We inhabit a world where many women have been disconnected from the experience of femininity. More often than not, outside the "Vegas Rules" of our private girlie conversations, intrinsic feminine experience is at the least, quietened and at the most, negated.
For example, our economic climate blazes with a multi-billion pound global industry that markets hormonal contraception and disposable menstrual products to women, wherein it has been contrived that naturally occurring menstrual cycles somehow limit a woman's sexual and physical freedoms; or are regarded at least as a simple annoyance and uncomfortable inconvenience that needs to be subjugated. Menopause is hush-hushed. Unless medicalised, bolstering fertility in natural ways is widely deemed as hippy sh*t. And speaking from personal experience as a young mother-to-be, I have experienced an immense amount of ambivalence and mainly fearful reactions and shock to the fact that I intend to deliver my first baby at home in a birthing pool.
Ever the antidote to the inflamed everyday: enter, yoga. The word 'yoga' itself has been interpreted to translate from Sanskrit to mean union, or connection. Thus we can understand the practice of yoga as an ever-evolving journey of inner and outer awareness and above all, a reconciliation with deep knowing. The following 6 poses primarily focus upon nurturing the pelvic region and improving blood circulation to the lower abdominal and sacral area. In flooding more blood flow to the sacred womb space, these poses surge more nutrient and oxygen supply to the reproductive organs, relieving constricted vessels, easing blood flow to the pelvic region and ultimately nurturing the experiences of femininity, as mentioned above. The presentation of these select, basic poses are intended to show you how the fundamental origins of yoga can be found in a more intuitive and feminine approach.
Lotus feet breathing in butterfly
In Ayurveda, the feet are considered the "wings of the womb" because so many energy channels in the feet trace directly to into the pelvis. Thus this practice, synced with breath, it is as if we expand, contract and stretch our wings. Alternatively, the toes can be seen as the petals of a lotus opening and closing. Throughout, you should mobilise the movement of the feet as both fluid and precise, in order to better allow them to conduct energy up into the pelvis.
- Come into seated butterfly position with your knees out to the side, legs bent and soles of the feet together - There should be an energising sense of openness in the thighs and groins without feeling overstretched, the heels will be approximately a foot or-so away from your groin
- Push into the balls of your feet and heels, creating a fine arch in the foot and spread out the toes. Then rest hands on ankles or knees, whichever feel the most natural.
- Inhale and pull the heart forward, chin-up and stretch your tummy, (like you would in cat-cow), but at the same time, slowly fan the toes apart, spreading them widely.
- Exhale softly round the spine, titling chin towards chest and pubic bone towards navel, whilst simultaneously allowing the toes to carefully meet again.
Repeat in sync with your breath 5-15 times, keeping the balls of the feet strongly pressed against each other so that the arches stay strong, inviting energy up from the feet into the legs.
Prasarita Padottanasana (wide-legged standing forward fold)
The therapeutic application from this forward bend (and indeed with many other forward bends) in our case here is helping to detoxify the kidneys. From the Traditional Chinese Medical perspective, the primary gynaecological functions are governed by the Kidney jing (essence), so the quality and vitality of the ovarian follicles and oocytes are referred to in terms of Kidney jing. Also in TCM, the Kidney is believed to be the reservoir of prenatal or inherited jing and yuan (original) qi (energy, prana), the quality of which determines our basic constitution or genetic predisposition, and contributes to our fertility. Increasing blood flow and energy in not only this organ, but also the lower back in general through forward folds, can be understood to enhance the reproductive environment through addressing Kidney jing: Increasing low ovarian reserve, augmenting follicle development, bolstering insufficient oestrogen production and ultimately creating optimal conditions for fertilisation, maternal endometrial receptivity and indeed, a subsequent healthy pregnancy. Anyway:
- Step or your feet apart anywhere from 3 to 4 1/2 feet (depending on your height: taller people should step wider). Make sure your inner feet are parallel to each other. Rest your hands on your hips.
- Engage the thigh muscles by drawing them up. Inhale and lift your chest, then exhale and forward forwards from your hips, drawing the spine and belly long as you fold.
- As your torso approaches parallel to the floor, press your fingertips onto the floor directly below your shoulders. Take a few breaths and then, with an exhalation, bend your elbows and lower your torso and head into a full forward bend. Make sure as you move down that you keep your front torso as long as possible. If possible, rest either the hands, elbows or the the crown of the head on the floor.
One of my all time favourites, goddess pose strengthens your hips, groin, and core muscles. It improves energy flow into the hip and pelvic areas, thereby stimulating the reproductive organs and increasing blood circulation to the pelvic floor. The positive sense of strength and grounding provided from this pose lifts the spirits, boosting vitality and nourishing the womb from beneath. The consistent engagement of the feet on the floor also creates an energy portal to draw the supportive energy of the earth up into the womb to nourish and nurture her.
- From a standing position with the feet 3-4 feet apart (again depending on your height), turn the feet out to 45 degrees facing the corners of the room. Rest the hands on the hips.
- With an exhale, bend the knees over the ankles and squat down. Maintain an erect spine and maintain the length and lift of your torso, too. Slightly press the hips forward and carefully press the knees back. Drop the shoulders down and back and press the chest toward the front of the room.
- Engage your feet by spreading the toes and even practice lifting them, shifting your weight into the heels and outer edges of the feet. Feel sturdy and energised as you root to rise.
- Activate your arms by bringing the elbows in line with the shoulders and spread your fingers widely. Look straight ahead with the chin parallel to the floor and hold for 5 - 10 breaths.
One word: empowered. Warrior 2 is another leg and hip strengthener and also generates courage and self-confidence: integral inner attitudes that cultivate a sense of personhood and in our case, female empowerment.
- Stand with your feet parallel at 3 - 4 feet apart. Raise your arms parallel to the floor and reach them actively out to the sides, shoulder blades wide, palms down, fingers spread.
- Turn your right foot slightly to the right and your left foot out to the left 90 degrees. Align the left heel with the right inner arch. Firm your thighs and then with your exhale bend your left knee over the left ankle, so that the shin is perpendicular to the floor.
- Keep the arms firmly engaged. Press through both feet and seek to lift both arches, engaging the inner right thigh and glute as your left quad and hamstring work in lunge. Turn the head to the left and look out over the fingers.
Hold for 30 seconds - 1 minute then repeat on the other side. Try closing your eyes, and if your arms get tired, place left hand on heart and right hand on belly and practice your yogic breathing.
Inverting the hips enables better blood flow to the ovaries and uterus. By gentle compression of the throat, bridge poses specially stimulates the thyroid gland, a master gland in your endocrine system that works with hormone regulation and cell renewal. This pose supports, elevates and expands the womb energy and is yet another pose that promotes a strong connection between the energies of the well-earthed feet and the pelvic organs. Usefully, bridge pose can actually be modified to whatever you need: energising, rejuvenating, or luxuriously restorative. In my first trimester I practiced supported bridge with a block under my sacrum during yin yoga and advise this relaxing variant to anyone, in any condition.
- Lie down on your mat and bend your knees, setting your feet on the floor, heels nice and close to the sitting bones.
- With an exhalation, press your inner feet and arms actively into the floor, push your tailbone upward toward the pubis, firming (but not hardening) the buttocks, and lift the buttocks up and off the floor. Keep your thighs and feet parallel.
- Interlace your hands and fingers below your pelvis and extend through the arms to help you stay on the tops of your shoulders.
- Find more lift and space by lifting your buttocks until the thighs are about parallel to the floor. Keep your knees directly over the heels, but push them forward away from the hips, lengthening the tailbone toward the backs of the knees. Lift the pubis toward the navel.
Hold for anything between 20 seconds to 1 minute. Hold for 3 - 8 minutes if you choose supported bridge.
*not always advised during pregnancy, consult your teacher.
Supta Baddha Konasana with Yoni Mudra
This gorgeous restorative supine pose is our creme de la creme of poses that stretch and relax the pelvic region and improve blood flow to the reproductive organs. This pose also stimulates and soothes the abdominal organs especially the bladder and kidneys. By stimulating the parasympathetic nervous response, reclining butterfly/bound angle pose helps relieve the symptoms of stress, mild depression, menstruation and menopause. The spaciousness created in the physical body during this pose invites more prana (energy) to move into the rivers of energy that nourish the energetic body, with a primary focus on your womb space with the mudra included below:
- Lie down supine on the floor and carefully bend your knees out to the side in a position reminiscent of butterfly, where we began.
- Relax the whole body, especially the lower back.
- If your groins, thighs or knees feel uncomfortable or strained, pop a blanket or block under both sides to facilitate relaxation of the muscles, rather than hardening. Your knees do not need to be touching the floor so don't force them, support them instead!
- Find yoni mudra: Relax the hands with you palms facing downwards onto the lower abdominal space. Thumb tips touch, index fingers touch and the palms and the wrists lay flat against the belly.
Stay here for 5 - 10 minutes, both breathing and feeling, deeply.
*not advised during pregnancy without a multitude of extra pillows and support - consult your teacher!
Despite personally recommending yoga to solve literally everything, it's true that yoga alone cannot solve all maladies and we encourage you to please practice with care, under the supervision of a qualified instructor.