Women and Yoga.

Boyfriend Yogi and I are slowly making our way through a very interesting DVD called Yoga Unveiled.

It’s very thorough, comprehensive and quite engaging.  I would definitely recommend it.

In a section we watched yesterday, Desikachar and others were discussing Krishnamacharya’s evolution as a teacher to accept female students.  A Brahmin, it was his view that the Vedic knowledge of yoga and chanting needed to bet limited to only certain people, exclusively men of specific castes.  But as time went on, he opened up to women students, starting with Indra Devi.

By the end of his life, he was teaching a number of women asanas and chanting and said very clearly that he believed women were the future of yoga.

If you go to any yoga studio in the West today, it’s obvious that his prediction was correct.  There are many powerful, strong and brilliant male yoga teachers out there, big names too, but the majority of students today are in fact women.

A woman’s body is obviously different than a man’s, so accordingly, I believe her yoga practice differs from a man’s.  I’m not trying to sound reductionist here, or lay it out as an oversimplified thing that all women have the same experience of yoga, which is totally different from men’s, or something like that.  No.  But it seems clear that the practice of asana – the physical and energetics of the practice, are suited differently to different bodies.  (Just like skiing – a big strong guy can power his way through bumps, whereas a woman, with perhaps less of that kind of leg power, has to use more precision and technique to ski those same moguls).

In this vein, I found a good little article (a few years old) about women and yoga by Kino MacGregor that I would encourage you to check out, if this interests you.

For the full piece on Ashtanga.com – click here!

Sometimes I get caught up in this notion that I need to be a lot skinnier and harder in order to be a better Ashtangi.  Naturally my frame is small but I’m soft and I have curves, and even when I’m really strong I don’t show a lot of visible muscles.  Learning to accept and love this about myself is an ongoing process.  In this light, here is a segment from Kino’s piece that spoke to me:

If women deny the reality of the female body, including its cycles and birth potential, then the feminine soul is still held in highly contentious chains. If female yogis simply grunt, grin and bear it while toughening their skins, then their feminine softness is enslaved by the tension in their jaws. Instead real female strength comes from embracing the softness and solidity of every curve. Having practiced the challenging Advanced Series of Ashtanga Yoga continuously for the last five years, I find that endurance, pragmatism and grace are well within the domain of my woman’s body, strength and soul. A man’s strength is louder, directed outward, striving, reaching and sometimes fighting. It’s not to say that women don’t fight or aren’t violent, but that in a woman’s body violence takes on another form. A woman’s sometimes smaller body cannot simply mimic male form in the physical world to succeed. In order to perform the same feats of strength with the graceful heart of a woman, the female body must learn to access its natural reserves of strength by honoring the female form in and of itself. This strength lies not in forceful thrusting, but instead in determining exactly how and where to work, with a perfect mix of strength and grace.

Blessings,

Frances

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