Thursday, March 8, 2012

What's with all the women doing yoga?

I've always found being female challenging and sometimes unappealing. I think there's something inherently wrong with our culture's view of women.

No I'm not using my yoga blog for some sort of political, feminist rant about how women are oppressed and blah blah. If you'll bear with me while I go off topic for a moment, I'll get back to yoga in a bit. (OK, deep breath, and relax. It's not what you think.)

International Women's Day (today, March 8), recent political events and a book I'm reading called "Captivating" by John and Stasi Eldridge have my mind churning about the meaning of femininity and how it seems that society's understanding of it is limited to put it lightly. In fact, my understanding of it has been all wrong since I was a little girl.

At an early age I rejected dresses, dolls and pink in favor of sandboxes, tree-forts and anything blue. I can't say that I truly understood the dynamics of gender then, but to me it seemed girls got the short end of the stick. Saddle me with the responsibility of a child/doll at age four, pretend clean the house and wear clothes that restrict certain kinds of movement? I don't think so! Let me outside, NOW!

Yet as I grew older the idea of the power woman who ran corporations and ate men for lunch didn't seem right either. This "us versus them" mentality among some women was also off-putting to me. Some of my best friends growing up were guys and I never felt uncomfortable in the company of men or oppressed by them.

I don't think either of these two views is accurate, in fact they are extreme. As a women I don't want to be relegated to the kitchen and motherhood, nor do I want to claw my way up a corporate ladder just to prove that I can. I think like most women I looking for a more balanced, harmonious approach to being a woman in this world.

Enter yoga.

Many articles have been written about the popularity of yoga among women. Women seem to flock to yoga despite that it was originally created by men for men. Why is that?

Yoga's ability to create balance between strength and flexibility and it's centering qualities seem made for women living in a society of imbalances. There's an innate harmony between power and surrender in yoga, effort and ease, activity and rest. These are qualities specific to women as well. We can be strong and beautiful, warriors and princesses. It's when we choose one side over the other that we end up out of whack and frustrated.

Physically, yoga helps create long, lean muscles, not bulky ones, but muscles still the same. These are the kind favored among women. We don't really want to look like He-man but we do want to have muscles, noticeable ones. Yet we don't want to sacrifice flexibility for them. We want to be strong but graceful.

We also want an exercise method that let's us honor and accept our bodies. Too much of what women are  told about their bodies is that they are somehow inadequate and need to be fixed. Yoga says, "You're OK just as you are." Yoga works for the body type you have rather than suggesting that your body type needs to change.

Mentally, yoga helps slow the worried, hurried female mind. Unfortunately, we women tend to be worriers and we tend to be overburden with all of life's demands. We tend also to have stress from both work and home to contend with. An hour's break filled with relaxation is heavenly for the women trying to straddle both aspects of her nature.

All this is not to say that men don't value the same things or can't benefit from yoga in the same way. More and more men are realizing that yoga isn't just for chicks. In that way yoga creates harmony not just in ourselves but among each other. Men and women can practice together and share interesting insights into each others worlds. We realize that the genders are both different and the same in many ways and that's OK. 

And since yoga fosters a non-competitive atmosphere, us verse them attitudes are more easily dropped. We don't have to feel threatened by each other as men and women. Nor do women have feel threatened by each either. We see that we all have struggles and challenges no matter our gender, size or shape.

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