Saturday, June 20, 2009

Feminism and Yoga?

What on earth does feminism have to do with yoga? Certainly, it’s not hard to do a feminist analysis of the recent commodification of yoga in the West. Nor is it hard to critique the hyper-thin, young, flawless, mostly white, middle class models we often see doing yoga in Western pop culture.

But I am more interested in the insights that emerge when I place feminist and yogic principles in a deeper dialogue. When I recently completed my 200-hour teacher training program with Senior Anusara practitioners, I was struck by the many parallels between Tantric yoga practice and feminist praxis. In this blog, I will explore the richly textured insights they offer one another. I hope that you will join me for weekly posts.

Action over Form

For starters, both Anusara yoga and Feminism emphasize process over product. Contrary to the achievement drive that thrives throughout U.S. culture, Anusara yoga values the self-honoring process of regularly coming to our practice. Whether we “achieve” any particular pose is far less important than whether we make the choices that support the optimal alignment of our body—and our being--on any given day.

Similarly, feminism has long taught us that “by any means necessary” is rarely an ethical recipe for social change. As Audre Lorde so famously wrote, “the Master’s tools will never dismantle the Master’s house.” Instead, we need to create new practices in society that honor ourselves and others. Only then can we sustain progressive changes and access the rich tapestry that is our global culture.