Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Taboo (menstruation) - August 2016 Newsletter from Srivatsa Ramaswami--

Taboo 

( from Ramaswami's Vinyasa Krama newsletter page - https://groups.google.com/forum/?hl=en#!topic/vinyasa-krama-announce/AzJ-2T_bai0)

One of the questions a yoga teacher is asked frequently is what asanas and other yogic procedures a female yogi may not do while in menstruation cycle. There are strong objections to doing sarvangasana and a few mudras like the bandhas. But this question may be looked at from a more orthodox or traditional point of view. When I was growing up in India and studying under Sri Krishnamacharya, most women during the monthly periods would sit out, usually confined to a room. In the olden days they would be called “bahishta” the female  stays out and may not do any work. . There were two reasons given for this approach in the olden days. One is that in that state the female tends to remain 'unclean' rather continually, that is what the grandmother would say. The other reason that is put forward is that since the woman is 'weak' at that time, nature demands she should be given rest, and all her needs would be met by the other members of the family. This is very old view and practice.

Since girls have to go to school and women work in outside places like office and fields regularly and with the advent of very hygienic facilities it is much easier for women to work during periods. But even in schools girls many times would be allowed to refrain from taking part in strenuous physical activities as attending the PT classes or sports activities. I thought Sri Krishnamacharya would not encourage women to come to study with him during such periods of time. He was teaching our whole family for a few years and I think my mother would not come to the practice during such times. When I first started teaching this idea that women should not do yoga or other strenuous physical exercise was well ingrained in me. So when I went to teach at Kalakshetra a dance school, I told the Director that girls during menses should not attend the class. The Director laughed and said that it is not possible in an educational institution. Then I suggested that they may attend the class but need not practice. She agreed. But it is a different story that many students would take advantage of this clause and sit out even when they did not have to.  

There is a view that it is predominantly hormonal and there is no need to avoid physical activity during such periods. There are women athletes and others who have to regularly perform at such times. There may be women who have won the Wimbledon Championship during such times. 

When I had started teaching, Krishnmacharya yoga Mandiram was just started by Sri Desikachar and I was one of the trustees. On behalf of the Mandiram I was asked to write a few articles on Yoga for a 100 year old but struggling monthly called “Indian Review”. I went on to write more than 25 articles. But then the monthly folded and I too stopped writing. But the Editor was happy with the contents of the articles and asked me if I would teach at a small charitable hospital in a very busy part of the city. We had about 30 participants of the hospital mostly paramedics and office staff. It went well, it was one of my earlier teaching efforts. It was an all men group. Then some of the wives of the participants asked if I could teach to a women group and I taught there for anther month. They were very enthusiastic participants. Many did asanas like Sarvangasana very easily and would do very vigorous Kapalabhati. I presumed that they would abstain from the class during their periods. But after 15 days of active enthusiastic participation a few women dropped out. The group started slowly thinning out and by the third week it was less half of the original size. The most depressing picture for a yoga teacher is to see the participants dropping out. I asked one of my friends who had come to the earlier program about why people were dropping out. He checked with his wife an active participant. He said that one woman had an unusually heavy discharge that particular time and she thought it was due to yoga practice especially such procedures as forward bends, inversions, kapalabhati and the bandhas. Maybe it was a cause but I was not sure. 

About ten years ago I started teaching the 200 hr teacher training program at LMU. In one of the early programs I had a very compact group. There was one young bright woman who was very good in all the procedures. However she was reluctant to do several procedures which are not recommended by some yoga schools like inversions especially shoulder stand and pranayama. But after  a week or so she started participating in all aspects including sarvangasana, pranayama and kapalabhati. At the end of the program, one of the directors of the program asked the participants to give their opinions about the program. The young friend said a few words. She said that for the first time in her life she had normal painless periods, and she attributed it to some of the pelvic exercises like kapalabhati and bandhas in inversions like sarvangasana.

A few days back a participant who was very active and participated fully in the asanaa vinyasa class, suddenly sat out in a corner of the room for two days. I thought something was wrong as she appeared not unwell at all. So I asked her if there was a problem with the class or instructions. She immediately said there was no problem and that she does not do yoga  during her periods.   Period

I was surprised, maybe not really  surprised; I was surprised because it was a western female who was following what I considered an old times eastern taboo

(Note: Ramaswami's wife is the gynecologist Dr. Uma Ramaswami).

*

See perhaps my earlier related blog post on this subject



***

We are half way through the 15 day, 100 hr Advanced Vinysakrama program here in Los angeles California at Loyola Marymount University. I have been teaching a 200 hr TT program in Vinyasakrama Yoga here for almost  decade. I decided to suspend the 200 hr program as I found it strenuous and difficult to be away from home and teach for 5 weeks. This program is more easy to manage and this 100 hours can be counted for continuing education with Yoga Alliance for those who care for it. I am lucky to get another wonderful group for this 100 hr program here. I have had good response in all the places I conducted the program,--- in Chennai, New Delhi and Saskatoon, Canada. I am scheduled to repeat the program in Madrid Spain in Sep/October and probably in Chennai in February 2017 and in April 2017 Sydney Australia. This basically consists of a 60 hr segment of asana vinyasas- hundreds of them- as taught by my Guru, then 20 hrs of Yoga Sutra study where we go through all the sutras word by word and then a 20 hr segment for pranayama. Mudras and their beneficial effects on the vital internal organs.
Here are a few pictures  nd a video from the current program at LMU. Thank you Fernando Alvarez  for the pictures









I also taught a 15 hr weekend workshop on Yogasutras at Yogashala, Ridgefield CT. It was a very nice group. Thank you Valerie.




I am scheduled to teach  a 4 day 'seminar' and a 5 day 20 hr Vinyasakrama progrm   in Germany in August Here are the links.



Srivatsa Ramaswami

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A Reminder

from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included.

"So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta
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