After attending a 1.5-day yoga workshop by Carole Baillargeon on the above topic, made me revisit and re-evaluate my knowledge either by practice or reading. Thus I begin this note…
There are many references on yoga for women, especially focusing on three main stages of womanhood, namely: menstrual, pregnancy and menopausal.
In this entry, I will look at it from some reference I read and some practice experiences I learned from various teachers.
Yoga: A Gem for Women is a book written in 1983 by Geeta Iyengar, the daughter of Guruji BKS Iyengar, who also carries the torch in teaching the Iyengar yoga. Up to now, Geeta-ji still continues her teaching and practice in the Iyengar Centre in Pune, India. In her intensive classes or teacher’s training classes, she would dedicate Wednesdays and Saturdays to focus on yoga practice for women. In this book, it has specific reference to the main biological stages of a woman’s life and identifies which asanas should be practiced or avoided at those stages. This book is designed specifically for women who wish to develop their own self-study and it covers not only asanas but also the other vital components of traditional yoga such as pranayama (breath) and meditation.
This book will not be appropriate for yoga practitioner for those using yoga primarily as a form of fitness. However, for someone who wishes to extend their yoga practice beyond the poses and more into the philosophy of yoga itself, will find it useful and ideal.
This is a very good reference and relevant to read after Light on Yoga and Light on Pranayama: The Yogic Art of Breathing – both books by BKS Iyengar.
The second book I would recommend for the subject is The Woman’s Book of Yoga and Health written by Linda Sparrowe, with yoga sequences by Patricia Walden. This one was written in 2002. It talked about 26 poses put together by Patricia Walden, and considered as The Woman’s Essential Sequence. These asanas will help women to balance endocrine and nervous systems; squeeze stale blood from organs and flush them with fresh, oxygenated blood; and bring a renewed sense of calm, strength and focus. At the end, it also reminded us to soften and relax our belly as we tone it. These sequences will put our body in full range of motion: forward bends, backbends, inversions and twists.
These 26-poses are:
1. Bound angle post (Baddha Konasana)
2. Wide-angle seated pose 1 (Upavistha Konasana 1)
3. Mountain pose (Tadasana)
4. Mountain pose with arms overhead (Urdvha Hastasana in Tadasana)
5. Extended triangle pose (Utthita Trikonasana)
6. Warrior pose 2 (Virabhadrasana 2)
7. Extended side-angle pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana)
8. Half-moon pose (Ardha chandrasana)
9. Standing forward bend (uttanasana)
10. Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana 1)
11. Revolved triangle pose (Parivrrta trikonasana)
12. Intense side stretch pose (Parsvottanasana)
13. Wide-angle standing forward bend (Prasarita Padottanasana
14. Hero pose with cow face arms (virasana with gomukhasana arms)
15. Simple seated twist pose (Bharadvajasana)
16. Spinal Twist pose (Marichyasana 3)
17. Head-on-knee pose (Janu Sirsasana)
18. Seated forward bend (Paschimottanasana)
19. Downward facing dog pose (Adho mukha svanasana)
20. Headstand (Sirsasana)
21. Child’s pose (Adho mukha virasana)
22. Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana)
23. Plough pose (Halasana)
24. Bridge pose (Setu bandha sarvangasana)
25. Legs up the wall pose (Viparita Karani)
26. Corpse pose (Savasana)
I guess this book is still rooting to Geeta-ji’s content, but with more modern approach, clearer visual aid and endorsement from medical practitioners, such as Dr Christiane Northrup – which is famous for her book specifically focused on menopausal topic for women.
When it comes to real-life practice, I had an opportunity to do so with Carole Baillargeon last week end. Carole was a direct student to Geeta-ji and hold a Senior Intermediate Level 1 Iyengar teaching certificate. Originated from Canada, she now based herself out of Darwin, to open her own school, Darwin Yoga Space.
In her approach throughout the workshop, she always reminded us to be gentle to our reproductive organ at any stage and cycle of life. Simply because our organs are different than men and it is all located inside of our body; also because each reproductive organ relates to the bodily hormonal system. So it is a very complex, yet comprehensive one, indeed.
It is important to take care of oneself during menstrual period and not to disregard as if it does not exist. If woman needs to take a rest because her menstrual period is painful, then do take one. With our current demand, pace of life and the way our social structure is stacked these days, it is difficult to find time to step back, to find time for oneself, just to observe our being, our condition.
In doing the simplest asana, such as Hero pose (Virasana), or Standing Triangle pose (Trikonasana), it is viewed to be important to ensure the alignment of our body, the support of our right and/or left legs whichever one is standing in front of the other, to be equally strength, to be equally position, to find where our sacroiliac joint is, so that our asana is aligned, stacked one on top of the other, and not lop-sided and causing more weary in our physical health in the long run.
There is no way that we would expect during Carole’s session to have a vinyasa or continuous move from one asana to the other; but only to find that each movement, each twist, each position, each inversion, each inhalation or exhalation do have a meaning, do need recognition, do have a deeper understanding than just do.
After 1.5 days, I am still on my journey to seek further understanding in finding my ways around each movement and posture in yoga; but I am very thankful that someone like Carole has shown and clarified some milestones for woman at different stages of their life.
Be in the moment