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Being Wonder Woman: Yoga And Feminism

by Sam Loe: I will admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the Wonder Woman movie featuring Gal Gadot…

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I loved watching a super-goddess with powers of courage, strength and age-defying perfection on the big screen. It makes a change from the usual Hollywood, male-dominated super-heroes anyway.

In fact, I went to see it with a bunch of my good girlfriends last year and we came straight home from the cinema and raided the kid’s dressing up box and used the trampoline for good levity resulting in the accompanying images for this article.

It was a hilarious afternoon with Karla and I channelling our inner Wonder Women, having a laugh and feeling a sense of vitality. However, as a mere mortal, living in the doldrums of an everyday modern family life, I often become identified with the very opposite of these superpowers such as the feeling of being imperfect, disconnected, time-bound, contracted and incomplete.

Ironically, one way this self-aversion is fueled is by the media’s continual bombardment and portrayal of perfect lives and bodies. Whether it’s Hollywood, Instagram or Women’s magazines, we cannot get away from messages that tell us we need to look, act and be a certain way.

We live in a culture that values youth, competition and success. Definitely not, women who are ageing, hairy and various shapes and sizes and pee themselves when they jump too many times on a trampoline…

Many of my friends, as well as those I meet through teaching yoga and running retreats and women’s circles, have shared with me their feelings of uncertainty, deficiency and lack of self-worth.

Here in New Zealand, we have many inspiring women who have achieved higher ranking leadership roles, including in government. But even Jacinda Ardern and Helen Clarke have raised their concerns about the cultural phenomena of self-doubt and negative self-talk that appears to inflict so many women. In a recent conversation, these two female prime ministers had about gender equality Helen says,

“For sure men are much more likely to put themselves forward when they’re not fully qualified whereas women want to be 120% qualified and that’s the barrier we’ve got to get over.”

There seems to be a gap between who we are and who we think we should be as Women.

It’s an epidemic of negative self-talk on a variation of:

“There’s something wrong with me”

“I’m not good enough”

“I’m lacking”

“I need to know more”

“I need to be more”

All of this cultivates a struggling mindset that leads to a disconnected feeling of being separate. For me, it’s these feelings of ‘lack’ that have driven me towards Yoga and a path of self-discovery. And it’s been an amazing journey of building vitality, strength and discipline but then given way to being curious, vulnerable and developing self-compassion and love.

I learnt to stop striving in the yoga postures some time ago, resulting in a much softer practice that prioritises a kind, somatic felt sense of my body rather than the sweaty striving of my earlier days.

A strong practice can help to give us the feeling of great fortitude and positive changes in our bodies but over time the practice becomes more subtle. I’m still disciplined, but more around showing up for myself and being present rather than getting through some sequence or list or achieving another backbend or arm balance. After establishing a healthy relationship with my physical body and an awareness of breath and energy regulation I began to confront the more subtle koshic layers. This has enabled me to welcome emotions and look at my beliefs and has taken me on a deeper kind of practice and self-study.

I have come to understand that an authentic Yoga practice guides me not towards perfection but Wholeness. This understanding has arisen largely through the non-dual teachings and practice of iRest.

When we learn to embrace and welcome everything that is coming our way, be it our superhero qualities or our mortal aspects of ageing, imperfection, anxiety, a health challenge, a difficult relationship, or an unwanted guest of any kind we begin to ease into a vital conversation with ourselves.

In the non-dual Tantric tradition, there are 5 main ways that we move away from the truth of our Wholeness and they are known as the Kanchukas or as my teacher, Richard Miller, calls them ‘The Pointer Sisters’.

When we really befriend and welcome these negative beliefs and feelings, their opposites co-arise and reveal an experience of ourselves as vast, unbounded perfection. We can tap into this when we remember the felt sense of what it’s like when we’ve stepped out of a place of striving and grasping and tuned into a simple sense of ‘Being’. Like the feeling you might get when there’s nothing imminent to do, when everything is ticked on the ‘to do’ list (this may have been quite some time ago!) and you have a moment before taking on a new project or the next task and you just sit down in a comfortable chair with a cup of your favourite warm beverage.

  • Imagine that experience of just sitting there for a moment.
  • Tune in and get a felt sense of “nothing to do”….
  • In that moment of simply being is there anything lacking????

When we contrast the  5 ‘Pointer Sisters’ or Kanchukas with the felt sense of just ‘Being’ their opposites arise, so:

  1. When the belief or feeling of being Contracted arises, ask: When I’m simply Being, where am I? Spaciousness may be revealed.
  2. When the belief or feeling of being Timebound arises, ask: When I’m simply Being, when am I? Timelessness may be revealed.
  3. When the belief or feeling of being Lacking arises, ask: When I’m simply Being, what am I? Perfection may be revealed.
  4. When the belief or feeling of being Confusion arises, ask: When I’m simply Being, why am I? Clarity and Completion may be revealed.
  5. When the belief or feeling of being Separate arises, ask – > When I’m simply Being who am I? Wholeness may be revealed.

It’s through the non-dual Tantric teachings that we can give up trying so hard, settle into the ground of Being and allow the understanding to arise that our True Nature is that we are all Wonderwomen – timeless, whole and perfect just as we are.

What I am calling for is a new kind of revolution on the feminist quest. A Rest Revolution.

In addition to fighting inequalities and joining in with the patriarchal models that include being ambitious and assertive, let’s balance it out by taking adequate rest and quiet, consciously and regularly, as a countercultural act to remember who we really are when we are just being. Perhaps the next stage in women’s liberation and feminism is to cultivate and value the qualities of the Feminine?

And I include men too. We all need to remember the ground of Being that comes through stillness and rest. This will bring about self-compassion and kindness and enable us to go beyond male/ female, perfect/imperfect, successful/failure and all the opposites that cause the ever-growing epidemic of self-doubt. We often feel there’s too much to do to take a pause and rest or meditate but creating this space for connection to Self, rather than stopping us from achieving, on the contrary, supports us to get things done and be who and where we want to be.

I encourage anyone who suffers from self-doubt to rest and remember what it’s like to simply ‘be’. I understand that this takes feeling safe. Therefore what I wish for all women is to be safe and rested. Once the everyday woman remembers ‘Being’, there’s no stopping her.

Sam Loe Yoga Wonder Woman

Source: The Yoga Lunch Box

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