In 2002 I gave birth to my first daughter, a beautiful, organic experience that forever changed me. Literally, a woman’s physiology changes with the birth of her children. Traditional cultures prepare women for this, yet yoga is a traditionally male discipline. Yoga can appear feminine because a disproportionate number of practitioners and teachers are women. However, it is largely a practice created by men for men. When I became pregnant, I began to feel that disconnect when the precision and alignment of asana that I had loved so much started to feel confining. Once my daughter was born there was no way I could practice with the discipline I once had.
I began practicing yoga in 1993 and started teaching soon after. I loved yoga right from the beginning. Like many, I was immediately hooked. I eventually quit my day job as a Marketing Director to teach full time. New York City is home to many of our greatest teachers and I took full advantage, soaking up everything I could. I practiced at many different studios, attended countless trainings and retreats, studied anatomy and physiology and taught numerous classes each week.
Then I had a baby…
Over the last seventeen years, I had two more children and explored a more feminine approach to yoga. I discovered a history, not often talked about, of female centered yoga. These ancient yoginis, midwives and women healers celebrated fertility, menstruation, birth, healing and dying. Their rituals were more ecstatic than acetic, more spontaneous than prescribed, more similar to birth energy and maternal behavior.
I studied with women teachers, particularly ones that had a background in traditional women-centered healing arts. I sat in circle with women including midwives, doulas and experienced and new mothers alike who shared their experiences and wisdom. I learned about childbirth and mothering biologically, cross-culturally, anthropologically and historically. When it was possible I had a formal yoga practice but much of the time my yoga was off the mat as I nursed, swayed, rocked, sang and breathed with my babies.
Carrie Parker Gastelu's Story...
What I have learned caused me to question the traditional definition of enlightenment that came from the ancient rishis who left their families. A feminine approach must include the collective wisdom of the women who healed communities, took care of children and aging parents, felt the ecstasy of birth and the instincts of mother. This collective feminine knowledge also leads to illumination, freedom and compassion.