Have you ever noticed that women are often absent from the beginnings of yoga and yogic teachings and that the ancient yogis/teachers were all men? March is Women’s History Month, so let’s take a look at when this shifted, why, and how yoga changed as a result.
The Vedic Brahmans, Patanjali. Shri Aurobindo, and many more well-known ancient yogis and gurus were all men. Up until the last 100 years, female yoga teachers were not recognized in books, yogic schools, or much of anywhere. That doesn’t mean they didn’t exist. Their voices, their wisdom, and their spiritual findings were excluded from the standard teachings, but why? And how did this begin to shift?
The prominent mode of thought once at the bedrock of yogic philosophy was that everything that was important to know about the world was already known, and could be revealed by great teachers. Is everything already known? The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates is quoted as saying, “The only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing.”
The shift away from believing everything is already known means going beyond the map of human consciousness that the recognized teachers of the past, none of which were women, have given us. That “map” includes an understanding of the “territory” of the mind and spirit, and we must be careful to remember that the map we have is not the actual territory that exists. In this case, the “map” is the system, in the form of diagrams, lists, and manuals, that has been developed to create a structured path for attaining enlightenment. The ancient teachers explored the part of the map they could understand. But, there is so much more to be explored.
This paradigm has slowly started to shift since the scientific revolution began. It re-introduced the idea that we don’t know everything, and that we should be willing to admit ignorance – i.e. that our maps might not fully reflect the territory.
Today, there are plenty of women teachers (perhaps even more than men) in yogic schools and in leadership positions. The divine feminine energy and the wisdom of women teachers can help emphasize finding contentment, joy, and bliss at the center of our being. Only when these aspects of the divine feminine are fully explored will we have a more complete picture of the answers to our spiritual questions. Some aspects of the divine feminine that may show up in our practice today include:
- Valuing pleasure over than production
- More complex and complete social skills
- Elevated ability to hold onto multiple perspectives and be flexible
- Attunement to feelings and emotions
- Caring for community/family
- Collaborative skills
- More tolerance
- More embodiment
- Physically more connected with the rhythm and flow of nature
To brush up on your reading and discover more from women spiritual teachers such as Bhavani Maki and Vanda Scravelli, check out our book list.