on Being a Yogawoman (Part 2 – Living Our Yoga)

Clearly, being a yogawoman has a struck a chord with many of you, as I’ve gotten a lot of response – both male and female.  Go see this film if you have the opportunity; if you don’t, create the opportunity for others and host a screening.

Creating opportunity is another aspect of this great documentary.  A fair portion is spent highlighting yogini activists and causes.  Some of the AMAZING projects shown included Off the Mat, Into the World, and the Africa Yoga Project.

Watching this film reminded me of all the women I know who have started non-profits, women who regularly volunteer, women who are true care-takers.  I think this is because women have an easier path to Isvara Pranidhana, or surrender (most women I know have an innate maternal instinct, whether it means caring for their own children or caring for the people around them).  Jaganeth Carrera describes surrender as “the voluntary letting go of limited, personal desires for the sake of a greater and more fulfilling experience.  It often takes the form of dedicating the fruits of our actions to God or humanity.”

One of the highlighted causes  in “Yogawoman” was the Art of Yoga Project – a non-profit serving at-risk teenage girls in the juvenile justice system in California.  There is a particularly moving moment in the film where one of the teachers mentions that in each class she makes an announcement that a student can always opt out of adjustments or being touched at all.  For many of the girls, survivors of sexual abuse, this was the most profound part of class – it was the first time in their lives they were given the option of being touched.

Here’s where part 1 and part 2 of this post bind together.  Acknowledging body image is important for ourselves and the way we feel about our bodies.  But it is even more important to acknowledge the ramifications that come from telling ourselves and our women that they are only valuable for one thing.

I live in a neighborhood where men who stand on the corner click or whistle at me – like I’m a dog – when I walk by.  While I’ve always ignored them, it took the better part of several months to not get irritated.  I’m not sure when my anatomy became up for public consumption, but I’m trying to let this feeling go, knowing that ultimately – no matter what happens to it – I am the owner, I am the director of my body.  I have to remind myself that my male neighbors’ reactions are base, and they have nothing to do with who I really am.

There is a true connection between body image, media coverage, and violence against women around the world.  Feeding into the media, perpetuating photoshopped images, we rob women of the autonomy that all beings deserve.  It’s hard not to get discouraged.  We are living in a world where women are still being used as currency.  And a few weeks ago, Congress held a hearing on legislation that directly affects women’s health, and not a single woman was on the panel.

I get discouraged, and then I remember women like my friend Abby, who are strengthening the resolve of young women in places where they have long been oppressed – with the added challenge of remaining culturally respectful.  Abby is living her yoga.

I do not know passive women.  The women I know are talented, driven, intellectual bad-asses who are out to change the world.  Whether they are producing their own rap albums, working for major law firms, raising incredible kids, or running their own dance companies, they are taking up space.

This above all is why women should keep practicing yoga.  To be empowered.  To be inspired.  To be reminded that they are their perfect bodies, and to be reminded that they are more than a perfect body.  Too often, women are not given the space they deserve.  Yoga reminds us of that space, yoga reminds us to surrender to it, yoga let’s us take that space and shape it into something constructive and beautiful.

Ladies – and gentlemen, how are you living your yoga?  How are you practicing Isvara Pranidhana?

fellow yoginis at the completion of our 200-hour teacher training

PS Did you know that March is Women’s History Month?

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