I began my journey to the world of various body practices back when I was 14 years old. I was in high school when my mother took me to my first ever yoga class and I had a taste of it. It was in some other school, late in the evening. And while we were all doing our asanas, some teenage boys were mocking us outside the window. I remember I felt ridiculed and embarrassed. I never went to that class again.
However, I did enjoy laying in Savasana at the very end. And my body and mind remembered it.
Taste of Martial Arts
Then, there was a period of my life when I was experimenting various diets and practices. I realized I was clearly interested in all that but was not diving deep into anything just yet. I remember at some point, I started doing Tai Chi, which helped me loosen myself a little more, and to finally get in contact with my own body.
My then friend was trying to convince to go to yoga class with her. And I was still resisting. I still had bad experience stuck in my head, and on top of that I added the feeling that this practice was too masculine for me. I did not know how to express it exactly so I kept telling her: “I just don’t feel like doing it. It’s hard to explain… I immediately imagine all these Indian men doing there twisted things and it doesn’t look appealing to me”. I was in my early 20s.
So I sticked to Tai Chi. And was doing so well, my instructor eventually made me his assistant. I was warming people up in groups, and was dreaming of becoming an instructor myself. And I was planning a trip to China, to learn all the secrets of this magical ancient martial art. I was participating in contests and was fully immersed in it. I really enjoyed watching martial art movies.
Iyengar Yoga Return
Until one day I realized this was indeed a real martial art, or a softer form of it. And that meant – also masculine practice. And my girly self lost interest. I decided to go back to yoga, and started with Iyengar Yoga. I enjoyed it thorough approach and detailed classes. And so I never stopped yoga until these days.
But this feeling of “something is off” in yoga keeps chasing me, as I keep going deeper and deeper into the world of all things feminine. I already learned that dancing and circular movements are much better and more natural for woman’s body (I wrote a little about it here). I tried doing feminine forms of yoga, but even then it felt like it was not right.
Yoga is Masculine
So here, I have it: yoga is traditionally a male’s practice. Despite the fact that right now it is incredibly popular with women, to the point that some men do not even want to try it because they think it is not appropriate for them. But really, the way yoga is performed traditionally is based on very geometrical, strict and linear movements. It trains: the body to be strong physically and spiritually, to increase strong and steady will, to increase endurance, to train self-discipline, to build stamina, to cultivate calmness and to create mental balance. Sounds wonderful, but totally not feminine. Those are the qualities that a real warrior should have. Warrior, not woman. Warrior can be female too, of course, but then again: this can happen in a very masculine (or yan) polarity, and very feminine (or yin) polarity. But this is another article.
So, let’s recap. Practicing yoga the way it is now taught in 99% of the schools is to cultivate Yang or masculine energy. However, women should have ways to train and keep their bodies toned, in a healthy and delicate, and most importantly – more natural way. Here is why (and how).
First of all, women are cyclical creatures. We all have natural cycles that we should pay attention to, and not disregard as an inconvenience, and honor it deeply and appropriately. This means we have to adjust our physical practices depending on the phase of the cycle we are in. First week should be mainly about cleansing and resting a lot. Second and third weeks can be much more active because this is when we have a lot of energy. We can also be very much involved in social activities. Fourth and last week of the cycle we should all slow down again, introspect more and prepare for a new cycle.
Energetically, woman is different from man too, go figure. In fact, energetically speaking, woman has a very unique and sacred structure and this is why in many traditions there were specific female techniques and practices.
In ancient Chinese Taoist tradition woman is considered a representation of Yin energy which is all about flowing, passiveness, lunar energy, earthy and water qualities. This means that woman should not be largely involved in predominantly Yang practices that will stimulate the opposite – assertiveness, activity, solar energy, and qualities of fire and air.
In Shamanic tradition of South America woman is the seen as the owner of a very powerful and sacred organ – uterus. By working with uterus regularly, she can reach an ideal female health and develop many abilities at their highest potential.
In Indian Tantric tradition woman is a representation of Shakti energy, which is the energy of the Earth. If she learns to direct it correctly, she can create a perfect union with her Shiva, or cosmic energy, which is represented by a man here on earth. And this will allow her to reach her highest potential. (What happens if she loses it, though, you can read in my previous article).
In Indian Yogic tradition our energy centers, or chakras, are divided to masculine and feminine ones. Consequently, for us women, it is more important to focus more on feminine chakras and less on masculine ones. (How they differ you can read here).
In many other ancient traditions it says that woman’s energetic build is different from man. Her main two energy centers are located in uterus and heart, and she has an ability to gather energy directly from Earth. For man, the energy transforms and develops in higher energy centers which allows him to connect better with the Cosmos or Divine. These things create different priorities for us and thus different practices. Traditional, “mental” practice of meditation, working with consciousness is really for men. For women, it should be practices with our bodies, meditation in the movement, in the flow, practices of grounding and energy accumulation.
On this level, women greatly depend on their hormones. This is why it is very good to include hormonal exercises for women daily. They will help regulate our hormones and create a more stable mood. For the same reason, it is important to have a very balanced and wholesome diet. And if you need to use hormones as therapy, the best ones are natural hormones that we can find in herbs and foods.
On this level, the differences are in the approach and the final destination. Practices with focus on overcoming yourself, achieving a certain result are natural for men. However, it can be damaging for women. Practices on this level should have a focus on the process itself, on the enjoyment of this process. They should just have kinder approach in general.
On this level, many traditions are about the same thing: woman is born already perfect, spiritually. She is purer and more divine originally, and her soul is naturally more advanced. She has a direct undisrupted connection with God right away. For men it is different because they should earn and reach this connection only through hard work, obstacles and strong spiritual development. Knowing this we, as women, should not be entitled, as this does not release us from responsibility. On the contrary, it gives us a hint that we are here to work together in a union: to help men grow spiritually while staying directed to the Light and Source all the time ourselves.