yoga for women
why should women approach yoga in a different way than men ?
looking at the anatomy and physiology of a human being, there is little difference between a male and female body. Only few of the many genes determining all the characteristics of a human body are gender related and will produce the reproductive system of either gender. Differences in size of organs such as lungs and brain, for instance, is proportional to the average size of a male or female system and doesn’t really affect their respective function and performance. Although women are generally smaller and less strong physically, they are more resistant and they live longer.
but there is a major difference between the male and female hormonal system. During her fertile years – some thirty-five years from puberty until menopause – a woman is subject to monthly hormonal changes that will affect her body and psyche in many ways. The male hormones instead are continuously produces from puberty onwards with a progressive decline after fifty. As a result the energy of a man is steadier, like the path of an arrow, whereas the energy of a woman changes constantly throughout a menstrual month. The obvious analogy with the Moon waxing and waning can explain why the stamina, the intensity, the focus, the abilities of a woman vary according to the different phases of her monthly cycle, with a peak around ovulation and a low at the time of the period.
women are generally rather ignorant about the hormonal changes related to their menstrual cycle. And our modern Western society doesn’t value a fluctuating energy – considered less efficient – so that women feel they are expected to perform evenly throughout their month as if they didn’t experienced any change at all. But ignoring this energy wave and suppressing the related physiological and emotional changes has a disastrous effect on a woman’s balance and well-being. Most premenstrual syndromes are actually due to a lack of awareness and a poor management of one’s menstrual cycle. With a better understanding of the hormonal function and some adjustment in diet, lifestyle and exercise, the symptoms can be reduced if not eliminated completely. But this implies that a woman becomes aware of her female nature and that she accepts and respects it. A balanced woman is not someone who emulates a man by suppressing the needs of her nature, but someone who can ride the wave of her monthly cycle and live accordingly. A fluctuating energy is not a weakness but the main power of a woman. Her fertility, but also her receptivity, adaptability and all embracing empathy are determined by this rising and ebbing tide.
it is often difficult for a young girl going through puberty to understand what is going on in her body and psyche. Similarly a menopausal woman finds herself progressively deprived of all the landmarks that she had – consciously or not – been using during her fertile years. The beginning and the end of the menstrual years are equally energy draining and demanding emotionally. Both young and mature women feel lost and helpless, because the wisdom of puberty and menopause – two major transitions in life – hasn’t been passed on to them. There are countless books available about menopause, describing all sorts of unpleasant symptoms of physical and emotional discomfort. But menopause – like puberty – isn’t a disease to be treated medically, they are irreversible changes and necessary stages in a woman’s physical and mental development. Little is being told about the deep transformations taking place in a female body and psyche during those years. A sensible approach to body, mind and spirit can reveal the extraordinary potential of inner growth they conceal.
pregnancy and birth giving is another unique experience in a woman’s life. The mystery of giving life that unfolds in the womb is generally regarded as a special moment. Most pregnant women are very aware of changes in their bodies and mind : they naturally want to nurture and protect their child to be and therefore look after themselves very well. Being more sensitive and permeable to all sorts of influences, they must avoid being too exposed and protect themselves too. The child-bearing role is not barely essential for the survival of the species, it also provides a woman with an opportunity to achieve her emotional maturity as a mother. Although unconditional love to her child comes quite naturally to a woman, preparing for motherhood and parenting goes much beyond fitness and mental health. From the very beginning of pregnancy two souls live together from the same body and both mother and child must be looked after as two separate human beings in a unique relationship.
these few words were only meant to introduce the vast topic of yoga and women. At different stages of her life and in different ways women are given a chance to make change a heart opening and enlightening experience. Because yoga is about changing the mind, it can provide valuable tools to facilitate and enhance this process.