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The Feminine Unfolding: Reclaiming One's Power, One's Body, and One's Personal Space | Womb Yoga for Women


An oil painting of a sea horizon -  emphasizing the opportunities found in womb yoga

“Just as the seasons change, so do we. We flow and ebb, contract and expand. There is a rhythm and pulse to life, and it’s wise to learn its song.”

Do you remember your first yoga class? Mine was a whirlwind of poses, Sanskrit terms, and the burning desire to find peace in the so-called "resting pose" of downward dog. But that initial spark ignited a lifelong love affair with this practice. As I look back on my almost 20-year-old yogic path – the lineages, courses, certifications; the many, many books I have devoured, the lectures I've soaked up, and the inspiring teachers, guides and students I've had the privilege of knowing – I feel grateful for the knowledge that informs my practice today.


This journey has shaped me into a versatile Yoga Teacher, a Reiki Therapist with a mystical touch, a dedicated Ayurveda Practitioner, a curious Yoga Therapist and a sacred Birthing From Within Doula in the making. Each experience has gifted me a unique perspective, but lately, I've felt a yearning to explore something closer to home – to explore something that fosters a unique connection between yoga and the essence of womanhood. Enter Womb Yoga: a practice that honors the feminine experience and fosters a powerful connection to the wisdom within.


Fueled by a yearning to empower women and ignited by Uma Dinsmore-Tuli's groundbreaking book, Yoni Shakti: A Woman's Guide to Power and Freedom Through Yoga and Tantra, I have begun to recognise the limitations of traditional yoga in addressing the unique needs of the female body and spirit. Womb Yoga, with its emphasis on honoring the cyclical wisdom of the body and cultivating a powerful connection to our inner intuition, has resonated deeply with my own desire to create a space for women to reconnect with their authentic selves.


Here, in this blog post, I want to share the essence of Womb Yoga, the lifelong benefits it offers women at every stage of their journeys, and how it can empower you to embrace the profound wisdom that lies within.


In addition, I'd like to draw attention to my Womb Yoga Classes taking place at the Primrose Hill Community Centre, every Thursday from 12:15-1:15 starting May 9th. Children are welcome! Continue reading for more details.



Traditional Yoga and the Need for Something More


 Oil painting: Woman in field, hand shielding eyes from sun, gazing into the distance - symbolizes introspection and seeking a deeper yoga practice

Many of us have found deep benefits in traditional yoga styles. They've built our strength, flexibility, and focus. Yet, as a woman and mother, I've come to realise that sometimes these practices don't fully address the ebb and flow of our energy and experiences.


For example, with my background in various yoga styles – from the flowing sequences of Vinyasa to the structured postures of Ashtanga and the nurturing practices of Prenatal and Restorative Yoga – I've found that each offers valuable tools. But none of them consistently address the unique needs of my body throughout my menstrual cycle, changing hormones, and the emotional landscape of being a woman and mother.


This issue has resonated with many of my students as well. We have often felt that the regimented nature of some yoga classes, designed for a general audience, don't take into account the cyclical fluctuations in our energy levels and emotional state. For instance, during menstruation, some postures might feel uncomfortable or exacerbate cramps, while during ovulation, the body might crave a more invigorating practice. Traditional yoga classes often lack modifications or options to cater to these individual needs. Furthermore, the focus on achieving perfect postures sometimes overshadows the importance of listening to our inner wisdom and honoring our body's signals.


This is where the concept of Womb Yoga comes in.


What is Womb Yoga?


Womb Yoga practice: Woman in white forming yoni mudra with hands, surrounded by flowers - symbolizes connection to feminine energy.

Traditional yoga offers a wealth of practices, but Womb Yoga takes a different approach, designed to nurture and empower women throughout their lives. Drawing inspiration from Uma Dinsmore-Tuli's work in Yoni Shakti, Womb Yoga emphasises a deep connection with the body's inherent wisdom, particularly the cyclical nature of life. This cyclical nature can manifest in various ways, and Womb Yoga encourages us to observe these changes with curiosity and respect, and to adapt our practice accordingly.


For instance, even women who don't menstruate experience emotional cycles. Womb Yoga acknowledges these cycles, whether related to stress levels, creativity, or sleep patterns. Through mindful movement, breathwork, and guided meditations, Womb Yoga offers tools to navigate these cycles with grace. It helps us tune into our inner cues and create a practice that supports us during high energy phases and offers solace during times of introspection.


Here are some key characteristics of Womb Yoga:


  • Nurturing: Womb Yoga prioritises practices that nourish and support the body. This includes gentle movements, breathwork, and guided meditations that promote relaxation and self-care.

  • Inner Wisdom: A core principle of Womb Yoga is reconnecting with our inner voice and intuition. Through mindful practices, we learn to trust our bodies' signals and create a yoga practice that feels harmonious and supportive.

  • Benefits Throughout Life Stages: Womb Yoga recognises that a woman's needs change throughout her life. The practice can be adapted to support women during various life stages, including menstruation, pregnancy, menopause, and beyond.


By listening to the body's wisdom and honoring the cyclical nature of life, Womb Yoga empowers women to create a unique and personalised practice.


Empowering Women's Yoga Practice


Woman blowing dandelion seeds, symbolizing the spread of empowerment and potential through Womb Yoga

As a woman and mother, I've experienced firsthand the limitations of traditional yoga practices. After having my daughter, I was eager to return to the strength and flexibility I cultivated through my vinyasa practice. However, the fast-paced, demanding nature of these classes left me feeling depleted and anxious. My body was recovering from childbirth, and the focus on achieving perfect postures felt inauthentic and incongruent with my needs at that time.


Additionally, many studios didn't offer childcare options, making it nearly impossible to attend a class with a newborn. This experience highlighted the need for a yoga practice that truly caters to the needs of women throughout their lives, including motherhood. I craved a practice that was not only physically nurturing but also acknowledged the emotional and energetic shifts that occur during this transformative time.


It was during this time that I discovered Womb Yoga. This practice resonated with me because it went beyond the physical postures. It acknowledged the emotional and energetic shifts that occur during motherhood, and offered a safe and supportive space to reconnect with my body and inner wisdom.


Womb yoga also honors mothers by creating a welcoming space for them to practice alongside their children. Witnessing their mothers engaged in self-care rituals can have a profound impact on children, nurturing a sense of well-being and self-love in the whole family.

Traditional yoga has immense value, but it can sometimes feel restrictive. This can be due to a number of factors, including a one-size-fits-all approach that doesn't fully address the unique needs and experiences of women. The Yoga Sutras, the foundational text of yoga philosophy, offer a concept called pratipaksa bhavana which translates to "cultivating the opposite."


This concept can be applied to transform practices that might be disempowering for women. For instance, some yoga classes might prioritise achieving perfect postures over listening to the body's signals. This can be particularly challenging for women, whose bodies are constantly changing throughout their menstrual cycle and life stages.


The Yoga Sutras (II.33) identify four negative aspects that can disconnect us from our inner truth:


  • Discouragement of questioning: When students are discouraged from asking questions or exploring different approaches, it hinders their ability to connect with their intuition and find a practice that feels authentic.

  • Disrespect for other traditions: Yoga has a rich tapestry of lineages and practices. Disrespecting other traditions limits our ability to learn and grow from diverse perspectives.

  • Secrecy: Creating a culture of secrecy around yoga practices can foster a sense of exclusion and disconnect students from their own inner wisdom.

  • Disregard for womb cycles: As we discussed earlier, traditional yoga often overlooks the cyclical nature of the feminine body, leading to practices that might not be suitable for all phases of a woman's life.


Womb Yoga embodies the four positive opposites of pratipaksa bhavana, fostering a sense of freedom and spaciousness in one's practice. Here's how:


  • Encouraging exploration and questions: Womb Yoga encourages women to explore different practices, ask questions, and find what resonates with them. It's about creating a space for individual exploration and self-discovery.

  • Welcoming open sharing: Womb Yoga fosters a safe and supportive environment where women can openly share their experiences and learn from each other.

  • Honoring womb cycles: Womb Yoga recognises the cyclical nature of the feminine body and offers modifications and practices that support women throughout their menstrual cycle, pregnancy, menopause, and beyond.

  • Reconnecting with the inner teacher: Womb Yoga encourages us to listen to our inner voice and intuition, the ultimate teacher. This self-trust empowers us to create a practice that feels nourishing and supportive.


"As Uma Dinsmore-Tuli writes in Yoni Shakti,


"Through Womb Yoga, Yoga ceases to be a prison that constrains women by discouragement, disrespect, disregard and disconnection. instead it can become an experience of real freedom and spaciousness."

This experience of rediscovery and reconnection empowers students to find and follow the guidance of their heart. Such an approach to yoga empowers us to love and respect the inner teacher. This experience is at the heart of Womb Yoga.


By embodying these positive opposites, Womb Yoga creates a transformative space for women to connect with their inner wisdom and cultivate a yoga practice that is empowering and supportive throughout their lives.


Benefits of Womb Yoga for Women: A Journey Through Life Stages

Womb Yoga: Journey through life stages. Learn more about the seasonal wheel by Uma Dinsmore-Tuli

As mentioned, Womb Yoga offers a multitude of benefits for women throughout their lives. By fostering a deep connection with the body's inherent wisdom and honoring the cyclical nature of life, Womb Yoga empowers women to create a practice that supports them on their unique journey.


Uma Dinsmore-Tuli emphasises this point, stating that:


"Womb Yoga allows a woman to fully nurture and nourish herself in respect of the different cycles of her womb or the stages of her life."

This cyclical approach acknowledges that a woman's needs change throughout the month and over the course of her life. Womb Yoga provides tools and practices that can be adapted to address these changing needs, ensuring a yoga practice that is both nourishing and supportive. Let me show you how:


Benefits for Menstruation: Honoring the Cycle:


tormy seaside painting: Grey and blue ocean with clouds and a sliver of pink light - symbolizes the introspective and transformative nature of menstruation.

Menstruation is a powerful and sacred time for women. Womb Yoga emphasises honoring this cycle by providing modifications and practices specifically tailored to support the body's needs during this time.


Traditional yoga classes often prioritise vigorous vinyasa flows or postures that can be uncomfortable or exacerbate cramps during menstruation. This can be frustrating for women who are looking for a yoga practice that acknowledges their bodies and validates their experiences. Womb Yoga fills this gap by offering a safe and supportive space where women can connect with their bodies and explore practices that feel good, not just challenging.


According to Yoni Shakti, some practices can be harmful during menstruation, such as inversions (like headstand or downward-facing dog) and strenuous abdominal work. These practices can strain the ligaments that support the uterus and disrupt the natural shedding of the uterine lining.


Womb Yoga, in contrast, focuses on gentle movements that lengthen and tone the muscles, restorative postures that promote deep relaxation, and calming breathwork to support the body's natural cleansing process.


By honoring the menstrual cycle and offering modifications, Womb Yoga allows women to cultivate a practice that complements their changing energy levels throughout the month.


Benefits Throughout Life Stages:


Pregnant woman bathed in sunlight, standing in a field of flowers - symbolizes the nurturing and transformative power of Womb Yoga during pregnancy.

As mentioned earlier, Womb Yoga adapts to support women throughout their lives. Here are some specific benefits for different stages:


  • Fertility and Pregnancy: Womb Yoga can help women prepare their bodies for conception by strengthening the core and pelvic floor muscles, promoting hormonal balance, and reducing stress. During pregnancy, Womb Yoga offers modifications that support the changing body and alleviate common discomforts like back pain.

  • Postpartum Recovery: After childbirth, Womb Yoga provides gentle practices that promote healing, restore core strength, and address diastasis recti (separation of abdominal muscles).

  • Menopause: Womb Yoga helps women navigate the hormonal shifts of menopause with practices that address hot flashes, anxiety, and sleep disturbances. It also fosters a sense of self-compassion and acceptance during this transformative time.

 

My own experience with Womb Yoga is a testament to its versatility.  As the demands of motherhood can leave one feeling perpetually drained, five years postpartum, I was still struggling with fluctuating energy levels that weren't necessarily tied to my menstrual cycle. Before discovering Womb Yoga, I often pushed myself to maintain the same intensity in my yoga practice that I had before children. This left me feeling frustrated and depleted.


Womb Yoga, with its emphasis on self-awareness and listening to the body's needs, helped me come to terms with these fluctuations. I learned to embrace the days that called for gentle restorative postures and deep breathing exercises, rather than forcing myself into a vigorous vinyasa flow. This shift in my practice allowed me to cultivate a more sustainable and enjoyable relationship with yoga.


This month, I also faced an unexpected challenge – an emergency appendectomy. The recovery process has been demanding, and Womb Yoga's philosophy of honoring rest has become even more crucial. By incorporating gentle Yoga Nidra practices (yogic sleep meditation) and breathwork techniques, I have been able to support my body's natural healing process and cultivate a sense of patience during this time.


Emotional Well-being and Self-Compassion: 


Woman's hand gently touching sunlit field - symbolizes connection to nature and cultivating self-compassion through Womb Yoga.

Womb Yoga goes beyond the physical benefits. As my experience illustrates, by encouraging self-awareness and honoring the body's natural rhythms, Womb Yoga fosters emotional well-being and self-compassion. This allows women to navigate the emotional ups and downs of life with greater ease and acceptance.


These are just a few examples of the many benefits Womb Yoga offers women throughout their lives. By honoring the body's wisdom and respecting its cyclical nature, Womb Yoga empowers women to create a transformative and nurturing yoga practice.


Embark on Your Womb Yoga Journey: A Safe and Supportive Space


Tranquil landscape painting: Field with lake reflecting mountains in the distance - symbolizes the peaceful and expansive journey of Womb Yoga.

Womb Yoga is more than just a set of postures; it's a transformative experience that honors the unique needs of each woman. My Womb Yoga classes are designed to create a safe and supportive sanctuary, a refuge where you can leave behind the stresses of daily life and reconnect with your body's inherent wisdom and inner teacher. Here, you'll find a welcoming community of women on similar journeys, all seeking to cultivate a deeper connection with themselves and their cyclical nature.


A Respectful Welcome:

As you step into my class, you'll be greeted with a warm smile and a sense of belonging. There are no judgments here, only a shared understanding of the unique challenges and triumphs that women face. We come together to celebrate the diversity of women's bodies and experiences, recognising that each woman's journey is unique and valid. Uma Dinsmore-Tuli, in Yoni Shakti, emphasises the importance of creating a respectful space: "We need to cultivate an attitude of kindness and caring – towards ourselves and each other." This sentiment is central to my classes. I believe that fostering a safe and supportive environment allows women to feel comfortable letting go of inhibitions and truly connecting with themselves and their practice.


Honoring Your Cycle and Inner Wisdom:

Womb Yoga: Anatomical illustration of female reproductive system with flowers and celestial bodies - symbolizes the connection between body and intuition.

One of the unique aspects of Womb Yoga is the open and respectful dialogue we have about our menstrual cycles. Feeling comfortable sharing your current phase (follicular, ovulatory, luteal, or menstrual) is completely optional. However, some women find seasonal metaphors helpful in describing their energy levels (see the image a few sections above).


For instance, you might share that you're feeling the vibrant energy of spring (corresponding to the follicular phase) or the preparatory energy of summer (ovulatory phase). Conversely, you might describe yourself as in the introspective phase of autumn (luteal phase) or the releasing phase of winter (menstrual phase). This open dialogue allows us to tailor the practice to the collective needs of the group. For example, during the spring-like follicular phase, the class might emphasise energising postures and awakening practices. In contrast, the winter-like menstrual phase might be a time for restorative postures and deep relaxation techniques.


Modifications and Accessible Practices:

My extensive experience in various yoga styles, including restorative yoga, pregnancy yoga, postnatal yoga, children's yoga, and mum & baby yoga, allows me to offer a wide range of modifications and accessible alternatives that cater to women in all stages of life.


Are you expecting a baby? I can guide you through safe and effective postures that promote strength, flexibility, and prepare your body for childbirth. Are you recovering from surgery, or simply new to yoga? No worries! I will provide you with gentle movements and practices that are appropriate for your current fitness level. Perhaps you're a seasoned yogi who is experiencing menstrual cramps. I can offer you modifications that alleviate discomfort and allow you to connect with your body in a meaningful way. The key is to find a practice that feels nourishing and supportive, regardless of where you are on your life's journey.


Womb Yoga: Collection of drawings - shooting star (intentions), ovaries with moon cycles (menstrual phases), pregnant woman (pregnancy), Mother Nature cradling baby (nurturing support) - symbolizes accessible modifications throughout a woman's journey.

I also understand that motherhood can be a demanding time, and finding childcare can be a challenge. That's why children are welcome in my Womb Yoga classes! This is not just about convenience for mothers, but also about the importance of children witnessing their mother's self-care rituals.


Research shows that children who see their parents taking care of themselves are more likely to develop healthy self-care habits themselves.

In my Womb Yoga classes, children are free to play with age-appropriate toys or participate in the yoga postures (as much or as little as they want!). This can be a wonderful opportunity to bond with your child and introduce them to the concept of yoga and self-care in a playful and nurturing environment. It also reinforces the message that self-care is an important part of life, not a luxury.


Learning from Your Inner Teacher:

Womb Yoga: Vibrant meadow bathed in sunlight - symbolizes inner wisdom and growth through self-exploration.

Perhaps the most important aspect of my teaching style is my deep respect for your inner wisdom. I view myself as a guide, here to empower you to tap into your body's inherent intelligence and intuition. Through the practices offered in class, you'll gain a deeper understanding of your menstrual cycle and how it influences your energy levels, emotions, and physical needs. This knowledge will empower you to create a personalised yoga practice that supports you throughout the month. I will offer various modifications and alternative postures, but ultimately, you are the authority on your own body. Listen to your body's signals and choose the practices that feel most nourishing and supportive in the present moment. Over time, you'll cultivate a deep trust in your inner wisdom and become your own best teacher on the yoga journey.


Conclusion: Reconnect, Rejuvenate, and Redefine Your Yoga Journey


Womb Yoga: Sunflowers reaching for the sun in a vast field - symbolizes growth, empowerment, and a vibrant yoga journey.

Womb Yoga offers a transformative and empowering approach to yoga practice. It goes beyond physical postures to cultivate a deep connection with the body's inherent wisdom and respect the cyclical nature of a woman's life. By creating a safe and supportive space, Womb Yoga empowers women to explore their unique needs and create a practice that nourishes and supports them throughout their journey.


Here are some key takeaways about Womb Yoga:


  • Honors the menstrual cycle: Womb Yoga acknowledges and respects the unique energy fluctuations associated with menstruation.

  • Adapts throughout life stages: Whether you're preparing for pregnancy, recovering from childbirth, or navigating menopause, Womb Yoga offers modifications and practices that cater to your specific needs.

  • Promotes emotional well-being and self-compassion: By fostering self-awareness and honoring your body's rhythms, Womb Yoga empowers you to navigate the emotional ups and downs of life with greater ease.

  • Connects you with your inner teacher: Womb Yoga encourages you to listen to your body's intuition and create a practice that feels authentic and nourishing.


Ready to embark on your Womb Yoga journey? 


Join me in my Womb Yoga (classes starting May 9th), a welcoming space where you can reconnect with your body, explore your inner wisdom, and cultivate a transformative yoga practice. Explore further what my Womb Yoga classes incorporate.


Womb Yoga: Nurture Your Feminine Spirit. Classes for All Stages of Life. Learn More at www.ashleycruzyoga.com




Spread the word! Share this blog post with the women in your life who might benefit from the nurturing and empowering practice of Womb Yoga.


Together, let's redefine what yoga means for women and create a practice that celebrates the strength, resilience, and unique wisdom of the feminine body.


Thank you for tuning in!

~ With gratitude,

Ashley

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Apr 04
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Yay! Public classes!

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