by guest author Swami Karma Karuna, Anahata Retreat Centre
“A gracious woman respects herself and others. Her inner strength radiates a divine light that transforms and supports everything around her.”
Writing about the topic of Sacred Feminine inspired me to reevaluate what it means to me and question how others view this subject?
And what does this have to do with yoga anyways?
I looked up “Sacred Feminine” on the internet as one does in the twenty first century! And much to my surprise, the first listings talked about an extreme feminist view, which propagates women as superior to men, sexual dominance of women over men and expressed it as a religious movement.
This didn’t sit well with me at all nor come close to my view of the topic.
Some listings talked about Goddess worship, others Mary Magdalene and the Bible and a variety in between. So what began as one article has now turned into four as I explore yoga and the sacred feminine with associated practices.
When I think of sacred feminine, like all topics, I can only relate the concept to my own life.
To my experience as a mother, a wife, a female sannyasin and in relation to the different roles I have played from leadership positions to subservient roles.
I had to remember my teenage years in which I expressed both a wild maiden, raw with sensual energy, and a tomboy, skiing, rock climbing and mountain biking, with some of the best in male dominated sports. All of these parts of my life have unveiled strengths and weaknesses, patterns of mind and body held unconsciously, inner discoveries which humble and empower me.
The myriad of experiences have helped me to grow and to develop compassion, and yes allowed the reconnection to what I have come to call the sacred feminine.
As one grows up, no matter which country or culture, religion, set of guardians or schools attended, each of us is inundated with millions of impressions, which in yoga are called samskaras or the seeds that form the glasses by which the world is viewed and experienced.
These seeds are hiding in the soil of the unconscious mind, influencing choices in life, the actions and reactions, type of jobs taken and who is considered a friend or foe. These impressions can be positive or negative but nevertheless; they are strong factors, which shape the entire life.
As a woman or a man, there are undeniable archetypes and societal impressions that one grows up with.
It is long proven that people talk to baby girls in a different tone of voice than baby boys thus forming certain imprints even from birth. Media is rife with sexual stereotypes and unconsciously we compare ourselves to a fabricated image of what a woman or man SHOULD be, which is culturally and socially defined.
Despite the huge steps forward in the fight for equality, as a whole, women are still not given equal opportunity for education, they are paid less for similar jobs, are not as represented in upper level government and business roles and continue to be the target of violence. These factors influence women at a subtle level, whether aware of it or not.
Furthermore, in this bid for equality, somehow many have lost the inner connection and appreciation for the feminine self.
There is no longer time and certainly not respect for the incredible energy it takes to raise the next generation to be responsible and balanced citizens. In modern society young people often are left without positive female or male role models and are highly influenced by media and technology, thus further heightening the imbalance in the world.
Many women have had to over-enhance their masculine qualities to take steps up in the ladder of life and feel that by trying to “do it all” there is no chance to find a breath of air to connect to the self or a way to hold the balance between home life, social life and education or career.
Frankly speaking, we have lost touch with our inner selves and frequently it is only when life circumstances force one to take stock; such as death of someone close, accident, illness, mental breakdown, loss of a job or difficulty within the family, that we realize just how far out of balance we are.
The sacred feminine and yoga uses the tools of yoga to get reacquainted with the self.
One learns practices that support and balance one at a physical and mental level. One has to start by evaluating life to see if it is working or not.
- What are the strengths and weaknesses, aims and needs in life at a physical, mental and emotional level?
- Which attitudes are supportive and helpful and which ones need to be thrown out?
- Is there honour and love for the self as is?
- Or is the view of self constantly seen with imperfections in comparison to the media image of a 15-year-old airbrushed model in Vogue?
- Where is the energy blocked or flowing in the body?
- Is life being lived for everyone else or have the personal dreams and visions also been included?
- How can all the different roles that need to be played stay balanced?
It is only by asking these types of questions and looking inwards with honesty that one can begin to see the unconscious attitudes that are shaping the life experiences and thus begin to make positive changes. As the inner knowing develops, then the appropriate practices, which enhance health, balance and well-being can be used.
The physiological structures of men and women are different and even the way men and women process information has been proven to be distinctive.
Thus the health challenges and mental issues faced are also distinctive. Although most practices suit both men and women, some are particularly beneficial for a woman’s body and mind or particular life stage. Furthermore, the practices may need to be done in a different way to get the best benefits.
The tools included in sacred feminine and yoga encourage the development of qualities already within; wisdom, intuition, strength and compassion. These expressions of the sacred feminine are depicted in different images and symbols in cultures around the world from Mother Mary to Indian Goddesses to the Earth Mother herself.
When used in ritual, the ancient expressions can inspire women to connect with inner qualities, which already exist, but may have been shrouded over by the socialization or scarring from life’s experiences.
Sacred Feminine honors the gathering of a circle of women.
People sometimes ask why men are excluded. I feel it is equally important that the sacred masculine be discussed and unveiled. Both men and women need to find a balance between masculine and feminine qualities within.
Ultimately, every individual is made of two forces feminine and masculine which need to be balanced. The word yoga means “union” and finally, it is the balancing of these two forces within that creates the experience of wholeness.
However, currently each man or woman holds many layers of social, religious and family views as well as scars formed over centuries, which influence the communication and ability to be honest and clear with each other.
Therefore one way, but not the only way, to discover and begin the process of peeling away the layers is within a same sex circle where a feeling of safety and honesty is created. In a space such as this, one can understand and discover the deeper layers and patterns held as a cultural norm and begin the process of discarding what is no longer helpful.
There is also an innate feeling of support, which is like spokes on a wheel, with each spoke supporting the other so the wheel can turn.
With the use of different yoga tools, positive attributes are uncovered, the skill of knowing what is needed for the self and when develops, the health increases and there is the ability to approach life in a more balanced way.
When there is more balance, then no matter what role a woman plays, whether CEO, mother, daughter, sports enthusiast, counsellor, disciplinary or anything else, will be done to the highest possible expression. Eventually the inner energy begins to overflow and is available to support others, both within the immediate circles and within greater society.
Over time, I envision not just the Sacred Feminine but the Sacred Human as we begin to operate closer to the highest self…
About Swami Karma Karuna
She is a founding member and director of Anahata Yoga Retreat, New Zealand, and a dedicated, intuitive yoga teacher with years of experience working with a wide range of people. From an early age, she traveled exploring diverse spiritual traditions; finally dedicating herself to the yogic path, guided by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati, world-wide head of the Satyananda Yoga Movement.
Swami Karma Karuna has received yoga training in Nepal, India and Australia. She spends 3 months each year living and teaching in India at the home and sadhana place of Swami Satyananda.For more information on these guided yoga retreats to India and the World Yoga Convention in Bihar click here.
She also travels internationally part of the year, committed to sharing Yoga Solutions for Life™ – simple & powerful techniques for transformation. Swami Karma Karuna specialises in women’s health. By blending yogic lifestyle and Sannyasa tradition with motherhood, she brings a unique and practical approach, inspiring the integration of yogic principles into everyday activities.
“A gracious woman respects herself and others. Her inner strength radiates a divine light that transforms and supports everything around her.“