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Women’s Yoga

Women's YogaKyle Roderick: What asana can women do at different points of the day when they are at work or at home to remedy anxiety, restlessness or that spaced-out feeling?

Mark Whitwell: Although there is no substitute for a yoga practice somewhere in the day, to support this by some light moving and breathing randomly in the day routine is supremely helpful.

For a few moments move and breath with the arms raised inhaling and arms lowered exhalation. This is the exacting process of strength receiving, the healing of our system. Simply to move and breathe with light postures correctly designed for each person. Forward bends and twists accompanied by exhalation serve the releasing of stress and anxiety. They are strengthening and healing to our Life, while the inhalation is refreshing, receptive and restorative.

Just like in a longer yoga practice it should be “actual and natural” fitted comfortably into the daily routine. Yoga is simply moving and breathing. We cannot look to specific asanas to fix specific problems…It is the movement of the whole body and the whole practice in its polarities of strength receiving, exhale and inhale that brings healing in every way. It is the whole practice that heals…

In general, sitting for a few moments throughout the day and taking
controlled deep breaths will help to center the mind and body. This is
yoga, breathing is yoga.

Yoga, which means union, is about bringing the polarities of life together…Finding a center between up and down, sun and moon, male and female, left and right. Controlled breaths and a centered mind can help to bridge the gap between these polarities, and combat ailments associated with not being centered.
Which poses can feel more intense before a woman starts her period?
If you have menstrual pain practice a half shoulder stand through the month accompanied by an emphasis on forward bends and twists with long exhales and retention after exhalation. Then during menstruation do not do the shoulder stand but replace it with legs on a chair while breathing with arm movements this kind of practice will likely correct the imbalance that causes discomfort.

If you are menstruating, let your teacher know and you will be given a modified practice depending on what day of your period it is. Some poses, such as inversions, should be avoided all together. Poses that twist and bend the body may feel more intense right before a woman starts her period.

What inversions might be good to do to help promote balance and calm?

All inversions are excellent and are the crown or main aspect of the practice. Head stands should be approached very cautiously however with the guidance of an experienced teacher. Shoulder stand should follow the headstand as the counter pose.

Generally, a mild shoulder stand can be accomplished by most people. Until that is achieved practice the inversion of legs up on a chair.
Long exhalation with leg movements are very helpful with retentions after exhale; that will not compromise the inhalation and exhalation over about eight to twelve breaths.

The sarvanga-asana or shoulder stand is a wonderful inversion that can promote calmness. This asana relieves fatigue caused by sleeping too much or too little. Practicing this asana on a daily basis will help to invigorate the mind and calm the nervous system.

Can headstands truly quiet the heart and mind?

Yes, the benefits of sirsasana are not only physical. The mental benefits are also plentiful. You will find that daily practice of the headstand will enhance awareness and improve memory.

Practicing any type of yoga will quiet the heart and mind.

Yoga is about becoming one with body and breath. But we need to remember that a yoga practice is not the same for everybody, and for some, the headstand is not needed.

Are there particular sequences or asanas that are known to help promote female energy, centeredness, power?

The right side, the base and the back of the body carry the male principle; the left side, the crown, and the front carry the female principle. The exhalation carries the male force, and the inhalation receives the female.

When practicing yoga, each principle strengthens the other. The intelligence of male/female mutuality is present in every cell and in the social wisdom of a free life. To be useful, yoga must be adapted to the unique nature and circumstance of each person. Depending on who you are, there is a right yoga that fits you.

No matter what your health condition might be, whether you are a 21-year-old healthy athlete, or a 66 year old with a heart condition and arthritis, there is a yoga that can be practiced according to your unique characteristics: age, body type, health, etc. The best benefits are enjoyed from a correctly designed yoga practice.

Anyone who wants to can do yoga, but not just any yoga. It must be the yoga that is right for you.

Every person has the ability to move and breathe in a way that results in an authentic yoga that helps a person feel better and be well. Practice should not be too short or too long and depends on the individual. The mechanics of the whole body are used to enhance the breath, and asana is selected on the basis of it allowing a person to find and stay with the breath.

What do beginning yoginis and/or those faced with health challenges need to remember while on and off the mat?

Yoga practice is not the attainment of asana or complicated feats of breathing. Rather it is a unique individual experience of health open to all people in all situations.

Yoga practice may still be a challenge–and in some cases, very challenging– but it is not a struggle and definitely not painful. It is a great pleasure and natural to your system.

Our un-inspected cultural behaviors of proposing and seeking “higher realities” known as God or enlightenment have been spread as doctrine through societies as instruments of political power. They inherently deny the wonder of this present reality and its power, particularly as it manifests as male/female mutuality.

Mark Whitwell is a New Zealand native who has been living, breathing and teaching yoga around the world for over three decades. The author of “Yoga of Heart: The Healing Power of Intimate Connection,” (Lantern Books, 2004), Mark is a resident teacher at Heart of Yoga, an nonprofit teacher education foundaton in the U.S. Mark finds his bliss in helping individuals experience an authentic yoga that is relevant, clarifying and powerful for them, yet is natural or non-obsessive in practice and lifestyle. Mark’s Web site, www.heartofyoga.org/ contains his eloquent and direct writings on yoga, including excerpts from his book. While yogaofheart.com sells his book and DVDs, it’s also worth noting that downloads of Mark’s DVDs are available here for very affordable prices.

An Interview of Mark Whitwell by kyle roderick

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