18 Aug 2017

Why Practicing Yoga is a Feminist Act: Yoga & Feminism Series, Part 1

Comments Off on Why Practicing Yoga is a Feminist Act: Yoga & Feminism Series, Part 1 thoughts

My two favorite subjects are yoga and feminism. Both get a lot of buzz on social media and in the cultural conversation in the US. Yoga has questionable roots in its relationship to women’s issues (which I’ll explore in a later blog post), but in recent years, yoga spaces have become fertile ground for the practice of feminist principles. For me, practicing yoga as self-care is a feminist act, and one that I encourage other feminists to pursue as part of their self-empowerment work.

The physical act of yoga practice is groundbreaking in and of itself. In claiming our bodies and the types of movement they engage in, we are actively rejecting the inherent policing of women’s bodies. When we come to the mat, it is our space. We are in control of what we wear, how we move, and what we feel. In a world where women are told daily how to dress, present, and feel, this control over our bodies is radical.

When we come to our mats, we are also claiming our time. Society dictates how women spend their time, and we are often expected to be caregivers to others. Women are given the message, implicitly or explicitly, that we are less important than other people, especially the men in our lives. To carve out time in one’s busy life for yoga is to state, “I am important. I and my health and well-being are a priority.” To step on a yoga mat is to make the statement that we matter.

Additionally, yoga communities can and do create safe spaces for women to commune with one another, to be open and honest, and to celebrate themselves and each other. There’s no shortage of women-only events, classes, and retreats that create spaces for women to share and receive support for what they’re dealing with in their lives. Communities of women are powerful, and communities of women who do yoga together are a force.

I want to be clear: When I say practicing yoga is a feminist act, I’m referring to the practice of yoga that is supportive of the unique needs of the person practicing it. I’m talking about a yoga that is modified for that person’s body and feels good, not forced, to them. A yoga that is practiced not to shape or “improve” the body, but in celebration of the body that exists as it is, perhaps with empowering goals–such as increased strength, flexibility, or overall health–as a side focus to that celebration. A yoga that is performed not for the male gaze or to titillate on social media but solely for the benefit of the person doing it. I’m talking about a yoga that is practiced not because it looks good, but because it feels good.

Yoga communities certainly aren’t perfect in their embrace of feminist ideals, especially along intersectional lines. For example, people of color and LGBTQIA+ people are underrepresented and often shut out of yoga spaces for a variety of covert and overt reasons. Yoga classes can be cost prohibitive for people in certain income brackets. And while there’s an increasing focus on offering accessible yoga, few classes exist in traditional studio spaces to meet the needs of people with a wide array of disabilities. While yoga can be a healing space for people who identify as female, it has a long way to go in the West to embrace all the ways the Divine Feminine manifests in our society.

And still, I continue to believe that yoga can be a transformative place for all people who identify as female and non-binary. It’s no wonder women make up the majority of yoga practitioners in the United States. Yoga can provide a space to reclaim mind, body, and spirit. And few things are more empowering than that.

Interested yoga and feminism? Check out my new book, White Girl in Yoga Pants, coming out September 14th. It’s a collection of essays about yoga, feminist issues, and inner strength. Available on Amazon and Kindle. Sign up for my newsletter for more details and to be the first to know when it comes out!

Tags: ,
written by
The author didn‘t add any Information to his profile yet.
Related Posts
Comments are closed.