When the question arises about men and women, Patañjali did not say anywhere that one thing is meant for men and another thing is meant for women. He does not consider anybody, either man or woman, to be more important than anyone else. Basically, it is the practitioner, the sādhaka, himself or herself, who has to be honest at all times and al- ways keep trying to bring inner weaknesses to the surface so that you begin to understand yourself more clearly. You can deal with yourself directly. So as far as the practice of yoga is concerned, there is no difference between men and women.
However, we must recognise some basic differences as far as the biological body is concerned. Yoga is one, but women and men differ from each other, and every individual differs from each other. Constitutionally though there is no difference as far as the physiological functioning of the body is concerned, yet constituently there are differences between men and women. It does not mean that yoga is different for a particular kind of body, but the capacity or ability is different for each person. It is only a question of how we adapt the practice so that it brings a proper balance and becomes suitable as far as the physical body and mental capacity is concerned. So we are supposed to understand this basic fact regarding the adoption of adjustments in the practice. Moreover, the bodies of women have certain bio- logical functions to perform, which need to be taken into account. Men and women both have generative or reproductive organs but in women the functioning of the reproductive system differs from that of men. Due to this difference the practice differs. As far as the principles of yoga are concerned, the sincerity in approach and the application of methodology do not make the difference. However when it comes to the practice of āsana and prānāyāma their adaptation in sādhanā (practice) differs. This has to be noted by women in order to maintain physical and mental health. – Geeta Iyengar
Main points from the workshop
- One should not perform inverted postures during menstruation. Inversions performed during menstruation arrest the menstrual flow.
- Now you know that the menstrual blood needs to be disgarded you must not hold the abdomen tight. For example you should not practice abdominal poses such as navasana, lolasana, urdhva prasarita padasana where the abdomen is gripped and held. The opposite of these poses are those resting supine poses such as supta baddha konasana, supta swastikasana, supta virasana and supta padangusthasana 2, should be practiced.
- Depending on your energy, standing poses can be practiced during menstruation but they should always be supported e.g. block for hand, back heel to wall, chair etc. This is due to the apana vayu which is the energy in the pelvis that governs downward movement.
- Seated forward bends are highly recommended during menstruation they quiet the brain, reduce headaches, backache and fatigue. Some seated forward bends such as jane sirsasana with legs apart, can help reduce heavy bleeding.
- When you feel a hot flash coming on change what you are practicing and take a supported pose. The best yoga poses for hot flashes are supported shoulder stand, halasana, viparita karani and the very best is niralamba sarvangasana.
For further information on the womens health workshop please consult the following books;
Effect of inverted poses on menstruation and pregnancy Geeta S. Iyengar. [Yoga Vaani, March 1997]
The practice of women during the whole monthDr Geeta S Iyengar– Poland Lecture 2002
The Woman’s Yoga Book – Bobby Clennell
The Woman’s Book of Yoga and Health Linda Sparrowe & Particia Waldon
Yoga and the wisdom of menopause – Suza Francina
The new yoga for Healthy Aging – Suza Francina
Geeta Iyengars Guide to a Womans Yoga Practice. Lois Steinberg