Looking for a better way to cope with stress and anxiety? Try womb yoga. Designed by a woman, for women, this soft, free, and feminine practice celebrates the female body.
When the invitation for a womb yoga workshop lands in my inbox, my interest is piqued. Hatha yoga, vinyasa yoga, bikram yoga… these are terms that I am familiar with, but womb yoga? It sounds like something for mothers or women who want to be mothers. I’m definitely not at that stage of my life yet.
As it turns out, womb yoga has something for me as well. (By the way, despite its name, you do not need to have a womb to practise womb yoga. According to founder Dr Uma Dinsmore-Tulli, womb yoga is a practice for anyone who identifies as a woman.)
A Practice for what You Seek
So last week, I attended an introductory session at exhale, where yoga teacher Dewi Chen is conducting Womb Yoga workshops in Singapore this month. The women in the class with me are in their 20s and 30s.
Dewi was inspired to bring womb yoga to Singapore after giving birth to her baby daughter Lea, now 12 months old. She hopes to empower Lea – and other girls – to grow up in a world in which girls and women are not ashamed of having periods, who do not feel that discussion about vaginas and menstrual cycles is taboo, but a normal and part of life (as it is, isn’t it).
Furthermore, shares Dewi, her menstrual cramps have ceased in the past two months since she started practising womb yoga. As someone who has painful periods, this perks me up. Dewi tells us that womb yoga is also for women who are looking to:
- release tension and find calm in both mind and body
- better connect to the inner wisdom and feminine energy
- physically and emotionally support themselves through their womb cycle and other changes in the womb (e.g. pregnancy, hysterectomy, miscarriage)
As Dr Dinsmore-Tuli puts it, womb yoga is “an embodied practice of listening and honouring the wisdom of your body, especially the cyclical rhythms of your womb life”. With this in mind, we begin the class.
Not Your Usual Yoga Practice
Immediately, the differences between womb yoga and traditional forms of yoga are apparent. Womb Yoga is woman-centred. While traditional hatha yoga (designed by men, for men) tells you to “tuck your tailbone in” and “keep your belly close to the spine”, womb yoga (designed by a woman, for women) tells us to “keep your belly loose and go with the flow”.
After breathing exercises and stretches, we move on to dynamic sequences such as shoulder stands and the bridge pose. These pelvic opening poses are great for women who are ovulating, says Dewi, as they help to spice up your bedroom life. Something to share with my friends who are #TTC :) (Trying To Conceive)
Throughout, Dewi reminds us to listen to our bodies and “give in” to the natural curves of our hips and spine. This is a change from the yoga classes that I’ve previously attended, where I have to strain and adjust my body into the right postures.
We use visualisation to release stress: imagine a golden river connecting your heart and your womb, into which you can pour your anxieties and let them all wash away. I find this effective. As my mind focuses on conjuring a relaxing image to help myself to calm down, I can’t remain frazzled.
I think I speak for everyone when I say that shavasana, the final pose in all yoga classes where you lie flat on your back with your eyes closed, hands by your side and heels mat-width apart, is the most-loved pose in yoga. Womb yoga steps it up a notch by incorporating yoga nidra – a meditation technique known as yogic sleep. It’s been said that a mere 45 minutes of yoga nidra feels like three hours of sleep!
I am refreshed and relaxed after the class. Everyone else feels the same. Instead of rushing off, we’re chilling out as Dewi shares her motivation behind bringing womb yoga to Singapore. She tells us that she wants to help women be comfortable with their bodies, and foster a positive relationship with their uterus instead of treating periods like an embarrassment. The atmosphere is warm and cosy, as if we’re lounging around in a friend’s home.
Is Womb Yoga for You?
I like that womb yoga accommodates women in all stages of our menstrual cycle, and how it reminds us to acknowledge the presence of our vagina, or yoni. We learnt about yoni mudra, a hand gesture where your thumbs and forefingers touch, forming a diamond to represent your womb. This hand gesture is a staple in the womb yoga class. In addition, it is interesting to note the parallels between our body parts — when we put our arched feet together, we find that that the shape formed resembles a familiar body part. See it?
As Asians, we’re generally too shy to talk about our bodies, let alone our private parts or the things that happen to them. Womb yoga allows us to dispel that (in)famous Asian reserve, and ‘let it all out’. In the process, I find that stress and anxiety are released as well.
Womb yoga, with its focus on therapy and healing, is probably not for everyone. Some may prefer the workout that traditional yoga offers. However, if you believe in the power of your mind, enjoy meditation (or hope to start doing it), if you want to be comfortable in your own skin and learn how to listen to your body, or try a new way to cope with stress and anxiety, womb yoga is definitely for you.
The Living Womb: Womb Yoga
When 5 Sep, Wed, 7.30-8.30pm (Introduction to Womb Yoga) | 12/ 19/ 26 Sep, Wed 7.30-9pm
Where exhale@home, 230A River Valley Road (2nd floor)
Cost $32 (introduction) | $175 for the full 3-weeks workshop, $65 for single drop-in session
Web https://exhale.com.sg or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Header image: Kari Shea on Unsplash
Featured image: Eunice Stahl on Unsplash