In the practice of yoga postures we experience two primary energies. The first is "masculine" which is the experience of putting forth effort, contracting your muscles, keeping your mind focused, increasing the core temperature of the body. The second is "feminine" which is the experience of release, surrender, allowing, relaxation, not trying to control your experience. Generally speaking in our society, the masculine energy is more highly valued as the path to success. Yoga talks about the union of the masculine and the feminine as "the ultimate path to success"
Let me be clear here, I am not talking about male and female. I am talking about the archetypal energies that are classically defined as masculine and feminine. Generally speaking men do tend to house more masculine energy, and women tend to house more feminine energy. However that is a whole another can of worms that I will not open here!
Have you ever been in a deep stretching pose in yoga class and hating it? For example, Pigeon Pose, or an intense leg stretch? Resisting the stretch can make it so much harder. Have you ever been in that moment, in that pose, and switched off your resistance and allowed yourself to accept the discomfort? If you've done this, most likely you got deeper into the pose, and most likely your mental/emotional anguish was reduced. This is an example of approaching something uncomfortable in a more feminine way.
To get a look at the transformative power of the feminine approach OFF the mat, I’m going to give you a teeny tiny synopsis of the beginning of the Bhagavad Gita:
Arjuna is a great warrior who is positioned to fight a group of people that includes some of his childhood friends and teachers. Despite being a great warrior, he has an emotional breakdown on the battlefield and becomes confused as to what he should do. He quickly decides it is better not to fight, although the cause is just, than to fight and risk killing those he cares for. Krishna is with him on the battlefield as he’s going through this crisis of conscience, and he tells Krishna of his thoughts and confusion. Krishna (who plays the role of Consciousness, or God, or Truth in this story) tells Arjuna that he is misled in his thinking. Krishna says that in this case it is better to fight than to desist, because if the other side keeps power the entire nation will be over run with corruption and poverty.
The reason I mention this story is because it is Arjuna’s vulnerability in that moment that ultimately leads him to “do the right thing”, also called “fulfilling his dharma”. In that moment he does not know what is the right thing to do. He is insecure. He is vulnerable. He does not see a clear direction. And finding himself in this state of mind, Arjuna says to Krishna "My heart is overpowered by the taint of pity. My mind is confused as to duty. I ask thee, tell me decisively what is good for me. I am thy disciple. Instruct me who has taken refuge in thee." (Chapter 2, Verse 7)
This moment is considered one of the golden keys of the Bhagavad Gita. In this moment, Arjuna falls from a place of masculine know-it-all-ness and certainty. Instead, he exhibits surrender, release, seeking, humility, humbleness, softness, vulnerability. These qualities are considered feminine. In the absence of these qualities he would not have been able to learn from Krishna, who was there to teach him. Taking a softer and more feminine approach to his dilemma, Arjuna’s heart and mind were opened to the Truth of Krishna’s teachings. And basically the rest of the Bhagavad Gita is Krishna’s teachings to him!
Feeling that we don't know, or that we need help, or that we’re uncertain can be very unglamorous! We often want to hide these feelings to avoid feeling unglamorous or lost. When we hide these feelings from others and from ourselves we create a schism in our psyches. The feminine has been called the dark side, not because it is evil but because it is often hidden.
One of the things I adore so much about yoga practice is feeling a truth in my body and being able to apply it off the mat in real life situations.
Where are areas off the mat that your certainty is keeping you from learning? What are the dark places or the uncomfortable places that you’d rather not see or share about yourself? Confusion, humbleness, humility, can be considered a higher spiritual state than absolute certainty. Absolute certainty can become a barrier to further growth and development. A softer approach can lead us where we want to go.
Poses that emphasize feminine energy: Forward bends, Child's pose, Savasana.