I began studying Yoga seventeen years ago. This last few years have brought about a massive shift in how I am moving my body. Movement defines our relationship with the world. When we move from a place of trying, attaining and perfecting then this tends to play out in the rest of our daily actions. Likewise, when we move from a place of listening, from sensitivity, from transition then most likely our day to day actions will also shift.
The yoga industry is rife with selling an image of yoga, teaching a diluted version that potentially feeds people’s addictions rather than release them. I hate to say it, but our contemporary spin of yoga can be little more than a spiritual smoke screen preventing us from having a good look in, as we must surely be “on a path”, if we have a practice, a teacher and so on. But on the inside, little is changing, we still feel alone, isolated, confused, victim to our own wounds, and forgetful of our true nature as a beautiful, wonderful part of this wider world.
So What Is Wrong? Are We Missing Some Lessons?
I am appealing to women to investigate beyond the narrow projections of what we have been told yoga is all about and how we are to move in a standard and regimented way. When I showed a dear friend a “pretty” image I had chosen for the poster of my next training and asked her if it was selling out, she replied: “No way! It’s you doing you. It’s how you experience our wonderful connection with the cosmos through the expansion that comes in the posture”. Boom! Yes! Rather than put another woman down, how about supporting her as she rises?
This is what it is all about! What are you good at? What do you love? What is your passion? And how can you go out in service and do it?
I feel that I have tripped up enough in my life to have been taught some pretty tough lessons and now I am passionate about sharing them with other women. I have journeyed through ten years of eating disorders which I know was a huge impetus in giving a voice to body image issues. I’ve had enough failed relationships to question the mandate of sexuality that we are sold, and instead to rewrite what is truly valuable to me. I’ve also put a serious amount of blood, sweat and tears into my yoga practice to realise the necessity of balancing intellect with an embodied spirituality. This has shown me which areas of myself have been silenced. Which parts of my body I have forgotten about, or no longer feel, and which parts of my shadow I still have to acknowledge. A yoga practice which honours a woman’s body and is designed to bring her back to its innate wisdom is essentially a practice that guides her back to source. Source is the earth wisdom and it is also the temple of the womb space, and the unique code it provides each woman with for understanding her natural flows.
Over recent years I have begun to speak to what I have experienced as the missing gaps in the yoga industry. I have worked hard to take yoga to where it is inaccessible – where it has become too exclusive to be inclusive. This has meant teaching in conflict areas, teaching in prisons, teaching to support people overcoming addictions including eating disorders and self-harm. If yoga is about liberation then I want to see this embodied in its practitioners. For example, what needs to change so that your practice essentially stops the seeking? If the wisdom is really within, then why do we keep looking outside for answers, and why do avoid self-practice, want to teach rather than study, or follow a rigid set of postures that fail to address the source of any internal discontent?
A New Perspective of Yoga
As I have been stepping out of the box and off the yoga mat to have a look at yoga from the outside, I have seen the multiple ways that our standard system of teaching, practising and interpreting yoga can be another form of silent repression and domination...Following set alignment cues can often fail to honour the difference of each and every person, even demanding a synchronization of the breath, the tendency for comparison and competition, the myth that yoga teachers have it all “sorted” and are somehow perfect humans rather than the ones that need to hear it the most...
Over the years, asana has managed to seduce me, and I have also fallen more and more in love with movement. I am finally able to work with prana simply by being, rather than having to be on a yoga mat. I want to be outside more and more, because nature is our teacher, our mother, our life line. She is not our resource but our very source. Once we reconnect to this then the deep feminine intuitive wisdom of the earth herself can teach us. Perhaps then we will no longer be on a desperate search outside of ourselves to look to others for guidance and instruction. The challenge is that we have become so disconnected that perhaps what we now need are yoga un-trainings: A chance to unwind the conditioned and automatic ways of moving, thinking and even perceiving. What more is there waiting to be acknowledged?
What is Never Discussed in Yoga Class
As I have shifted my studies and practice so I have shifted the focus of my courses. I have developed a program entitled Unwind the Feminine. It is about recognizing that women have different bodies, and primarily because of the favoring of certain masculine qualities, these differences have not been respected. We have a womb space. We have breasts, cycles and vaginas. But none of this is spoken about in a regular yoga class. And I have come to the conclusion that it is ok for us to create a space where we can talk about this. Rather than making more of a separation between men and women, this space is so necessary for our collective healing and for the health of our planet.
In Unwind the Feminine we will explore how we move our bodies in a way that honours our curves, our energy levels and our cycles. It is about reclaiming wisdom that seems so innate its almost strange that it now needs to be taught. Many of us have become so disconnected from our own cyclical wisdom and so good at following the external demands placed upon us, that when left up to our own devices we no longer know how our body needs to move or even be treated. Self-care seems almost self-indulgent, and we appeal to certified teachers to tell us how we can or can’t move our own bodies. Yoga promises us a chance to reconnect. Yet let’s be mindful! The answers lay on the inside. Your body is different from your teachers. Especially if she is a woman who has never learnt how listen to her womb.
It is about uncovering the hidden treasures of our menstrual cycle and the inner yoga of this. The death of the ego which it necessitates, the capacity for deep feeling and intuition.
The ability to rewrite the narrative that so many of us have been fed, which is that to be valuable as a woman means to be in one’s fertile years: to look and act a certain way. The bones of older women are literally degrading as they fade away, as they become invisible. My purpose is to have a good look within and see where, including in the yoga industry, we have silenced what it is to Be Woman.
Womb Wisdom and Your Yoga Practice
Never once have I heard a yoga teacher mentioned the effects of menstruation on the size of my womb, which can swell up to eight times its non-menstrual size. If they had…then I wouldn’t have kept on doing inversions and would definitely have made space to listen to the natural shift in my consciousness. Likewise, rarely to teachers acknowledge that mula bandha might well be different for men and women, or how to support women working with uterine prolapse. It would be hugely supportive for women if teachers were able to give a voice to menopause. By acknowledging the inner fire of transformation that menopausal women might be experience it can be a huge relief and bring an aspect of trust that this is her initiation into the next stage of her power. Rather than feeling the world as crashing down for no reason, it could instead encourage her to see as what non-concordance there may be between her inner world and outer expression of it. It would also be a huge revelation if teachers could speak to the innate siddhis which a woman’s body already has, such as menopause but also pregnancy, lactation and even miscarriage as Uma Dinsmore-Tuli acknowledges, all of these very earthly, woman-centered experiences bring with them a dramatic shift in consciousness and psycho-physical transformation. As a “Yoga” teacher there are some serious gaps regarding speaking to a woman’s body, which if addressed could really help her switch the light of expanded awareness and intuitive wisdom on – from the inside!
We are cyclical in nature and yet living in a time when the world is at war with cycles. Even at a global level, we value youth over old age, we turn the night into light, we have air con for the summer, heating for the winter, seasonal fruit all year round…the list is endless. Yet the cycles remind us that all will rise and all will fall. All that is given will be taken away.
If we as women practitioners carry on each and every day as if we are the same, if we ignore our monthly cycle, or refuse to talk about menopause then it’s possible we are refusing the sagacity of yoga and the intelligence programmed within our very own bodies by behaving in a way which is deeply disrespectful to our own health and wellbeing.
Now I have designed a “Women’s Leadership Training” course to take a good look at how we can address such discrepancies in our everyday life, so it’s not easy to summarize it into a few paragraphs. However, if we as women are still striving towards the attainment of a perfect body, to be constantly “attractive”, support a family and hold down a demanding job then that’s a ton of attention going out. If our practice mirrors these same patterns and is all about following external cues and someone else’s ideas of how we should be moving then it doesn’t leave a woman much room to listen to her body, to hear it, and to respond accordingly. Stress is responsible for a majority of menstrual irregularities and challenges, and as we all know, too much pushing, doing and chasing also puts a huge strain on our nervous and immune systems. For example, if you are on your mat pushing through a sequence of straight lines and perfect angles, if the breath is forced, if there is no time to pause feel and intuitively move then is there a chance for developing a deeper understanding of the causes of the areas of stagnancy or even pain in your emotional and physical body. If we push on through when our energy levels drop pre-menstruation, when our body is redirecting its focus to the womb, then we tend to feel overwhelmed or even burnt out. The inner critic can be fierce at these times and if we don’t recognize it as a gift of our moon cycle, as an ally which is here to keep us on track, then we can often feel totally lost and without purpose. If we keep going during our bleed – during the time that we are actually more closely aligned with the unseen – then we are not open to the powers of renewal that the bleed offers us as the last month is literally cleared out to make way for a new cycle.
Aligned with the Cycle, Aligned with Your Nature
This new cycle is not just physical, but it can bring with it new ideas, new perspectives, visions and radical insights. As we move out of the menstrual time we are gifted with an increase in energy and eagerness to be back “in the world” to put this new wisdom into action. During ovulation this is the time to go for it! To say “Yes” and to make the most of being more in the “physical” realm. If we haven’t given ourselves time to rest and rejuvenate then this can really backfire. This is the time that addictions tend to rise as we reach for “coping” mechanisms and unreliable external anchors of stability. The drop back down towards pre-menstruum can then feel exhausting. Yet it is actually a beautiful death of the ego, bringing us back in view of our true values (not those of the external world). This can be a time of realising where and how we can realign aspects of our life. It really is a magnificent guide and intimate feedback loop. Our menstrual cycle is our unique personal code to understanding ourselves. It is yoga at the most intimate of levels. If were are unable to listen to our own needs, to understand our own cycles then we are also unable to listen to the deep feminine – to the needs of our Earth.
I wish I had been taught what I am now learning when I hit puberty. I have asked women all around the world about their memory of their first bleed, and more often than not, words such as “shame, fear and terror” dominate experiences such as excitement, joy or even feeling a deep respect for the female body. Perhaps there is nothing wrong with gender separation for those who are prepared to admit that we are different simply by virtue of having a different body and maybe attending a yoga class, which speaks to a woman’s monthly cycle and honors her pelvic organs, is not a negative thing. Perhaps this can allow us as women to just have space to feel into the innate wisdom of our wombs, to honour our monthly bleed and to actually learn about the gifts and wisdom of our life cycles as we journey through time. By doing so I do believe that rather than feel our monthly bleed or even menopause as shameful, or as a physical and emotional strain to be silenced or ignored, we can welcome it as our own embodied inner Yoga.
A recent participant, in one of my courses, complained that she had been on the contraceptive pill since been a teenager. Her menstrual cramps had been so strong they prevented her from studying. Yet she felt that something was amiss. There was an intuitive knowing that The Pill was limiting her emotional, mental and physical health so she came off. As time went on she experienced huge shifts in her level of body awareness and found a renewed sensitivity as to how best to nourish herself. She found a way to plan her big meetings during ovulation and took flexi-time during her bleed. Not only did this significantly ease the cramps, but this honouring of her inner seasons provided her with some wonderful insights as to how she could move forwards with her creative projects. Her sex life also improved. She described it as if rather than seeing in primary colours, now she was seeing a huge spectrum of light and texture. She no longer needed the false high and confidence of alcohol to experience intimacy.
The flux in our emotions, the change in our energy levels, or deep synchronisation with the moon and intuition can provide all we need to remember one of Yoga’s biggest teachings: That we are not separate from all of this, but an extension of it. Within our very bodies is the microcosm of the macrocosm. There is nothing to lose nor to gain, simply to embrace the divine beauty of life which we innately are.
The Benefits of Menstrual Cycle Awareness for Relationships
Menstrual Cycle Awareness can offer the keys for women to be freed from the spell of an emotional whirlwind, the need to excuse her ebbs and flows. I admit, I have had to learn this not just by reading books, but by seeking out older and wiser women, in a space exclusively for women to be free from stereotypes and shame. Once a woman really opens her eyes to the intelligence of her own womb then she can share these insights with her partner who will already be exposed to the power of her cycle. This has huge benefits for intimate relationships, as it has revealed to me in my own relationship. Before my moon the inner critic can be fierce. My partner can be pivotal in reminding me this is just my cycle’s wisdom unfolding. Yet my inner critic can also bring to the surface issues which have gone unresolved and highlight heed that it’s time to address them. By noticing my own cyclical flows, he is also paying more attention to the cyclical flows of the natural world around. We are becoming more attuned – together. Perhaps once this work is more firmly established then we can invite our male friends, brothers and partners to join us. That said, hopefully there will be not much need to run such courses as the wisdom will already become mainstream and basic common sense. It is my vision that the women who attend my courses will be able to share this with the men in their lives, and the men will become so well informed they won’t feel threatened by talk of women’s work and neither will other women who are conditioned to view their contemporaries awakening as a threat.
If each woman claims the ability to tune in with the natural intelligence of her body then together we are collectively correcting the imbalances that have been created through not honouring the feminine. This will have a radical and immediate effect on the earth and all of her creatures.
Join Bex for her next workshop and free webinar:
Feminine Power and the Essence of Yoga
Having lived in Palestine and traveled there several times, in this 45-minute webinar BaliSpirit Festival presenter and Yoga Barn teacher Bex Tyrer shares her experience of teaching Yoga in the Middle East.
You will be inspired by her journey and learn more about:
- How it feels to teach Yoga in the Middle East
- How Yoga can be used to connect communities
- What the feminine aspects of Yoga are and why it is important to include them in your Yoga practice
Immerse into a field of Yoga Activism, the role of Yoga today in our world and how we can come back to its essence. Discover the role of Feminine Power in our lives and how important it is to bring it back to everyday life and to our Yoga practice. Register here.
Unwind the Feminine Leadership Training
2-24th December, 2018 at The Yoga Barn, Ubud, Bali
Unwind the Feminine: Embodied Spirituality, Sexuality, Sensuality and Creativity
A Women’s 3-week Feminine Leadership Retreat & 150 hour Advanced Yoga Teacher Training
This course offers a totally different perspective on Yoga and the way in which we can gear our practice and teachings to the modern women, to awaken her feminine powers and restore deep healing in the body-mind system. It is geared towards the woman who wants to reclaim the power of her body and its innate cycles throughout her life without simply conforming to another template of the yoga industry. You will deepen your practical tools, physical vitality and philosophical understandings of yoga without the time and financial commitment of a full blown YTT course. Rather than learning another set of techniques, you will receive fresh new perspectives that will guide you to tap into the power of your menstrual cycles and stages of your life. When you merge this with the wisdom of the yoga tradition it is of great benefit to your own health, other women and the wider world.