Happy International Women's Day
Although International Women’s Day was originally founded to provide women in the work place with better conditions and payment, the agenda and concerns for the lives of women and girls everywhere has considerably broadened. And today we’ll be looking at the way, and the why the path of yoga serves women.
Have you ever wondered why you feel so great after what might have been a tedious home yoga practice, or even a seemingly dull class you attended in person or online… The path of Yoga and its sister science Ayurveda evolved from the ancient Indian philosophy of Samkhya. You may wonder if an ancient philosophy born in the hermitages of ancient India might be relevant for women and girls today. Please stay with me. Over centuries, the ancient sages of the Samkhya philosophical tradition assiduously meditated upon and scientifically observed the phenomena of the physical universe and human beings. They diligently recorded, discussed and compared their findings which over time lead them to codify and organise their understanding into pathways of learning that were intended to support humans to thrive and flourish. At its root, Yoga is intended to benefit humanity and it is particularly beneficial for women and girls.
If you practice yoga, you’ll know that it is a useless pursuit to judge your practice by how you feel while you’re on the mat: whether you’re interested, entertained or wowed by the practices is actually irrelevant, (except in the case of injury). It is after we’ve finished our practice that we can best ascertain the true value of yoga. When we watch how our day unfolds after practice, especially when we look at how our mind functions, we get the best indication of whether yoga is working for us. Yes there are many biochemical and physiological reasons why yoga may be proven to be beneficial. But those markers are just commentary of the byproducts of yoga. The true wealth of the yogic path lay in the way it viscerally reconnects human beings with the weave of the Cosmos and it’s constituent elements, of which we are made and of which we are a complete and perfect part, a fact which we mostly forget. In particular for women, the path of yoga can confer the restoration of primal feminine dignity and support us living with greater awareness, skill, and prowess.
Of course women should receive equal pay and better working conditions in the work place. But work is not the only place where we engage our existence. Women continue to be the chief support for children, ageing family members, and protagonists in sustaining relationships with friends and in community. Despite some social commentary declaring that in the modern age men and boys too participate in these aspects of social fabric, globally, care taking, sustaining connection, nurturing children and relationships continues to be provided chiefly by women.
So how can we possibly find the energy to keep up. How can we dissolve the destructive patterns of burn-out, over delivering at work to justify a reasonable pay grade, and the ware and tear of providing ongoing into adulthood sustained care and guidance for our children? How can women have any energy left of the end of a full working day to give to their children, loved ones, and ageing parents. How can women find space and time to deepen into effective rest to restore themselves and be ready to welcome the new dawn of a new day and experience the health, happiness and connectedness that is our birthright to experience.
When we come to the mat, being either lead by a teacher or following the impulses of the asanas that are calling us in our private practice at home, we are aligning ourselves with the greater energy of this entire cosmos and availing ourselves to it’s power, wisdom and inspiration. Tuning into this fact can charge our practice and avail us even more to the gifts that yoga can confer.
When we connect with the infinite power of our own breath, when we patiently persist with practicing gentle hip openers to balance the problem of sitting too long at a computer, when we focus our awareness on a single still point in front of us and silence our thoughts to ground our feet in a standing pose we are connecting with our complete and rightful connection with this exquisite universe.
When we practice our asanas regularly or even irregularly again and again yoga rises up for us. The path of yoga was created to support our flourishing by aligning us with the rhythms, vibration and pulsating nature of our universe. Now more than ever before the path of yoga has the power to restore our primal feminine dignity and support us in making the significant and seemingly small decisions of our lives in alignment with the greater and broader power of our infinite and expanding universe.
The Indian scriptures are replete with commentary of ‘the Atman’, the concept that describes for core of Consciousness that is alive in every part of this universe and in each human being. And pursuing that understanding is a great and noble philosophy. However, and I like to use the phrase so powerful in improvisational theatre craft, ‘Yes, and…’ …women everywhere are being called to be more steady, strong, subtle, delicate, curious and open in a so many ways it can be daunting to even consider. While our world struggles with extreme weather, political uncertainty, socio-economic challenges, women are being called to hold fast and soldier on.
In the face of all this I invite women and girls everywhere to take refuge in yoga. Some will tell you you need ‘this type of class’ or ‘that type of teacher’. This is and isn’t true. Over the years, I have found that the best way to approach my practice is by following my gut. To answer the call to come to the mat wherever that may be. With a trusted teacher, or in a class with a new teacher, or practicing asanas I just don’t like, privately at home. When we come to the mat we step into the energetic field of every yogini who has surrendered to find something within herself that is not yet known and that can be known; a new skill, a new attitude, a fresh point of view, a flexibility where before there was tightness, a gently extended reach where before there was ‘out of reach’, a more refined dignified way to approach whatever is in front of her in place of resigning to things feeling flustered.
Although the mat may just seem like an inert manufactured piece of apparatus it is in fact your own personal and private refuge. The mat is in fact an asana, the seat upon which the next evolution of your womanhood will unfold, the place where the next chapter in the mystery of your humanity will be revealed . It is that simple and it is that expansive. The mat is the physical representation of the place in which you give yourself to growing yourself in which ever direction your life is calling you to grow. Coming to the mat will help you grow the skills required to be what your life is calling you to be. Life’s possibilities are endless, but when your being has been charged by your yoga practice your existence is empowered and charged too. How so? Your lungs have been invigorated by the side ribs having been opened and stretched so your breath can deepen. When you breath deepens your mind can be more steady, sharp and concentration is strengthened to see what you might not have seen before. When the muscles of your legs have been charged with fresh blood from standing poses, you have access to the very real strength and power your being may need to navigate and influence challenging circumstances. When you’ve engaged in inversions and practiced maintaining your composure and alignment you’ve readied yourself for however your world may turn upside down in the daytime and shown yourself that you can face whatever life brings you with a gradual increasing equanimity.
On this International Women’s Day we here at IYoga Props offer each and every woman, girl and baby girl child our blessings for the path you are walking right now. We acknowledge the ranging hardships that many are facing at this time and we acknowledge the great sages who created for us the path of yoga to live our lives as best and gracefully as we may. We offer our gratitude to all the great teachers, many of who are Iyengar teachers who continue to work mindfully to ensure that yoga meets and serves women everywhere to uplift, nurture, protect and heal the lives of women, girls and children. We wish you one and all a very happy International Women’s Day.
Yoga Health Coach and Facilitator
Club Flourish: Where Women Embed the Habits of Ayurveda and Yoga to Flourish.