I am just about to finish reading yet another interesting and inspiring book, which my friend has recommended to me. For a long time she was a fan of the author, David Deida, so after listening to so many things about his teachings, I got into it as well. “It’s a guy thing” is a manual into guys’ world for women; and it talks a lot about the play of feminine and masculine aspects in all of us.
But what am I talking about here when I mention masculine and feminine aspects? Basically, these are the opposing energies in life: yin and yang, sun and moon, consciousness and energy etc. Masculine having qualities like sense of direction, unbending intent, structure, control, discipline, diligence, planning and persistence; while feminine is being all about sensual pleasure, intuition, love, connection to one’s own body, enjoyment and surrender. The ideal situation is when each of us is very well connected to both aspects and is able to switch from one to another when necessary, so that the universal balance is maintained.
In most authentic cultures, men used to manifest more masculine aspect in their core, while females - feminine. This created natural polarization of sexes, so that they were magnetically drawn to each other to create a cosmic union, a mesmerizing dance of Shiva and Shakti. However, nowadays, the balance is shifting and women are moving away from their feminine into masculine side in order to compete with men on all planes of existence. This happened to Ashtanga yoga, too. Before western women have embraced this practice, it was strictly male and was taught to young boys at Maharaja’s palace in Mysore. Thanks to women like Indra Devi, who persuaded Indian yoga gurus to teach them, that I am able to write on this subject at all.
Very often people with already developed masculine energy are attracted to Ashtanga yoga. Folks that stick with it mostly know and love hard work, discipline, dedication, persistence. Else they would have quickly got bored, tired, unmotivated and would eventually have dropped it all together. This masculine energy also helps ashtangis to endure the tempo of the practice and complete the series every single day. Except for moon days and Saturdays, of course! And as with everything in life, together with all the positive sides that Ashtanga yoga has got to offer, I notice a tendency of many of us to forget cultivating feminine aspect in our lives. We become very strict and inflexible in everything: we should practice at a certain time, eat according to Ayurveda, not skip a day, not practice on Saturdays (have you heard of Ashtanga police?), not use the props, etcetera, etcetera. The list is long and we love it!
So to balance out the masculine energy, I thought of 6 things that could help us (both men and women) to tap into feminine aspect of life. Hope you will enjoy practicing them just as much as I do!
1. Smile and enjoy
Being Ashtanga teacher, too often I see concentrated serious faces, frowns, clenching teeth and tight fists. As we practice, we should pay attention to our body and let go of all above. Try to enjoy and smile instead! For example, I personally struggle with back-bends, so what I do – I smile in upward facing dog. As I inhale, I smile and imagine smelling a beautiful flower. Whenever I notice that my bandhas are non-existent, I engage them and relax my face. Whenever I tense my shoulders, I let go of them and engage the bandhas instead. As I inhale and smile, I notice how tightness is leaving the body and how practice becomes more and more happy.
2. Treat your body nicely
One of the aspects of loving one’s body is looking good. There is no need to fall prey of fashion, but from time to time it is nice to dress up, adorn yourself with beautiful accessories (especially if you are a girl) and enjoy it. Another aspect is practice of non-violence, being nice to yourself. If the body hurts, it does not mean that we should push more. Back off when you feel a “bad” pain, learn to listen to your body. Tense muscles need a regular massage sessions, so enjoy them from time to time. Nurture your body as your soul’s temple. Use body oils to sooth the skin, enjoy the fragrant as you rub the oils into your body. During the practice as you fold your legs into padmasana, treat them nicely, as if they were precious. Being nice to your body helps cultivating its awareness, which also helps to perform poses lighter and easier.
3. Take classes of another yoga style
From time to time I find it beneficial to let go of Ashtanga rules and dive into another style. Just to allow myself to experience something else, so that the mind is not rigidly focused on one thing all the time. Listen to different instructions and try to understand them. Another day I took a class of Ana Forest. As she was guiding us through the standing poses, she was deliberately trying to break the common pattern of looking up in trikonasana or in parsvakonasana. I heard her repeating over and again that we should drop our heads and let them hang. And still many people around (yes, my drishti was nowhere!) still engaged their neck muscles to and were staring at the ceiling. This sort of indoctrination leaves no space for letting go…
4. Dance, dance, dance!
Dancing has got feminine energy. It is about bodily enjoyment, it is an expression of celebration and festivity. It involves getting loose, swinging and letting go. Again, try not to make your dance into Ashtanga practice. No sequence, no rules, no pas. Let go, let the music guide your body, enjoy the play. Jump, laugh, be fun! Try to let go and dance freely as if no-one is watching. Move from your heart and enjoy the ride =)
5. Enjoy nature
One day I was cycling home in Amsterdam, when a heavy shower started half way home. Just like everyone else, I tensed and started pedaling faster to get home sooner. I was passing a park with a beautiful canal when a though hit my mind. I thought of stopping and lying in the grass. And so I did. As I was laying in the grass looking up into the sky, I saw big raindrops falling beautifully. I totally did not worry about getting wet; I opened up to the nature. It was truly amazing experience! Regular walks and swimming in the nature are not only healthy, but also are very nurturing to feminine energy. As you walk in a park or a forest, try to be aware of the surroundings, notice birds and beautiful plants. When you pass a blossoming tree, stop to enjoy the smell and a bee buzz. Sit at a pond or a sea, listen to the waves breaking against the shore, and watch the sun reflecting off the surface. Feel the wind brushing your skin, breathe deeply. If you are into gardening, get back to it. Help the plants grow, water them, talk to them and see the fruits of your work grow within and without.
6. Open heart to love
Remember a person who made you feel good and safe, someone who loved you truly at a certain occasion. It may be your parent, your friend, your child, your grandparent etc. Depict the situation in your head; bring up the feeling of warmth, which you felt back then. This free feeling when there is no need to protect, control and close is called LOVE. And it is very important to feel it towards everything: people around, the world and ourselves. We have learnt to close in order to protect us; however it is very important to know how to stay open. It is very important to notice closing of the heart, and once it is happening start breathing consciously and stay open, be LOVE.
Men and women have both feminine and masculine aspects within themselves. However, since our civilization has almost forgotten of feminine aspect cultivation, these points are not only beneficial to all women, but also to men…OK, you may skip the accessory part =) Or may be instead try that and let me know how it felt!