Inspired by the amazing women in my life, and in honour of International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day both taking place this month, bendy yoga will be dedicating all March classes to celebrating women, female solidarity and girl power (the Spice Girls’ music might just feature on my playlist for the full ‘girl power’ effect :-))
International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the achievements of women across all spheres and from all walks of life. This year carries the theme #pressforprogress, which is a strong rally cry urging us to get a move on with advancing gender equality.
Let’s face it, the #metoo and #timesup hashtag movements, along with the recent spotlight on the gender pay gap, have just shown us we are still pretty much living in the Dark Ages. And that’s before we even begin to contemplate the millions of women and girls living today who are subjected to genital mutilation or forced into marriage and virtual slavery.
I often feel deflated by how far women still have to go to achieve “equal” status ….and yet….I definitely feel that right now there is positive momentum pushing us in the right direction. Seeking to change the status quo for women, and speaking out against it, takes more than just riding on the coat-tails of momentum though. It takes strength and courage.
From a yoga point of view, I believe we can #pressforprogress in several ways.
1. By channelling our inner warriors and goddesses.
This is as much about developing a strong self-belief as it is about developing a strong physical practice. By focusing on bravery and endurance in our physical practice, we can grow our inner fortitude and resolve. To do this, I will encourage my students to try something different in their practice, maybe have a go at the pose they think looks too hard, maybe stay in a pose for one breath longer than they’re used to and, above all, try to tap into their inner voices because “whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”
Sometimes that pesky inner voice is just a grumpy old Simon Cowell in disguise, telling you “no, no, that’s impossible” and wanting to sabotage your progress. Well, Simon Cowell turned down the Spice Girls and said they would never work so what did he know?! It takes a lot of determination and courage to override your inner voice (I’m sure the Spice Girls never forgot what Simon Cowell said!) and that is why setting a clear sankalpa or intention for your practice can be so powerful. I doubt there was ever a warrior that went into battle without a clear intention!
2. By taking the #pressforprogress theme literally.
In yoga, there are millions of alignment cues that focus on pressing. We press into the four corners of our feet in standing postures, we press into our hands, particularly index fingers and thumbs, in downward facing dog and we press up into handstand (if we are lucky.) By focusing on correct alignment and the sensation of pressing correctly in every posture, we can deepen our awareness of our practice and continually evolve it.
3. By harnessing the power of peace.
International Women’s Day also coincides with the United Nations day for Women’s Rights and International Peace. The UN states on its website that when women lead and participate in peace processes, peace lasts longer. It is perhaps no surprise then that women’s power is often associated with peace.
Peace is a quality describing a society or a relationship that is operating harmoniously. Arguably, to be peaceful, is one of the best qualities humans can possess. However, in our society, we are always being hurried along, moving from one busy task to the next. Practising yoga can be an antidote to this busyness. It can help your nervous system live in a state of equanimity (rather than in constant fight or flight mode) and give you time to pause, feel, and tune in. Through yoga – which helps us to be completely present in the now – we can bring peace and comfort to ourselves, even in the most turbulent of times. And as The Dalai Lama put it, “we can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.”
“Individually, we’re one drop but together we’re an ocean.”
I hope you’ll be inspired to take action and get involved in #pressforprogress – whether that be through your yoga practice or in another way through your local community. You can also take action by selecting one area below that you commit to focusing on. This goes directly to the International Women’s Day campaign.
Namaste, Tamsin x