Responses to "Gender Politics" Post

Here are three responses to the “Gender Politics” post from last month. They are from Janice Gates, Nischala Joy Devi, and Scott (he apparently doesn’t use a surname).

Click the title link above, or “Read More!” below to see the responses.

Janice Gates said…

Greetings Megan and All,

I am so glad this topic is being addressed here. I recently completed a book that was born from my own frustration around the underacknowledged contribution that women are making in the field of yoga (Yogini, the Power of Women in Yoga). As someone who has done extensive research on the role of women in the history of yoga as well as the role they are playing in the evolution of yoga today, I was acutely aware of how easy it is to default to our deepest conditioning – with the men in more prominent roles defining the field and discussing the future of the profession with the women in more ´supporting´roles. As Vice President of the board of IAYT, I regret that I had not insisted more vocally that women be more prominently represented at the symposium. The positive side of this is that the gender imbalance has highlighted some issues that I feel are now ripe for discussion. Additionally, the board and everyone involved in next years programming are wide awake to this issue (from my own input as well as that of many attending) and it is being addressed as we speak.

Some questions I have been reflecting on that may inspire some collective self-inquiry:

1. What is the role of lineage and empowerment from the teacher/guru in becoming a yoga teacher or yoga therapist?

I find this question particularly relevant as the teachings of yoga we are most familiar with in the West today,while not gender specific themselves, have primarily been passed through male lineages for centuries and are now being spread – widely – through women. Most of these women come from an extremeley different culture and life experience than that out of which the yoga teachings arose. Bringing this topic forward for discussion could both acknowldge the value of, and simultaneously demystify, what may sometimes be held up as he ultimate teaching credential.

2. What are the experiences, qualities, skills and expertise that women are bringing to the field of yoga therapy that have yet to be acknowledged or defined?

At the symposium, Nischala Devi so beautifully pointed out that even if we have the highest standards for yoga therapists, and teachers have extensively studied the yoga texts, intuition and compassion are essential components in the student-teacher relationship. These qualities are not gender specific, yet they are often considered feminine, or soft, and not given equal weight in relation to intellectual knowledge.

3. And, lastly, in this evolving field of yoga therapy – which was described several times by presenters as the process of becoming aware of negative patterns that no longer serve us and transforming them into more positive ways of being – how can we, as a community, men and women together, become free of the conditiong that no longer serves us and realize our collective potential as a profession?

Janice Gates

author of Yogini, The Power of Women in Yoga

Nischala Joy Devi said…

Dear Leslie, Sisters and Brothers in Yoga,

Wow! What a spectacular wave this conference is making throughout the Yoga and Medical world. Thank you to the visionaries who organized and brought this to fruition and for the presenters who are carrying the concepts to the next level of understanding.

So many wonderful and inspiring letters and comments are being given on how to carry Yoga therapy into the 21st century.

I do however; want to address what is now being called the “Gender Balance”. It seems that a very vital and important issue is once again being shuffled into the broad bin of “Women needing to have their voices heard” or even feminism.

The reason the Gender Balance is so tipped is because traditionally the women healing from a heart and intuitive perspective were honored as the healers. When the scientific right brained thinking emerged it was overshadowed.

As we can see this issue is much greater than how many women presented at the conference, that imbalance was only the symptom. A great paradigm shift is happening in many phases of our lives and health care is calling out among them. Having trained and worked in Modern Medicine most of my adult life, when I embraced Yoga some 30 years ago I wove the two together in what seems like a healing balance.

Modern medicine has it’s apparent strengths, and obvious weaknesses. It’s weakness is that it sees people as only bodies and often only parts of the body. It is allopathic (against disease) oriented. It does not look at or acknowledge that we are anything but bodies.

Yoga therapy differs as it acknowledges that each individual houses the divine spirit and when it is given honor healing power emerges. Trying to bridge these very different concepts is a task that takes great skill. That skill comes from outside learning but more from our own inner practices.

Having been a Yoga Therapist and researcher in the Lifestyle Heart Trial (Dean Ornish Program) our first trial demonstrated the efficacy of using Yoga as a modality for Reversing Heart Disease. This was proven to be dramatically effective. Nothing in modern medicine had the potency to reverse cardio-vascular disease. I was laughed at and teased for invoking “unscientific practices” to invoke love, intuition and compassion. In the end that is what patients reported that encouraged the “true healing”.

Our second study the Multi Centered Lifestyle Heart Trial, was done in order to see if, we, the modality specialists, could train others to do this work with the same effects. It was also proven as the first trial. This is what we as, Yoga Teachers, are doing in training each other to guide patients to heal themselves.

What became clear to me during the two trials was the difference between objective and subjective findings. Objective findings are delivered through concrete measurements and testing. Subjective findings are the ones that are reported by the individual as the initiation of the healing. Only measured by the individual perception.

When we consider the panels and discussion for the next symposium and what to teach as Yoga therapy both the objective and subjective are necessary. The subjective part is what has been missing and is the essence of the paradigm shift. The heart and the head must be considered and honored; otherwise we are just folding the great and ancient tradition of Yoga into another arm of Allopathic Medicine.

It is time to unite all parts of us, the spiritual, mental, emotion and physical through using all the tools we now have, whether ancient or modern, to bring balance.

I am honored to be part of such a great shift and part of such a noble organization as IAYT.

With you in joy, love and healing, Nischala Joy Devi


Scott said…

Dear All,

A great discussion here, and on such a wonderful topic.

I cannot agree enough on the need for a return to the feminine aspects of Yoga, especially in Therapy. Having thankfully been gifted an adjustment in perspective of late, I can see what Megan and others are expressing here, to me we all seem to be expressing the same truth in different ways.

I would say that we should be careful how to proceed in this matter though – it may be insntinctive to rush in and try to ch
ange things to “the way they ought to be”, but this is simply a masculine approach to a masculine problem. In doing so you may entrench those who have not yet received the wisdom of the power of a more feminine approach, or at the very least shift your own actions from being sourced in feminine power back to the masculine approach i.e. you may become that which you dislike.

I personally favour the Ghandi approach of “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Let the conference organisers have their speakers on their podiums – remembering, of course, not to judge those speakers themselves as they may have nothing to do with the preceived imbalance.

Do your work, do it the way you know it should be done, the way your heart is telling you. Be kind and compassionate, and help people to remember how to heal. Let those who mistake intellect for Yoga work through their own path, and maybe, eventually, they will see the error of their ways (if in fact it even is an error, rather than simply a process) and your example will give them guidance to a better way. That’s what happened to me, and if I can make the shift please be assured it is possible for anyone to be influenced in this way 😉

Love and light,


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