you lose that you cannot get back. So be that rose in the grass lawn: stand out, be you! 


Take a risk. You never know where it might lead you. 

You can learn something new from every situation, so keep learning and doing. Fail and try again. 

Do something new, something completely out of your comfort zone-one of the greatest things I've done in my life (so far) was so far out of my comfort zone I could never see myself doing it, but I did and it was something I'll never forget. 

What are the questions that you wish people ask more, or the topics that should be discussed more?


I talk to lots of women who are battling daily with the grind of juggling kids, careers, partnerships, friendships, and family. We're always aiming for this impossible-to-reach endgame, but we never seem to get there; there's always the next thing to strive for. This is human nature but I think we need to reframe what it is to be successful and happy; perhaps then we won't put so much pressure on ourselves and feel so tired all the time.

I’d like to ask: ‘If you could change something about being a girl, what would it be?’ 

For me, I want the world to look beyond what has traditionally been seen as beautiful. Looks fade. I'd love to see wrinkles being celebrated instead of being hidden or reduced. Imagine if rather than adding creams and potions to reduce them, we could highlight them with eyeliner in different colours! How amazing would that be!


Questions I want people to consider more are:

What makes you ALIVE? This question allows us to inspect internal motives and triggers. 

Who would you be without that thought?  This question helped me a lot when I get stuck in my own thought patterns, especially when I am looping in self-doubt, limited belief, mode. 

What are you grateful for? This question is my signature: I always like to ask this question whenever we wrap up a meeting!

I truly believe that what we appreciate, appreciates. 


I think that mental health is a topic that needs to be discussed more often, and better looked after in our society. There are so many female stereotypes: such as treating us differently because we are weaker/less, the ‘crazy/moody’ tag, jokes about menstruation, or we are being told that we are ‘too emotional’. At the other end of the spectrum, men are encouraged to be accepting of their sensitive and emotional side. It is often promoted that it is ok for men to express feelings, to cry, to reach out.

We are often forced to compartmentalise anxiety and depression when we have to be in ‘working mode’; this puts people in very difficult mental situations. We should be more humanistic and talk more openly about this in workspaces.


We need to be more open about gender issues. Every time people talk about women’s rights, it's mostly women talking with other women.

I believe lots of women would have already asked themselves or heard questions on this topic at least once in their lifetime. If not, they're subconsciously aware of gender issues from their experiences.

So I think questions about women’s rights should instead be asked to and of men!


I think women’s healthcare in the US is a hot topic for discussion, but shouldn’t be a taboo topic. Unfortunately in some states it’s still regulated by law. Hopefully in 2020 things will change for us here. Fingers crossed. 


A simple "How are you?/Are you ok?/What's been going on?" will never get old. 

In my opinion, people should dig deeper and ask "Why do you think that?" over a range of different topics.