Yoga – Circa – 1972 via Rebelle Society
Amongst serious yogis, it is known that yoga was about bringing mind + body into alignment for meditation. What is lesser known, is that what Western people consider to be ‘real traditional yoga’ is itself an adaption from its original essence. And in those early yoga schools, exclusive people such as the men of royal families got exposure to it, rather than the general population. And women were generally not invited. Instead women had their own domain such as mothering and taking care of a household. Established spiritual lineages and it’s practices were orientated to men, because culturally a woman’s place was in the home. And that role as goddess of the home absolutely has its own spirituality, which is not to be diminished. The issue is, that when woman’s role stopped being revered, She was perceived as lesser-than to He. Then it became socially acceptable to treat her accordingly – which is still very present in society today – in India and everywhere else.
As a sacred art for divine communion & personal cultivation, women in India would typically learn singing and sacred dance as conduits for the Goddess, rather than learn yoga. Until British invasion, which interrupted long lineages of this female cultivation in temple life, permitting only the men to dance – which is perhaps why many traditional Indian dance gurus today are male. It’s still under speculation whether the sacred temple prostitute was an actual role in the temples, though much documented history via artwork still in temples today, and earlier Sumerian writings indicate that women serving as Temple Priestesses was in fact a normal cultural function.
Sacred dance with all its adornments, sensuality, containment of creation stories, oceans of emotions, and highly skilled expression is in itself a form of yoga, in the true sense of the word. ‘Yoga’ means union. With sacred dance being a very expressive practice, it embraces the cultivation of Shakti – of life itself, with Shakti being the feminine principle of consciousness. Movements that fill out the shape of the female form, sounds to move internal energy, sequences to dissolve into the structure of, jewellery to enhance and make music – it was all a celebration of woman’s sensuality & creative potency. It’s about embodiment rather than transcendence, or rather it’s transcendence via being fully embodied. Instead of sitting alone & naked in a cave, denying desire & seeking to go beyond the world; in the feminine arts we see the image of a beautifully adorned, radiant woman full of vitality, with the courage to embrace it all, surrounded in the abundance of nature, perceiving the divine here and now, living in connection with community, in all her vulnerability of feeling so much. This state happens via aligning with the divine current that runs through the physical realm, by fully occupying her own body and harnessing all of that beautiful chaos as spiritual practise, as her devotion.
One of the main things that Tigress Yoga teaches, is that our natural womanly experiences are our gateway to our most authentic spirituality. This turns around thousands of years of women being told we are lesser-than because of our physical vulnerability and our immense hormonal journeys that have been deemed a hinderance to transcendental consciousness. This womanly approach to personal cultivation is about tapping into states of self mastery found in being in harmony with our menstrual cycles, being able to distinguish feelings from emotions, to birth our children naturally, to be empowered mothers, to live in alignment with our desires, to feel sexually alive in our whole bodies, to bring more love and beauty to the world, to become creatresses rather than slaves, to inspire spirituality in men through our sexuality & SO much more. Rather than become more like men, (which some traditional yoga styles are having the effect of for many women), we have the opportunity to become more WOMAN – in a way that hasn’t been seen for a very long time on this planet.
I feel it’s important to recognise that what so many Western people regard as proper traditional yoga, has been through constant modifications of original essence, via the people who are learning it and how best to get through to them. It is said that the gymnastic lineages of yoga styles were influenced by the British army coming to India, which incorporated a more ‘martial’ approach. The late B.K.S. Iyengar told us that his teacher, T. Krishnamacharya, changed yoga as he learnt it to appeal to the warrior-like students he was asked to teach from a royal family. And Astanga Yoga is known to have its origins in exhausting the testosterone levels of boys with a very physical based yoga, so they would be able to meditate. Although many women find great benefit in these ‘traditional’ yoga styles, they were never designed for woman’s body or with woman’s development in mind. Even the more slow hatha yoga forms were not designed for woman’s body or for the female energy system. And there are certainly enormous differences of how male and female energy works in human bodies.
It is with this awareness that I find value in questioning what is most appropriate in cultivating female energy. With training in Taoist, Shamanic, Yogic and Tantric practices, I have chosen to remain true to what actually cultivates female vitality and what genuinely develops the female psyche, for both personal power and divine alignment. And this is what Tigress Yoga teaches – the intelligent management of a woman’s natural inner resources, with effective practices that are totally relevant for living in this modern world. Because there is a de-masculinisation process that is needed & an accessing of the feminine body (a real, alive energy field and level of embodiment). Then a sustainable development of healthy inner masculine energy can be established from that foundation. This has the power to shift a woman’s self image, to be rooted into her true feminine identity – something that is required for women to show up as the potent Shakti creatures we really are, elevating the state of the world as we know it. It’s not just a theory, it is a living reality that those of us who teach and experience Tigress Yoga get to witness all the time. Connection with nature and reverence for the Earth rather than disdain, has much to do with this contrast I’m describing.
I always say that all forms of yoga and movement are fantastic, to get us out of our heads & into our bodies. I believe it’s fitting that the Western world has grabbed hold of the athletic styles of yoga, because it is a perfect bridge to contacting one’s inner world, in a culture that’s so physically focused, so sport orientated. And I am not afraid to stand up and say, that yoga was not originally for women, was not for woman’s body, and did not have the true development of feminine energy in mind.
From a life-long devotion to Sacred Feminine consciousness, in a very organic process, Tigress Yoga became what it is today. At first it’s a revelation, an awakening to Shakti and then as well as cultivating vitality, it’s like a form of maintenance, to stay attuned to the deeper feminine reality, while living in a masculine energy dominated world. Every practise is like breaking free out of the mould; from the shape women get pushed into from being surrounded with images of distorted female sexuality and the angular momentum of a fast-paced, efficiency-driven culture. It takes courage to keep nurturing a more whole and divinely aligned version of ourselves.
And yet we are here.
Moving our way…
growling & purring our way,
into the true shapes of our embodied Shakti.
Enjoying all the sensual aliveness,
creativity, primal connection
& harmony that it brings us,
and to the sisterhood,
our partners, families & everyone around us.
If you come across any links re female masters, please post them here. They surely existed, though have been very few in numbers and/or erased from texts still available today. Pre-Vedic times would have seen women in places of power and feminine alignment as spiritual teachers. Tigress Yoga is drawing from this more ancient version of female tantric yoga.