Change yourself and the world around will change

Yoga in a woman’s way

When you go are going to the future life along the long way of samsara, the best provisions on your path that bring peace and inspiration are nothing but the practice of Dharma. 

Hunting Jampelyang 

The path to yoga is open for everyone regardless of race, caste, creed and gender. Everyone can practice yoga to achieve the release. 
Geeta Iyengar 

The nature intended to make a woman the pinnacle of its creation. 
John Ruskin

We are born in a certain place at a certain time and have a particular body for the most efficient solution of problems of the Soul in this lifetime, which are closely linked to the karmic knots and our desires from previous incarnations. There is nothing accidental as everything accords God's laws. If we are born in a woman's body it means that we have certain tasks that such a body will help us to solve due to the predominance of certain qualities projected onto our body, mind and reason. 

Following multistage way of our development at different stages of life we pass different states and play certain roles. Being born, we are developing at the level of Muladhara, after – Svadhisthana, etc. There are also 4 Ashrams in the Vedic culture, according to which each stage of our life is characterized by special lifestyle and requirements: brahmacharya, grhastha, vanaprastha and sannyasa. I associate them with completing the tasks of life, from physical, then social and mental to spiritual ones. There are special tasks for each level, each age and each gender.
"One can worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Viṣṇu, by proper discharge of the principles of varṇa and āśrama. There is no alternative to pacifying the Lord by execution of the principles of the varṇāśrama system. People should according to the system of four varṇas and four ashrams" (Vishnu Purana 3.8.9)

The differences between Men and Women

Everything in the Universe is the interaction of two qualities of organizing energy Chi/Prana/Ki - Yin and Yang or Ha and Tha. It is perfectly rendered on the monad of Taoism – Tai Chi. These two qualities tend to reach the equilibrium carrying the particle of its opposite. The woman represents Yin, the man represents Yang. To notice the differences of Yin and Yang more clearly let’ take a dive into the diverse world of the manifested energy of Yin and Yang: climb - descent, night -day, cold - warm, the Moon - the Sun, manifested–latent, sky - earth, passivity –activity, water - stone, winter - summer, time - space, dynamics - statics, etc. But the "icing on the cake" of Yin or Yang will have blotches of the opposite quality: the water is fluid and yielding and ice is strong and solid, it is cold and snowy in the mountains and the skiers’ skin burns, the Sahara is hot during the day and becomes refreshingly cool at night, the earth reflects the sky in its ponds etc. For the harmony of Male and Female people tend to find "their second half" to balance the internal quality and external manifestations. Let’s look deeper into the difference of man and woman manifestation and try to understand the logic in the separation.

Physiological level

The main difference between Yin-Yang at the level of physiology concerns the endocrine system. The presence or absence of hormones in our organism determines our behavior as female or male and is also responsible for the appearance, including sexual characteristics. Actually, the sphere of influence of hormones is extensive. For example, at nightfall the pituitary gland secretes melatonin that controls our biorhythms (the explanation of the reason why it’s better to go to bed early and get up at dawn). The role of gonadotropins is also very important, they are responsible for sexual development and make a woman and a man different; the somatotropin hormone produced by the pituitary gland controls the growth; many others determine our moods, reactions to external irritants, a feeling of happiness/unhappiness, etc.

Our physical activity and manifestation in the external world depends on the activity of hormonal system in many respects. But the reverse is also absolutely true: the way we behave, dress, and respond to our environment, the emotions we prefer and even the way we act strategically and tactically determine the health of the hormonal system, affecting the production of the appropriate hormones. The hormonal system of men and women works differently because of their differing roles. Men and women get the feeling of happiness from different situations. For example: men problem-solving, activity in the external world, winning, and women get it from the discussion, interaction, cooperation. Certain hormones are responsible for this: dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, testosterone, endorphins, etc.

Let’s consider the key hormones which are different in organisms of Yin and Yang representatives:

Testosterone is responsible for the amount of hair and their localization, timbre, resistance to pain, the desire for changing an environment, change of temperature, aggression, the formation of secondary male sexual organs. Mostly testosterone goes into estrogens in women’s organism. It is responsible for the following: formation of female secondary sexual organs, stimulation of the development of adipose and connective tissue, the increase of sensitivity to cold and pain, gentleness and peacefulness of the character. There is an interesting theory that testosterone is the "rib" of Adam from which God made Eve (on a physiological level the number of ribs of the both sexes is equal). In men’s organism the amount of testosterone is more than in the organism of women. To them it's just "more necessary".

Dopamine is responsible for the activity, interest, energy, motivation to exploits. The production of this substance is inseparably linked with the production of 
testosterone. If one is maximally active in solving complex problems, fighting, struggling etc., all these promote the production of dopamine - "the male hormone of joy". Another source of the replenishment of dopamine is privacy (not only physical but also emotional removal from familiar environment). 

Serotonin is responsible for the relaxation, the feeling of comfort, satisfaction, happiness, optimism. This is one of the "female" hormones. Excessive weight, premenstrual syndrome, strong sensitivity to pain, depression, anxiety, fears, resentment, discouragement, depression - this is a brief list of things that the lack of this hormone threatens. Why is it is referred to the female? In men’s organism it's almost always (we don’t considered a pathology) produced in a sufficient quantity, as dopamine is produced in women’s organism. To increase the content of serotonin in an organism women often resort to the first aid of chocolate, bananas and doctors praise them. Tryptophan from which serotonin is synthesized contains in these products as well as in dates, milk, plums, figs and soy. To increase the low level of this hormone women grasp for any relationship, they need more support tenderness, understanding, etc. If the level of serotonin is high the dependence on the qualitative relations decreases. But a good "dose" of communication with the concerned person increases the happiness in a woman's life. 

Oxytocin (a pituitary hormone) is responsible for uterine contractions, lactation, tenderness, care. It is produced in large amounts after childbirth to provide the with protection, caring and love. A woman's organism produces the oxytocin usually under stress, stimulating the manifestation of the qualities typical for the image of femininity. 

Endorphins (hormones of pituitary gland) diminish pain and increase the feeling of happiness. They are actively produced after training in order to decrease the muscle pain and under stress to reduce it. So, the exercises (including yoga) increase feelings of satisfaction and happiness. 

Cortisol (adrenal hormone) is secreted under stress but may be neutralized by endorphins. If our life is full of stress, cortisol is produced in large amounts. It causes high blood pressure, fatigue, emotional instability, weight gain. 

Estrogen (ovarian hormone) gives smooth shapes to the female body (or an effeminate figure to a man), contributes to gentleness, tenderness, emotionality, it also accelerates skin renewal. The excess of it is fraught with women's diseases and excessive corpulence in area of hips and belt. Excessive hairiness evidences the surplus of estrogen. 

If we speak about the correct functioning of a healthy person we see that a woman is weaker and more vulnerable physiologically and a man, on the contrary, is more enduring and strong. But due to the pliability and fluidity of women they tend to be more flexible and their joints are more mobile, their movements are slow and smooth. And quickness and power are peculiar for a man. 

In general the influence of hormones on our behavior, emotions, mood, femininity or masculinity, and life in general is huge. And the most interesting thing is that...

Emotional level 

... that the endocrine system is closely connected to our emotions and our etheric body (more developed in women, emotions and intuition) through the connection with the pranic body and chakra system. 

Women's power is in their astral body, the male power is in their mental body. Our strengths determine our areas of responsibility. Men use their concentration, willpower and body strength for achieving the success in science, government, crafts and military art. Women's emotions can be very useful for the manifestation of love to the children, care to the relatives, communication. Women feel love even for their unborn child due to the internal chemistry of hormones and activation of the parasympathetic part of the nervous system that corresponds to the currents in energy channel of Ida and is associated with the left hemisphere. The man is engaged in this process later when the education becomes necessary.

Intellectual level – the mental body (more developed in men, will and logic)
The nature has programmed men and women to perform their duties – a woman focuses on survival, so she avoids dangers; it is important for her to carry and raise children. She also focuses on cooperation, adaptation, multi-tasking in contrast to a man for whom struggle, excitement, risk and competition are a priority. The male brain is heavier than women's approximately by 15% instead women have better developed interconnection between the hemispheres. The creative hemisphere is better developed in women, and the logical one - in men. 

The described facts are very indicative but not absolute. There are some women with a high level of testosterone (Pitta) and some men with a high level of estrogens (Kapha). There is the same thing with the hemispheres – some people have equally developed hemispheres (Einstein, da Vinci), there are also some women-leaders with developed left hemisphere. BUT this information is quite useful for understanding our internal and external manifestations within tour body. 

Spiritual level

This level is asexual or bisexual because the Way of men and women before this level differ. From this "checkpoint" the practice, from the point of view of the common purpose, is not divided - mantra, prayer, meditation, etc. It’s the level of the consciousness of ajna where the energy channels of Ida and Pingala come together.

Woman and yoga

Different ways for women 

In view of the events of Kali Yuga and external "balancing" of the two sexes a very scanty equality takes place when a woman not manifesting herself in the women's aspect tries to cultivate masculine qualities. And it is possible to use power yoga with difficult balances and hard style of practice as a tool. Or vice versa a women following with the existing inclinations of flexibility rejects masculinity and thereby loses strength. And yoga also can "help" it because of the dominant style “Tha” in the practice. If develop flexibility to the highest degree we may face a weakness on the physical level – in the form of loosened joints which are not supported by weak muscles, and on the level of the psyche – the self-doubt, over-emotionality, not having one’s own opinion and going with the stream of society and so on. Men also can go follow the innate qualities of resilience and muscularity and rejecting yoga elements developing flexibility, carrying power elements to the point of absurdity the and using force to master the Padmasana often breaking the knees.

In yoga women can develop themselves by balancing male and female qualities or follow the way of women's realization which allows combining the worldly life and 

There were Brahmavadinis and Sadovaia in ancient India. Brahmavadinis never married and spent all their life studying theology and philosophy. Their goal was to achieve the perfection in comprehending the Vedic sciences. Sadovaja were getting education until the age of 15-16 years and then married. In Jain and Buddhist societies a woman could become a sadhika or a nun. For example, Sanghamitra is mentioned as one of the most famous Buddhist scholars who went to the West to teach people the scriptures.

John Frawley, "The Workshop of the Traditional Astrologer"

It is important to remember that yoga is a tool that is used differently depending on one’s goals. In this respect different styles – Ha and tha, styles of evenness and strength become understandable. If a woman has not fulfilled her female tasks by childbearing and other dharmas according to her incarnation she should help herself to perform this role by means of yoga. If this role has exhausted itself or was not originally manifested by the karma the practice of Ha style or other techniques of Raja yoga will help to develop unusual or lacking skills and qualities which probably weren’t fully realized as not wanted (this is that little blob on each of the halves of the Taiji symbol). 

It’s important to note that strength and flexibility other become a weakness or stiffness without each. Hatha yoga is designed to balance these two different energies. And when possessing a broad range of possible qualities you can select those which are necessary in specific situations.

What do we know from the history of women's yoga?

It's a fact that women were admitted to the knowledge. 40 authors of the Vedas were women. Although it is a quantitative minority but nevertheless it is an argument in favor of the reality of women's spiritual realizations.
"Nobody else but goddess Parvati the first comprehended the science of yoga, inspiring Lord Shiva to teach her"

Maitreya, the wife of a great yogi and philosopher Yajnavalkya achieved the freedom of spirit through yoga. This art was taught to her by her husband whose teachings are presented in the book Yogayajnavalkya.

A well-known episode from the Ramayana describes Rama leaving his relatives when he was banished for 14 years and was sent to the forest. His mother Kausala consumed with grief knew that no blessing uttered with tears in her eyes will bring good luck. To achieve self-control she began to practice asanas and pranayama and only when she recovered her peace of mind she came to Rama and blessed him.
In the Mahabharata there is the reference to the prisoner Sulabha, the daughter of the King Pradhan, who had achieved excellence in yoga. During one of the debates about yoga she won Janaka, the king of Mithila.

The legend of the Indian epics about Madalasa is a perfect example of yogi-women. Madalasa was a faithful and devoted wife of the king Ritudhvaji. According to the rite of sati she committed self-immolation as she thought that her husband is dead. But Ashvatara of Nagaraja revived her because Ritudhvaji was alive. At first she didn't recognize her husband as she forgot all her former life. However after she was initiated into yoga the memory came back to her. Then Madalasa recognized her husband and became a great admirer of yoga.

"Yoga for women" Geeta Iyengar

Let’s remember the Goddess Tara and her confidence that a man and a woman are equal on the Path to Enlightenment. And this yogi reached the Heights of spirituality in female incarnation rejecting even the idea that her penance will lead to the male body in the next life to attain enlightenment. There are also some other examples of enlightened women Buddhism such as Yeshe Tsogyel, Machig Labdron, Mandarava, Nangsa Obum. In Orthodoxy there are also many names of women realized themselves as souls who are revered on par with men, they are over 50. Although women and men are equal we hear more often male names of saints, yoga masters and authors of the sacred texts.

Maybe the reason lies in the fact that because of the strong emotional nature (as we found out it is certainly necessary) it is difficult to overcome certain stages of the Path. And especially for this reason there are men in the family, particularly the husband, who brings the knowledge and the Path to the enlightenment for the woman.

What is a woman's practice?

"When choosing the style of practice it is necessary to take into account the difference in male and female versions of the practice of asanas. It lies in the fact that the original nature of men is a dot and the original nature of women is a flow. Her practice must always include the motion, smooth flow into the form. In the dynamics a man should develop the power aspect of practicing asanas. Every time it is important to take the most difficult variant of all available variants of the asana and to reach its maximum. Practicing asanas mainly in power and static mode a woman is gradually changing –male behavioral features occur, the structure of the body is changing to some extent. But you shouldn’t take it as advice not to strain excessively rejecting power aspect. It is only about the training regime which every practitioner finds himself".

M. Yasochka, S. Sidortsov, A. Zenchenko, "Yoga of eight circles: network training"
The third Ashram of life was designed for serious practice when social responsibilities are fulfilled, children stand on their own two feet, sexual life is completed. The third Ashram allows Sukra go to Ojas for the spiritual growth.
In the Dharma the life of a woman passes 4 periods: menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth and menopause. All these periods are very emotive and different yoga is practiced at this time. Geeta Iyengar writes about it in more details in her book "Yoga for Women" (which describes explicitly the levels of asanas and some pranayamas but as her father BKS Iyengar she pays too much attention to therapeutic effects). The practice in these periods is aimed more at the maintaining the performance of woman’s duties than to be a serious tool for self-development. In addition to natural focus of women on the child or menstruation period many a woman has many restrictions on the practice of the asanas at this time. So, it turns out that the active training of the physical body at the same level with men until the completion of the female cycle of her role is impossible. But this doesn’t forbid practice in other aspects. There is an interesting belief that the blood loss during the menstruation is undesirable for women because it wastes Ojas as a sexual intercourse.

Summing up

Yoga is a Way of Life that can be chosen both by women and men. But the methods used in this process should be different.

Speaking about the harmony of Yin-Yang, Ha-tha, strength and flexibility we understand that it is a condition of further progress of self-improvement. If we choose only one thing all levels of our being - physiological, psychological, mental - experience transformation which is not associated with harmonious development. On a physical level it results in the imbalance of many systems - the parasympathetic-sympathetic nervous system, the acidity of the organism, the emotions, the logic, i.e. the operation of the right and left hemispheres, etc.

Finnish culturologist Elina Kahla about women in Orthodoxy:
"- What is the sanctity of a woman? [...]
– Patience!.. A holy ascetic woman must abandon female weakness."
Harmonious practice strengthens and softens at the same time, i.e. develops both sides of our life evenly. For women who didn’t disclose the necessary feminine qualities it is worth firstly gaining the passivity and developing the “Moonness” because this is what the Nature expects from them in this incarnation and this side of their life is usually behind and makes them vulnerable.

In general Ha-tha yoga speaks for itself – it is balance, cognition of wholeness and nonduality which is achieved by balancing two opposing forces. Without understanding it the progress on the Path of yoga is impossible.

Be balanced in your practice!

May the Mercy of Higher power on the path to excellence and balance be with you!
The author of the article Marina Lysyak