yoga for women
The practice of yoga ultimately is about connecting and developing deeper understanding of ourselves, and how we can incorporate the practice into our integrated women’s health resources. We start with our physical body. Rather than religiously following a dogmatic sequence of rigid postures, and forcing ourselves to achieve gymnastic style postures, it is important that we can learn to really tune in to our own deepest needs. This is where we can find the treasures of a yoga practice.
While the traditional approaches all have their place and importance, it can free our bodies and our minds when we can move into a more open and feminine understanding. As women, we often forget our femininity. We live in a yang world. We need to work hard to achieve success in the world we live in. We have to embrace masculine values and vibes in order to achieve professionally. This can exhaust us, we are often not even aware that we have lost our connection with our divine feminine. Yoga, meditation, movement of all varieties and working with intention and prayer can bring us back to the inherent power within our female bodies.
As women we are also subconsciously or consciously affected by the repression of women that has happened over thousands of years. Women's knowledge and wisdom has been repressed and denied in the patriarchal model. We are now experiencing a wonderful revival, an uprising of women in the yoga world. When we look at the statistics, we experience the reality that is a global movement of women embracing, reclaiming and redressing the imbalance in the 'yoga world' and 'yoga industry'
Ultimately yoga is a practice of connection, discovery, personal growth and transformation. It is a practice which brings us home to our deepest sense of ourselves. In this regard it can bring us to our true feminine nature, our Shakti, our power, and an understanding of the balance between the divine feminine and divine masculine energies which we all embody. Yoga offers a practice and way of living which should honour our body and cultivate out life force. We may need to question the yoga we practice, the yoga studio we attend and see if this is truly honouring our feminine bodies and needs.
EARTH ELEMENT - PRTHIVI TATTVA
Yoga starts with connection, to our body, and with the earth through posture, grounding, standing, becoming aware of our foundation. The earth element grounds us, holds us, nourishes us with food. Mother Earth, our home, she contains life, produces life and nourishes life.
The ancient rishis intuited the five elements or tattvas, of earth, water, fire, air and space as being the principle five energies of creation. The five elements have relationship with each the five sheaths, or koshas, of the yogic body.
We start with the foundation, the earth, our physical bodies, the amalgamation of dense matter, muscle, bone, ligaments, tendons. Our external physical layer, sheath or annamaya kosha - the densest layer of being.
We start with our feet and learning how to stand. Tadasana, the mountain pose, and Vrksasana, the tree pose teach us how to engage our feet, how to draw energy upwards, how to root down to rise up, how to engage the lightness that travels up through to the spine and crown with practice.
We practice yoga barefoot to encourage this connection and to feel out feet properly. To expand and extend the soles of the feet, to earth and ground us. The first horizontal diaphragm of the body, padabandha.
The element of earth is associated with the root chakra Muladhara chakra. Extending through the legs to the feet from the base of the spine, into the earth, where we find our roots to nourish us. Muladhara Chakra is associated with connection, physical body, our family and tribe, community, our home and our place in the world. The base of the spine is also the home of the coiled kundalini in the esoteric yogic body.
Every time we lie down in a Yoga asana or for shavasana, we release to the earth, surrender the weight of our bodies to the earth, and allow ourselves to be held. The more we are able to release and surrender, the more we open ourselves to receive.
Too often in yoga asana we can get stuck, rigid and generate tension and stress in the body. Long stays in postures can be challenging. The body wants to lock joints and follow habitual patterns of tension, sometimes so habitual we don’t even notice the holding patterns.
Even when we flow in a faster vinyasa practice we can still get locked into rigidity both physically and psychologically, following the same patterns of movement with repetition, because this is what we have been taught or this is what we believe yoga to be.
To balance this kind of movement we also need to unwind, let go and drop our pre-conceived notions of what asana should look like. We need to tap into our bodies deeper rhythms and tides to circulate fluid and generate healing. We need to listen to our deep intuitive knowing and allow our bodies to follow. We need to roll around on the floor. We need to be like a cat.
yoga on a nourish in nature retreat
On a retreat week, we follow the five elements of the vedic system as the themes for each of the daily yoga classes.
Monday - earth, arriving and getting settled, connecting to earth and our foundations with standing postures, balance and slow embryonic floor practice.
Tuesday - water, finding fluidity, flowing through standing postures and hip opening postures, circling, swaying and starting to tune into the energy body, and the divine feminine.
Wednesday - fire, core practice, coming into the core of our body, abdominal strengthening postures, upper body strengthening postures, empowering through strength, and a Kali's fire meditation.
Thursday - air, heart centred practice with meditation, heart intention flow practice, forgiveness practice and deeper backbends and heart openers.
Friday - space, making space in the body before we move the body through space. Twisting postures, more challenging twisting standing postures, seated twists and forward bends, supine twists and floor practice. Lakshmi Abundance meditation practice.
A female practicioner of yoga is a yogini. It is remarkable how many yoga networks, associations, journals and women themselves, will refer to the global population of yoga practioners as yogi's, simply because they do not know the term yogini even exists. Statistics tell us the 85% of people practicing and teaching yoga in the United States today are women.
The word yogini also has powerful associations. In South Asian Hindu and Buddhist cultures yoginis can be fear inspiring goddesses or demonesses with superhuman powers.
In her amazing book Yoni Shakti, Uma Dinsmore Tuli writes;
'I have chosen to use the word yogini to describe all women who do yoga now. My choice is informed both by awareness of the fearsome powers attributed to the ancient yoginis, human and divine, and by a desire to acknowledge that contemporary women are greatly empowered by the practice of yoga.
When we call ourselves yoginis we acknowledge that our practice of yoga brings us into direct connection with the capacity to heal and transform ourselves in ways that are every bit as magical as the supernatural flights of the ancient yoginis.'