Most of us know that yoga is great for our bodies; after all, its many physical benefits have been well-documented. We know it can lower blood pressure, reduce tension, and improve muscle tone and strength… But we seldom pause to think about how doing yoga affects our inner lives as women. This is a shame, because yoga clearly has a powerful impact on women. How else can we explain the fact that over 80% of all yoga students are female?
While the phenomenon of using yoga as a method of female empowerment has largely been ignored by mainstream media, a few independent filmmakers (like Kate Clere McIntyre, producer and director of the film Yogawoman) have delved into the subject, and what they found is surprising. As it turns out, yoga can build up a woman’s confidence and self-image in all of the following ways:
- Yoga teaches women to look inward and get more in tune with their wants and needs.
From an early age, women are taught to look outward. They’re conditioned to focus on everyone else’s needs, often to the detriment of their own. Not only does this kind of perpetual care-taking lead to burnout, it tends to cause a lot of self doubt. Women often feel guilty (and even unworthy) when their needs conflict with the wants of a loved one, for example...
Yoga can help women get out of this self-defeating cycle by teaching them to still their minds, listen to their instincts, and trust their own inner teacher. This leads to clearer, more focused decision-making and an improved sense of self.
- Yoga can help improve a woman’s body image.
One of the toughest things about being a woman is the feeling of constantly being judged on your body. We’re either too tall or too short, not thin enough or too thin, etc. Society treats our bodies like cosmetic accessories rather than the functional, sacred vessels of life they are.
Yoga can coax women away from their self-consciousness through a few different routes: One, practicing yoga helps women learn to appreciate their bodies for what they can do, not just how they look. Two, yoga attire is freeing for many women. Some yoga clothes are not only trendy and affordable; they’re also fitted to allow the body to move easily. These clothes work with a woman’s shape, rather than trying to force it to conform to unnatural angles like most “off the rack” fashions do.
Finally, when women get together to practice yoga as a group, they observe women of all different shapes and sizes embracing and enjoying their bodies. This helps them accept, rather than reject, their innate individuality.
- Yoga can help women build a sense of cooperation and community.
Practicing yoga in a group provides a peaceful, accepting space where women can congregate. This helps them to overcome media-enforced messages of competition and instead focus on one another’s strength, wisdom, and compassion... And when women come together like this, there’s no end to the bold, bright, and beautiful changes they can make in the world around them.