Monday, 22 July 2013

"Sometimes it's hard to be a woman!" - A week of 'Womb Yoga' with Lara Heppell

Yep - you read correctly, 'womb yoga' aka 'Yonni Yoga' which has a much nicer ring to it! So following a week of ashtanga, I was invited to participate in an all woman retreat run by a lovely British teacher, Lara Heppell. Now normally I'd jump at the chance of trying something new, but 'all woman yoga' did not appeal to me in the slightest.....a reaction from which I had to take a step back and examine... I'm a woman right, so why on earth did I have an aversion to yoga for women?

In fact I didn't tell anyone that I felt that way until right at the end of the retreat, I guess I was kinda embarrassed that I had such strong feelings against doing the classes. Anyway, having had a word to myself, I decided to sack of my ashtanga practice for the entire week, yes, a whole week without my practice (don't tell my teacher!) to completely submerge myself in my womb, my yonni, express my femininity and become one with my shakti energy! 

We built up through the week a sequence of fluid and flowing posture sequences with names such as 'heart - womb - river - ocean' , practiced postures intuitively according to our personal 'season' (time of the month), partook in breath and mind balancing pranayamas, focussed on feminine mudras to build compassion for ourselves and directed it through our nadis from the heart to the womb and back,  to nurture our awareness of our own bodies and an understanding of harnessing female energy. Sounds beautiful no?! So why did I still have issues with it? 

Since I began my ashtanga practice I've always practiced through my periods. I hated it if my period fell on a day of a favourite class and I would put my self through the practice, despite a tender tummy, or lethargy as it made me feel better..why should I have to stop just because of that?! Lara taught us there are 4 'seasons' of a woman's menstrual cycle and we have different levels of energy in each of the 4 quarters. at the time of the retreat I was autumn coming into winter, my energy was beginning to wane, so during this quarter you should think about slowing things down, missing out certain postures and generally respecting the fact the body is getting ready to release. I'd normally do all of the postures offered in a class, but the season model allows you to determine where your body is in its cycle and practice in accordance with it. This made absolute sense to me. Why pretend that I have a body akin to a male's? It needs nurturing and nourishment at certain times of the month and I need to allow it to do its thing! To be feminine and not be violent towards it, especially when my mind wants control over it. 

So whilst I won't be giving up the ashtanga any time soon, the retreat taught me some valuable lessons. I am going to allow myself to be a woman inside my practice, respect the seasons and whatever they bring, enjoy the rest and relaxation when needed and respect 'ladies holidays'! I've just noticed that today's a full moon and, low and behold, 'ladies holiday' started this morning! Now if that doesn't convey the power of shakti energy I don't know what does! I love my clever, beautiful body :) 

Sunday, 7 July 2013

"I went and I returned. It was nothing special...

...Rozen famous for its misty mountains, Sekko for its water." (Zen Koan)

Me jacking my life in at home and heading off to some new places is more about complete focus on my practice, than the travelling. To be quite honest, I'm a terrible traveller...! I prefer the getting there bit about travelling, rather than the journey itself, which in itself, speaks loads about how I live my life. My first flight out of the UK didn't go smoothly given a Portuguese general strike and my flight being delayed by 3 hours which meant a missed transfer and an un expected night in a hostel in Lisboa. This was meant to happen though, right? Out the comfort zone and all that. I got to the retreat a day late, no biggie. It's all practice baby!

So the travelling bit, it's a journey, but with no end in sight. The purpose is to keep up the practice forever, my ashtanga practice, my sitting practice, nothing to attain. Shunryu Suzuki says that people think it must be wonderful to see the famous range of mountains covered by mists and the water said to cover all the earth, but if you go there you will just see water and mountains. Nothing special. And that's what it is like here at the retreat, I've been here before, seen the mountains, swam in the river. There is no gaining to be had out of the experience, I am just doing something and trying to do it well. And the karma yoga, just doing it, helping out, is quite wonderful, despite working in 40 degrees of heat, swimming in sweat, flies and mosquitos! But the letting go of the people you meet and get to know a tiny bit I'm finding difficult, they leave a little imprint on you, a samskara if you like, which you need to let go in order to let the new people in...another lesson in non attachment I guess!!

So I'm into my second week now and if I'm honest feeling melancholy. Home calls already, but I know it will. There is also No ashtanga! :( But I just need to carry on, embrace this new week, embrace 'womb' yoga (this weeks retreat!!!), eat when I'm eating, sit when I'm sitting and try and express my Buddha nature!

All quite hard when all I want to do is have a glass of wine and watch Wimbledon! ;)