Feminist Yoga: What the World Needs.
“If you have yet to be called an incorrigible, defiant woman, don’t worry, there is still time.” ~ Clarissa Pinkola Estés
I began a PhD in feminism and Yoga several years ago, which I wasn’t able to complete for several reasons. Amidst the chaos I was experiencing during those years, I felt a strong call to embody the philosophy that I was researching and critiquing. I followed this call and became a Yoga teacher.
At that difficult time however, quite literally, my body broke down. I spent too long inhabiting my mind, and didn’t listen to the wisdom of my body or the wisdom of its pain.
I didn’t know that we should listen to the metaphors of our life: Here I was undertaking this PhD, which was my contribution to the fight against patriarchy, and at the same time, I was in a relationship with a misogynistic narcissist with whom I was fighting an unconscious battle.
I had agonizing back problems, and at one point I couldn’t even walk. My body was warning me of the illusion — the maya I was living in, I simply didn’t have the tools or resources to communicate with it in order to become conscious and heal myself.
My physical symptoms were pyschosomatic in nature, and I healed later through a combination of Yoga, qigong, writing and expressive art therapy and a return to martial arts — removing myself from all toxic people and situations was another key action step towards self-healing — which is why I now teach and offer these techniques to women experiencing similar internal struggles and obstacles.
I studied feminism at a Master’s level, and I practiced Yoga on a daily basis before my PhD began. Intuitively and intellectually, I knew there was a strong connection between the two discourses; that the aim of Yoga and the aim of the feminist cause were one and the same: to discover and live our authentic natures beyond the social conditioning which privileges the male experience of the world.
Our worldview is constructed through the imbalanced lens of the male gender, which has given rise to the patriarchal devaluing of the feminine. The earth has long suffered as a result.
We can use Yoga practice to remove the projections and definitions of woman, female and feminine.
Yoga provides a space to articulate our essence. Spiritualizing the Feminine is one way to return women their authentic lens and their life force energy — their prana shakti, the other part of their consciousness — essentially, their power. I am aware that this isn’t everyone’s cup of feminism, but it’s worked for my own healing and transformation.
I personally find the revival of the Divine Feminine from all cultures and mythologies as a source of empowerment and value for those who have been disempowered by male and masculine cultures, whether through their family, relationships or through media and culture.
Celebrating and worshiping the Feminine as sacred is one way of healing our disconnection with the planet and ourselves. To remove the veil of avidya or ignorance and false perception is a goal of Yoga practice. Similarly, removing the false veil of patriarchy which has us value only one perception of the world, the Masculine, is a goal of the feminist.
Even literature and popular culture has celebrated and documented the male hero’s journey throughout the centuries.
That’s why I’m passionate about helping women value their experience of the world by showing them how to reclaim their feminine power: their essence — a sense of self that isn’t a shadow projection or opposite and weaker half of the Masculine, but as a powerful and complete force within that acts as its heroic rival.
The Vedic texts and oral stories support this idea. Let’s take the goddess Durga as an example, and her nine-night battle with the masculine force represented by the demon Mahishasura — a fight which she wins. These stories show that the Masculine and Feminine are at war within, and this is reflected in our outer world too.
The outside, which we are conscious of, becomes a mirror of what is unconscious on the inside.
We must go within, witness where this conflict shows up in our minds, bodies and emotions, and then take the necessary steps to unite the two, to be fully conscious to ourselves so we can be of service to this world. This is how we step into our dharma, and this is Yoga.
It is no coincidence that we empaths and highly sensitive people feel the weight of the world on our shoulders. We are an expression of the Divine Feminine, the warrior and the creator, the one who brings life and death. We are prakṛti — all that which moves in the universe. And we are especially the emotional body, the ultra-heightened layer of our being.
This is why Durga is the Great Mother of the universe. She is Creation itself. And as sensitive warriors, it’s time to reclaim that which belongs to us, our true selves, our creative warrior energy for the good of our world.
Like Vishnu, who draws his strength from the indestructible energy of the Devi — the Goddess, we awaken from our deep slumber when the tyranny of injustice and evil threatens our creation — our sense of Self, our vitality and nourishment.
We slay the monsters who bring adharma, and we preserve the world.
We fight, and in the end, we always win.
Payal Patel is a writer, a Yoga teacher and a martial artist. Her path is to help women cultivate Shakti — creative warrior energy. She coaches sensitive souls seeking to heal their inner Feminine, guiding them through their Shero’s journey, and helping them reclaim their power, to gain clarity, integrate mind, body and spirit, and experience the change and focus they need to move forward with presence and power. Get her free Sensitive Warrior bundle to get started. Or book a one-on-one online session here. Join Payal’s private Facebook group Warrior Training for the Sensitive Soul for a writing challenge starting soon! Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.