Stress, weight loss, hormonal imbalance and general well being are some of the reasons women come to yoga.
For most of us, our capacity to handle stress, whether emotional or physical, is largely dependent on our physical and mental health. The hormonal changes associated with being a woman add significantly to the demands of daily life as well as creating a number of significant life events such as the onset of menstruation, pregnancy(ies), peri-menopause and menopause. On top of working through the symptoms of major hormonal upheavals we also have the added pressure of feeling like we are supposed to look a certain way, be independent, successful, and brilliant at everything we do (including motherhood for many).
Tapping into the thousands of years of Yoga wisdom can help women find ways to overcome stress and manage the symptoms of hormonal fluctuation. Through the eight limbs of yoga we can cultivate methods of working with our bodies through the various changes and bring about awareness and a calmness of mind that enables us to choose how we respond to the fluctuations.
One of the Niyamas, Tapas (the energy used for practice and the cause of the effect of positive change), is of vital importance if we want to use yoga for transformation. We can come to class, adhere to a diligent home practice, and even chant an om or two but if then , on a bad day, with feral children and full swing PMT it becomes so tempting to turn to chocolate cake, a glass of wine or trashy tv rather than our mats.
Believe me, I love chocolate cake, and a glass of wine and even trashy tv! But it is in knowing the difference between when you are consuming the cake for the sake of the pleasure of the divine, smooth, rich chocolatey goodness, enjoying each moment it is in your mouth and the process of indulging your taste buds compared to those moments when you storm into the kitchen and take out the first convenient thing you see in the fridge and dig in while playing over a conversation of what if’s, yeah but’s and I wish I’d’s in your head. These moments of losing yourself in the story are those when you are much better turning to your mat than the fridge. I totally get that this is easier said than done. After years of habitual comfort eating, drinking, reading or whatever you do to avoid the uncertain, messy, fear-driven dynamics of human existence, it is hard to develop the awareness to turn to your mat at the exact moment you need it most.
This is exactly why we PRACTICE Tapas. Practice, practice, practice. We don’t get it right the first time, or the second, in fact it may take a lifetime of practice to just get it half right. But this is a practice that leads us far beyond the trivial nature of right and wrong. We practice yoga to see the human stories and conditions that show us right from wrong for what they truly are – stories, conditions, social expectations and cultural practices that actually take us further away from our true selves. When we direct some energy toward developing awareness of our thoughts and behaviours, of why we do what we do when we do it, then we begin the true practice of Yoga.
Patanjali offered us the Yoga Sutras as a practical guide to achieve harmony of mind, body and spirit, a peacefulness that opens the door to awakening. Turning toward this door requires effort, walking toward the door requires continued effort. Walking through the door of enlightenment requires enduring effort and self-discipline that can only be developed when the mind, body and spirit are nurtured. Our yoga mats are our temples, a place to worship and nurture ourselves, mind, body and spirit.
So next time you step on to your mat, perform a deep bow of gratitude toward yourself. Congratulate yourself for making the effort. Develop gratitude toward yourself for having the discipline to turn to yoga rather than the shops, even if it feels easy and natural, still remind yourself that you made the choice, you are making the effort, that you are practicing. With continued practice and with faith in the process of yoga, positive change will unfold. Excess and imbalance with be corrected and replaced by harmony, peace and freedom.
Once you are facing in the right direction, all you need to do is continue walking ~ Buddhist saying.
With great respect and love.