It’s International Women’s Day on March 8th and the theme this year is Balance for Better – all about making things gender balanced!
Talking about balance, it seems so funny to me that yoga is practised mostly by women throughout the west, but in fact, ‘yoga’ in its modern guise was pretty much a male practice!
The modern systems of yoga were mostly dreamt up by men, and they were popularised in Ashtanga and Iyengar yoga, both created by men. So it does seem a little funny that men might feel like yoga is only a bendy women’s pursuit! Take a look at Adam’s awesome ‘F-off to Five Male Yoga Excuses‘ blog!
Period Exclusion – No thanks!
It used to be really common in so many yoga classes for certain postures to be instructed and the teacher would say ‘don’t do this if you are on your period’. And with that, a quarter of the women would just be abandoned to do their own thing whilst other folks went upside down, did the breath work, or whatever it was that the women weren’t meant to do.
In some yoga traditions this continues. And women just go to place their legs up the wall (which, by the way, is a SUPER posture! Don’t get me wrong, it’s a firm favourite of mine!!)
But the thing that irks me about this isn’t the legs up the wall – a pose that I adore for resting after a long journey or just to relax at the end of the day. It’s the instruction of ‘don’t do this’ – rather than the thought that, for certain bodies, at certain times, there are some things which are really SO beneficial to us.
This applies to all bodies, male and female. Our bodies change, our bodies go through traumas and natural change, and that makes different yoga postures more appropriate than others on certain days.
No matter what time in your life or cycle, there is some kind of yoga for you
Women’s bodies go through many hormonal changes throughout our lives, and throughout our cycle. This makes our feeling of a yoga posture, the feeling of our breath, our feeling of our own yoga very different one day to another, in the morning or evening, and indeed one season of our life to another.
There are so many beautiful women yogis, yoginis, who have so much wisdom to offer each of us that to simply say ‘don’t do this pose’ is simply downplaying the effect that yoga can have on our bodies. It’s downplaying the amount of enrichment we can gain from postures and breath work, and that really is so frustrating for me.
This is of course especially true for pregnancy. It’s so common to hear in a yoga teacher training what poses are contra-indicated for pregnancy. Clearly, it’s important to know this so as not to harm a growing baby. But what often isn’t given is the emotional and physical support to the mum. That some poses can simply feel wonderful, supportive and nourishing to a pregnant woman.
I also don’t believe that when women have their period (a quarter of our lives!!!) we should be told to sit it out, or told what we can’t do. We can be guided through practices to nourish and support us, whatever our bodies are feeling and wherever we’re at.
This isn’t yoga that says ‘sit out if you can’t but says ‘count me in so you can’
At MFML we have yoga classes if you’re going through the menopause and if you need gentle yoga, or period yoga classes which are perfect for when you’re on your period and you need to feel better. We have classes if you’re pregnant or recovering from a C-section.
I so believe in supporting each of us exactly where we’re at in our life cycle – men or women, and the beauty of practicing yoga at home to MFML is that we have classes bespoked for you.
We meet you where you’re at physically and emotionally, we have classes for life’s challenges, because just sometimes, the road goes a little rough. We have classes for anger, if that’s where you’re at, that’s fine.
This isn’t yoga that says ‘sit out if you can’t but says ‘count me in so you can’.