Rita guides you through a most loving and sacred yoga practice. Her gentle nature and lightness allow for the most wonderful unfolding to take place in her class. As a fellow student and teacher I am always appreciative of her gifts and radiant smile she shares with others. ... Aarti Ganesh           Read more...

The Importance of Yoga for Women

God created man and woman as equal partners to share life. The material and spiritual burdens of life fall equally on the shoulders of man and woman. Both desire good health, mental peace and poise in life. Yoga is beneficial to both man and women. Women need Yoga even more than men as the responsibilities thrust upon them by nature are greater than men. They have to undergo three important stages in life-menstruation, pregnancy and menopause. 

In these stages physiological changes occur and in each of these a woman has to face problems and internal conflicts. This affects her physical and physiological organs as well as her mind and much of her energy is lost in coming to terms with life during these periods of change. If she chooses to adopt Yogasana and Pranayama as part of her way of life, she can bring perfect balance in body and mind and she will get to know how to conquer obstacles and fulfil her tasks more efficiently without getting disturbed.





LET US SEE HOW THESE THREE STAGES AFFECT HER BODY AND MIND

1. MENSTRUATION

The ovaries, the main female sex organs, are situated at the sides of the uterus and begin to function by producing ova, female sex cells, one of which matures every month. The maturing process begins between the ages of ten and fifteen and stops between forty-five and fifty. The lining of the uterus becomes soft and swollen to receive an ovum and has excess blood to nourish it. When the ovum is not fertilized and the blood is not needed for its nourishment, the swollen membrane and the excess blood are expelled from the uterus through the vagina in the form of blood discharge. This discharge takes place once a month and is called menstruation. The discharge of blood takes place from the cavity of the womb. It is purely physiological process preparing the female body for reproduction- a biological function.

PHYSIOLOGICAL CHANGES

At the time of puberty a girl's life changes dramatically when new hormones start circulating in the body to develop the body into complete woman hood. This is an immutable part of her life. At this period important bodily and mental changes occur. At the base of the brain are situated the pituitary glands divided into two secretions-anterior and posterior. Secretions from the anterior secretion of the pituitary gland stimulate production in women and the posterior regulates secretions and feeds the involuntary muscles of the uterus and prepare it to function healthily. During this period of menstruation the female body undergoes a visible change:
• There is a rapid increase in height and weight.
• The hips become widened and fat is deposited in this region.
• The vagina becomes fully developed along with the breasts.
• The heart and lungs attain a fuller size.
• The muscles in the body become firm.
• The oil glands under the skin secrete more oil, often resulting in acne or pimples around the cheeks and the forehead.
• Causes anxiety among teenagers.
• The liberal generation of sex hormones also causes excessive secretion of fatty substances under the skin.

YOGASANAS AND PRANAYAMAS

A healthy menstruation depends upon the proper functioning of the ovary and in turn upon a healthy pituitary gland. A regular rhythm or cycle within the ovary also depends upon the hypothalamus which is closely connected with the pituitary. Yogasanas such as inverted postures and backbends are useful for stimulating the pituitary gland. Asanas such as forward bends are also effective as pure blood is supplied to the pelvic organs. For proper skeletal growth and for improving the shape of the body the standing Asanas are invaluable.

PSYCHOLOGICAL CHANGES

Just as the somatic changes depend upon hormonal balance of the endocrine system so also the mental changes depend upon a healthy environment. It is a period when there is a sudden jump from the simplicity of childhood to a complex emotional state. Self consciousness and individuality assert themselves during this period. A girl’s mind becomes extra sensitive and her behavior and moral conduct acquire razor-sharp keenness. Most of them suffer from some sort of emotional or mental disturbance before, during and after the menstrual period. All physical and emotional disturbances concerned with the menstrual cycle are associated with hormonal imbalances. Hormones are chemical substances which induce the various processes that occur in the body. They are responsible for causing menstruation. If there is any irregularity in menstruation, not only are the uterus, the brain and the general temperament altered, the health of the entire body is adversely affected. A healthy atmosphere and proper guidance are necessary at this juncture.

YOGASANAS AND PRANAYAMAS

Yoga practice at this age gives courage to approach womanhood without any mental disturbances. It helps control and check impulses and emotions. It gives balance of mind. One conquers fear and nervousness and learns to face changing life and surroundings with confidence. Through the practices of Surya Namaskara, Pranayama and Gayatri Mantra, girls would be able to stabilize their emotional life and improve mental and physical health. Only those who are very particular about their health and look after their bodies through exercise, proper food, sports and so on do not have this problem.

2. PREGNANACY

Pregnancy is a natural state like menstruation. It is absolutely essential for a pregnant woman to maintain her physical and mental well-being both for her own sake as also for the child within. There is a fear in the minds of some women that if Yoga is done during pregnancy it may lead to miscarriage. This is however nothing but an old wives tale. In Asanas, the uterus is exercised to become strong and to function more efficiently so that delivery can be normal. Deficiency in the internal secretions of the thyroid gland can result in miscarriage. Therefore, a few months prior to childbirth if they commence a program of Yogasanas, the childbirth becomes easy and natural and it does not require clinical aid. Even before planning a child, a women should prepare herself for the pregnancy and delivery. Asanas such as Sirsasana, Sarvangasana, Sethu Bandhasana, Janu-Sirsasana are very effective before conception takes place to facilitate smooth pregnancy and delivery. This will also help in warding off miscarriage and connected complications.

YOGASANAS AND PRANAYAMAS

Just as medical science, Yoga advises one to take prenatal care. The mother needs good quality blood rich in hemoglobins during pregnancy and it is also important for her to keep the blood pressure normal. To avoid problems such as high blood pressure, rapid addition in weight or albumin in the urine, Asanas and Pranayamas are very important. 

Yogasanas strengthen the pelvic muscles and improve reproductive system, exercise the spine and make the period of confinement bearable. During this period Asanas especially beneficial are Parvatasana, Supta-Viraasana, Upavista-Konasana, Baddha-Konasana and Sirsasana. Even inverted postures performed correctly are beneficial. These expand the cavity of the pelvic region creating space inside the uterus thus ensuring proper blood circulation and adequate room for the movement of the child. The practice of Pranayamas calms the nerves; confidence and courage are gained and fatigue is lessened. 

A woman in the state of advanced pregnancy has to discontinue Asanas like Sirsasana, Sarvangasana and Halasna. But other Asanas such as sitting postures with concave back and spine strengthening Asanas can be done. Ujjayi and Anulom-Vilom Pranayams can be done throughout pregnancy. Pregnant women are advised to be careful during the first three months.

3. MENOPAUSE

At around 40-50 years, women experience disturbance in the menstrual cycle. Menstruation either stops suddenly or becomes irregular or the quantity of blood flow lessens. All these are natural signs that the reproductory functions are coming to an end. Just as at the beginning of menstruation physical, physiological and psychological disturbance occur, women again have to face disturbances at the stage of menopause. As the ovaries stops functioning, the thyroid and the adrenals become hyperactive and there is an imbalance of hormones. As a result women suffer from hot flushes, high blood pressure, heaviness in the breasts, headaches, insomnia, obesity etc. There can be emotional disturbance, loss of balance and poise resulting in short temper, jealousy, depression, fear and anxiety. This is a critical period of adjustment. At this juncture practice of Yogasanas is extremely beneficial as it calms the nervous system and brings equipoise.

FOLLOWING ASANAS ARE A MUST FOR WOMEN

SARVANGASANA

Sarvangasana is a very important posture which should be practised by all women whether married or unmarried. This Asana stimulates the thyroid gland, which controls the physical appearance of a woman. The thyroid gland secretes into the bloodstream a chemical called thyroxin which influences the development of the personality. The thyroid gland must be healthy for a girl to develop properly. Sometimes when the functioning of the thyroid gland is suppressed, the body will not develop in a balanced manner.

NAUKASANA (THE BOAT POSE)

To have a strong uterus, a woman must exercise and one of the most important postures for the uterus is Naukasana. During Naukasana an automatic inward pull is induced which sucks the uterus upwards and holds it in that position for some time. This makes the supporting ligaments of the uterus very strong. It requires about three to four months of practice.

SURYA NAMASKAR

There are many women who are unable to have children. In order to conceive, the uterus of the woman must be in the correct position and the cervix must be able to contract and dilate easily. Retroverted uterus is a common problem which is often responsible for the inability to conceive. This problem can be simply rectified through Yoga. Through daily practice of Surya Namaskara, the uterus is brought into the correct position.

TECHNIQUE FOR EMOTIONAL IMBALANCE

By nature women are highly emotional. This condition can be eliminated by practising one-pointed concentration daily. Sit in any Asana in which you do not need to move your body for 15 minutes. Keep your spine upright and straight and place your hands on the knees or in your lap. Close your eyes. Try to think of and imagine one object. Try to see it clearly. You can visualise the flame of a lamp, a star, a flower, or anything. But you should concentrate on the same object every day and try to visualise it for 10 to 15 minutes and no more. If you cannot practise in the morning, do it at night. It is not necessary to go to the puja room, you can practise in your room. Just sit on your bed and close your eyes. You can also concentrate on a form or a sound such as Aum and try to feel or visualise it in Anahata Chakra- the heart centre. This 15 minutes of concentration daily will completely eliminate emotional imbalance.

CONCLUSION

The endless struggle of being a woman and a mother, one has to prepare for major physical, physiological and psychological upheavals. Stabilization of the physical and mental states is achieved by the science which is called Yoga. All paths of Yoga can bring you peace of mind. Just by learning a few basic Asanas and Pranayamas, you can be of invaluable help to yourself and the community around you which is experiencing the vicissitudes of life. In Samkhya Yoga, woman is compared to Prakrit (nature). Like nature she has to remain ever-active. Then her life blossoms and her home is cheerful.


Courtesy: Dr. Rita Khanna
Aum Shanti