Yep - you read correctly, 'womb yoga' aka 'Yonni Yoga' which has a much nicer ring to it! So following a week of ashtanga, I was invited to participate in an all woman retreat run by a lovely British teacher, Lara Heppell. Now normally I'd jump at the chance of trying something new, but 'all woman yoga' did not appeal to me in the slightest.....a reaction from which I had to take a step back and examine... I'm a woman right, so why on earth did I have an aversion to yoga for women?
In fact I didn't tell anyone that I felt that way until right at the end of the retreat, I guess I was kinda embarrassed that I had such strong feelings against doing the classes. Anyway, having had a word to myself, I decided to sack of my ashtanga practice for the entire week, yes, a whole week without my practice (don't tell my teacher!) to completely submerge myself in my womb, my yonni, express my femininity and become one with my shakti energy!
We built up through the week a sequence of fluid and flowing posture sequences with names such as 'heart - womb - river - ocean' , practiced postures intuitively according to our personal 'season' (time of the month), partook in breath and mind balancing pranayamas, focussed on feminine mudras to build compassion for ourselves and directed it through our nadis from the heart to the womb and back, to nurture our awareness of our own bodies and an understanding of harnessing female energy. Sounds beautiful no?! So why did I still have issues with it?
Since I began my ashtanga practice I've always practiced through my periods. I hated it if my period fell on a day of a favourite class and I would put my self through the practice, despite a tender tummy, or lethargy as it made me feel better..why should I have to stop just because of that?! Lara taught us there are 4 'seasons' of a woman's menstrual cycle and we have different levels of energy in each of the 4 quarters. at the time of the retreat I was autumn coming into winter, my energy was beginning to wane, so during this quarter you should think about slowing things down, missing out certain postures and generally respecting the fact the body is getting ready to release. I'd normally do all of the postures offered in a class, but the season model allows you to determine where your body is in its cycle and practice in accordance with it. This made absolute sense to me. Why pretend that I have a body akin to a male's? It needs nurturing and nourishment at certain times of the month and I need to allow it to do its thing! To be feminine and not be violent towards it, especially when my mind wants control over it.
So whilst I won't be giving up the ashtanga any time soon, the retreat taught me some valuable lessons. I am going to allow myself to be a woman inside my practice, respect the seasons and whatever they bring, enjoy the rest and relaxation when needed and respect 'ladies holidays'! I've just noticed that today's a full moon and, low and behold, 'ladies holiday' started this morning! Now if that doesn't convey the power of shakti energy I don't know what does! I love my clever, beautiful body :)