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Spiritual Feminism: A Radical Approach to Yoga for Women During Challenging Times

Interview with Uma Dinsmore-Tull, author of Yoni Shakti: A Woman’s Guide to Power and Freedom Through Yoga and Tantra, founder of Womb Yoga and Yoga Nidra Network


Interview + Photo of Uma by Jessica Durivage, womb-healer, truth-weaver and shame-slayer



Jessica Durivage: There’s a feminist lens you use to share yoga with women. Have you always taught from this perspective or was there a defining moment along your journey?

Uma Dinsmore-Tuli: I don’t think there was a single moment, but there were a few key realizations. I found yoga as a small child. It wasn’t something that somebody taught me. I felt like it was part of what I was discovering about the world myself, as a spiritual being. For me, it was always a (serious and playful) part of my own self-development and exploration. I think that gives me a different perspective that’s more likely to be independent and not tied up with the hierarchy of some guru or teaching organization. Another key moment was the feminist arising within me. I was a feisty little child, and I always felt things were unfair for girls. When I was about 13, I read The Female Eunuch, the classic by Germaine Greer, and I remember sitting on a train to London thinking, “Oh my God, she’s right.” Another key came when I was pregnant, and I could see the yoga I had been taught and the way people taught it didn’t fit the changing needs of the body I have and the body many other women have.

JD: With the #metoo movement and the climate changing in many industries and communities, what does this mean for the yoga world?

UDT: I just think it’s about time. A lot of women come to my trainings because they feel lonely in their yoga classes. When they get an awakened understanding of their embodied experiences as women, they tell me, “I can’t go to normal yoga classes anymore.” I think the sooner the better for yoga people to start outing what’s going on, because it’s hidden. The whole hierarchy of contemporary yoga is misogynist. It’s absolutely misogynist. And it’s worse than that. People expect to be adjusted and corrected and that can be the basis of bullying and abuse in the class and outside of the class. It’s about time people start speaking up about it.

JD: What about modern yoga needs to change to create a more women-friendly and nurturing environment?

UDT: The main thing to know about women’s bodies is that we are always changing. We are in a cyclical relationship with our bodies, our minds and our emotions. Most standard yoga classes do not honor that; in fact, they don’t even acknowledge it. What I’m endeavoring to encourage amongst all yoga teachers is kindness, compassion and adaptability. Recognize that everyone in class is doing something appropriate to their cycle. It’s easy once you just recognize that you need seasonal variations in your yoga classes to suit whether a woman is bleeding, ovulating, menopausal, premenstrual or postnatal. It’s about opening our eyes to the truth of the feminine experience. The best thing that could happen is to stop teaching in rows like we are in the military. Take the person who is teaching out from the front of the class, make a circle and have everybody on equal footing so that teachers can empower their students to reconnect and come home to their bodies.

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