Women’s empowerment is a defining issue of our times.
Today you hear more and more about building up the confidence of young girls to make them strong women, about equal pay, and about gender discrimination. You hear about women’s rights discussed as a renewed social movement. Sometimes you can feel like you’ve traveled back in time. But this is the present, and these are the issues of our world today.
“Nevertheless, she persisted.”
This is a slogan of a new wave of feminism and the fight for women’s rights… because that’s what women do: they persist. Throughout history, women have fought for their rights and the rights of others.
Women take on so many roles in society. Many of these roles include the nurturers, the fierce fighters, the threatening political leaders, the artists using their platforms.
Today, strong female role models grace our world who speak out on behalf of the women who cannot. Yet, for so many, making these changes in their own lives is a great challenge. It is easy to feel small when you face such obstacles.
Some personal questions some women may ask are:
- What can you do to take steps toward empowerment?
- How can you make real changes in your life to build strength?
- How do I build more self confidence, and self-love?
All significant change starts from within.
Adopting empowering actions in your life will help you achieve these feelings of self-worth and capability.
A fantastic tool to utilize is yoga.
What’s yoga got to do with the Empowerment Of Women?
Anyone who has gone to a yoga class can see that the majority of people who practice yoga are female. This is what makes the issue of female empowerment so crucial to this community.
In the world of yoga, persistence can take many forms.
It takes persistence to push through a challenging asana. You may need this virtue of persistence to get through those last five minutes of meditation after your feet have gone numb. Persistence may even take the form of waking up early for class when you just want to sleep in. But persistence is more than this to the issue of empowerment.
On your mat, you can find the courage to persevere. You can challenge yourself to be better, stronger, and more confident. It is easy to forget that so many of us yogis and non-yogis alike don’t get to leave their persistence on the mat. Some must carry it with them every moment of every day.
Yoga can teach powerful and vital lessons to help you when you are carrying these burdens on your back. As women fight their daily fight- for rights, equality, and justice- knowing their power comes from within can only make them stronger.
So, before we can talk about exactly how yoga can help you feel empowered, we have to define the issue itself.
The Meaning of Women’s Empowerment:
Female, or women’s empowerment, is a phrase often heard in the news today. It is so familiar that it almost loses its meaning, growing more general all the time. It’s essential to raise awareness of the phrase’s true meaning and its implications.
At its most basic level, female empowerment means giving women the power to move without limits through their lives- in their personal and professional spheres. It means giving women the choice to live their lives with autonomy and define their own path: a path without restrictions, fears, dangers, legal roadblocks or inequality.
This concept isn’t just about equal pay or gender discrimination in the workplace, as you may hear about often.
Empowerment is about more; it’s about big-picture ideas.
Women’s empowerment means that women gain control of their lives so they gain power. They can make choices and seek fulfillment without boundaries. It means improving self-worth and encouraging women and girls to be all they can be.
Female empowerment is conceptual but has concrete effects. Equal pay, reproductive rights, freedom from violence, representation, education, job training… These are only a few of the ways to apply this idea to our world physically.
What can yoga do to empower yourself?
Different organizations, programs, and communities each have their places in this issue. Every group has something to fight for, something they can do to make a difference. What is yoga’s role in all of this?
Yoga is a spiritual and physical activity. It looks inward to face outward. It challenges you to grow and push yourself and to accept and encourage the growth of everyone around you simultaneously. What better philosophy exists for social progress?
For many women, yoga can be a space to charge their energy to face the world. To look inward, to care for yourself and to give yourself a slice of space and time to grow, is something everyone deserves, especially groups of people who may not get that time in their lives otherwise.
Women, especially, lack time for themselves. Working women often have to do more work for less money than their male counterparts. They work harder and longer to convince their higher-ups to pay them what they deserve. Too often, this is coupled with sexual harassment and the need for defensive mentalities.
Many mothers balance these struggles with their motherhood- which, in itself, is a full-time job. A mother or guardian caring for their children’s needs hardly leaves them time for themselves.
These very real struggles can seem lucky to many who daily suffer from abuse, and violence.
Disenfranchised groups persist. They fight battles many of us never see or know. In the middle of the battlefield of life, a gift of quiet and safety is priceless.
A common concept heard in spaces of practice is to allow yourself the opportunity to be present, to feel, to experience life as it comes to you in the safe and quiet space you have dedicated to yourself. To do this is a powerful act. It has limitless power.
Remember: you cannot fill from an empty cup.
In this dedicated space of time, women can enjoy the practice of meditation. The gift of a quiet and safe place can allow women to practice an integral part of yoga: exploring the self.
Meditation is an action of quiet reflection, often to calm the mind and relax. In having time to explore and process your feelings, you can seek more order in your mind. Having clarity and peace is the best way to tackle life’s challenges.
The stress of everyday life can be extremely overwhelming, and for many, it can cause serious health issues. Meditation counters many of these issues- both physical and psychological. Practicing meditation has proven health benefits such as lowered blood pressure, mood regulation, anxiety control, and can even reduce stress-related hormone production like cortisol. And this doesn’t just apply to the regular stresses of everyday life. People who have experienced severe traumas benefit in the same ways.
Paired with health benefits that you feel in your body, meditation offers enormous mental health and psychological benefits. Carving out even a small amount of time to have self-reflection helps people practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness meditation helps people become grounded in their present. When you are living your daily life, you can lose your presence in each moment. We are all forward thinkers. What time do I have to pick the kids up? What am I eating for dinner tonight? What did she say to me yesterday? Have I paid that credit card bill?
With mindfulness meditation, you can take a few moments to allow yourself to drop the worry. You permit yourself to breathe, to feel, and to seek a sense of calm. In our hectic worlds, that sliver of time to be present can be life-changing.
Many yoga styles (but note, not all) can offer strength building. To feel strong and feel yourself becoming stronger is a great way to feel empowered.
In yoga, practicing a challenging pose is a considerable challenge; your muscles quake, and you break into a sweat, and sometimes you feel like giving up. But every time you try and push through, you build strength.
These are physical actions of empowerment.
When you return to the mat and can move through the pose with ease, you can see and feel the results of your hard work. You accomplish what you once thought impossible.
Connecting the mind and body in this way is energizing and empowering. Your physical strength becomes inner strength.
Strength is empowering, but so is stability. When you step onto the mat and temporarily out of the chaos, you can feel a little shaky, literally and figuratively. To move through poses in which you feel solid, stable, and rooted to the ground is a magically empowering feeling. When you don’t know how you can pay a bill, find time, or show kindness, sometimes feeling stable and present on the very ground you stand on can make all the difference.
Women and girls:
When you think about women’s empowerment, you may forget that it means girls too. One of the most essential facets of empowerment is starting with children.
Teaching girls to believe in themselves and practice self-love so that confidence from a young age will make them more functional and able adults.
Many schools around the world are instituting mindfulness programs that also incorporate yoga. Yoga can have lots of great benefits for children, including helping improve their learning skills, and teaching them how to face challenges.
Not to mention all the benefits that adults experience that apply to children, too: grounding, anxiety relief, and physical wellbeing.
Teach Young girls to be leaders
Firstly, teaching girls to be mindful of their feelings leads to them becoming better communicators, and eventually, leaders. Children can be overwhelmed in the same way adults can. You often forget those feelings and how confusing and overwhelming they were when you were just a kid. By giving young girls techniques to label and understand those feelings, they will be able to understand themselves, find a greater sense of confidence, and practice self-love as they move through life.
Secondly, young girls can experience great benefits from doing yoga, specifically. For one, harnessing their physical power to do fun poses they likely already know like wheel, butterfly, and down-dog can be empowering and engaging. This can make girls feel accomplished and able since they often have a natural disposition to perform these poses.
Sometimes, yoga itself can be frustrating, and the challenge can teach young girls to work with and through those feelings. Learning poses, staying balanced, and moving through flows is difficult. Teaching girls that failure is acceptable when they are learning- and that perseverance is vital- is an invaluable lesson they will need in life.
Self-love and self-worth are all too often struggles for young women, and teaching the art of forgiveness is essential. Accepting failures allows for success. When girls learn this young, they can push through challenges and accomplish more in their adult lives.
Actions of Empowerment To Start Using Today
If you’re feeling anxious, stressed, or in need of grounding at this moment, there are some poses you can get into right now.
For calmness and meditation:
Corpse Pose (Shavasana)
Oh yes, this is a pose. Used mostly for relaxation at the end of a yoga practice, Shavasana is closely tied to meditation. If you’re looking to feel grounded and calm, this pose is the one to use. You don’t have to do anything else to deserve your time in Shavasana, it is yoga on its own.
Lay on your back, with your arms beside you, slightly away from your body, and legs slightly apart. Face your palms upward. Find your breath, taking deep breaths in and out, filling your lungs completely.
Extended Child’s Pose (Utthita Balasana)
Extended child’s pose is a great way to feel grounded and centered. This is a pose that teachers will often encourage their students to go into when they need a rest while practicing. It is a pose to return to, to return to your breath, your center, and the earth.
Begin on your knees, with your toes together and your knees slightly further than hip-width apart. Find your breath here, taking a few deep breaths in and out. On an exhale, bend forward, lowering your torso to your thighs while reaching your arms out in front of you, with your forehead touching the floor. If you can’t touch the floor with your forehead, grab a prop (a block or folded blanket) and use that instead! With palms against the ground and your arms fully extended, attempt to melt your chest down toward the floor, relaxing your shoulders. Stay in this pose for as long as you need to.
Keep in mind, a lot of our feelings of groundedness come from through our feet. Though child’s pose and extended child’s pose offer you the opportunity to surrender to gravity, other poses that ground you in the earth through our feet are similarly comforting. Mountain pose explained below is a great example of this.
Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Although mountain pose might look simple, it is an essential pose to perfect. The foundation for all standing yoga poses, mountain pose is all about grounding and stability. Practicing it regularly will give you the chance to develop steadiness, focus, and poise – all crucial aspects of empowerment. Starting your yoga practice in mountain pose is an excellent opportunity to take a few breaths and set your intention. It’s also a wonderful resting pose to take in between flowing sequences.
Begin by standing with your feet together, big toes touching. Lift your toes and spread them apart, before placing them back on the mat.
Rock from side to side and front to back until your weight is evenly distributed.
Firm through your thighs and lift your kneecaps as you ground down through all four corners of your feet.
Make sure to draw in your abdominals and lift your chest as you drop your shoulders, palms facing in towards your body. Stand tall and take 5-8 breaths.
Oh yeah, you can do this yoga pose on the beach, or in a park. You can even do this pose at the state capital 😉
For strengthening and energy:
Warrior One (Virabhadra)
Warrior one is great for strengthening and stretching. As well as building strength in the legs, shoulders, and arms, it improves flexibility in the spine. You might notice that your mind feels clearer after practicing Warrior One, as this pose also promotes blood flow throughout the body. The more you practice this, the better you will be at tapping into that energizing charge.
Start from standing pose, tadasana (or mountain pose). Step your right food backward, planting in a wide-leg stance. Turn your right toes to a 45-degree angle. Bend your left knee to a 90-degree angle (or as close as you can get) while keeping your right leg straight. Extend your arms upward over your head. Try to keep your hips facing forward if you’re able. Breath deeply for 5 to 10 breaths or as long as you want to hold the pose. Switch sides following the same steps.
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It can be so easy to become lost in the complications of everyday life. You will face challenges that feel impossible to overcome or see your loved ones struggle through them. It is important to seek out tools that work for you and serve you… Tools that help you feel empowered. And like the practice of yoga, look inward to yourself to help those around you.
A Message from Blue Osa to our reader:
We hope these tools are of service to you. Our goal at Blue Osa is to create a safe space for all people. Please take a moment to watch the video below and a powerful message from our own Karina Mirsky.