The beauty for me about Iyengar Yoga is that it is adaptable to ever-changing circumstances so that your practice can be adjusted accordingly. As a woman, this is amazing as hormones fluctuate from day to day and we go through the phases of our cycle every month. As we practice Yoga and go on the path of exploration, exploring the self, we become more & more in tune with our tendencies, habits and our own peculiar being. We then realise that each one of us is different with different needs. What may work for one woman may be the opposite for another.
I realised this again the other day in a workshop with my colleagues, all dedicated Yogis, where a few of us were having our periods. Now, normally the Iyengar system can be quiet restricted in relation to how to practice during these times, no inversions, twists, backbends and preferably a light practice. This indeed works the best for me as I usually just feel like going to bed with a warm water bottle and only getting out of it when the battle is over :-) So during the workshop I went for all the restorative poses doing my own thing, but some of my colleagues were still able to join most of the class only leaving out the above-mentioned poses or adjusting them accordingly.
Which gave me the confirmation again that it's wonderful to follow guidelines of a teacher or system, but that that is exactly what they are: guidelines. We need to become fully aware & sensitive of ourselves, realising that the most important guide & teacher is ourselves. This is what Yoga get's you into contact with so that you can Really start listening to yourself and your needs.
However, the guidelines are such an important part of getting there. Never stop being a student. As you are a fluctuating being so are your needs. These following books are my guidelines for myself but also when preparing specific women's Yoga classes or the women's retreat. I fall back on them time & time again always finding new gem's that resonate at the moment I need them.
1. Yoga: A Gem for Women by Geeta Iyengar.
In this book, Geeta Iyengar integrates yogic theory, practice and personal experience into an accomplished and inclusive guide to the discipline of Hatha Yoga. It is a great guide for the student who wants to go deeper with her practice of Hatha Yoga.
2. The woman's Yoga book by Bobby Clennell.
This book of Bobby Clennell is definitely one of my favourites as it offers a comprehensive program of asana (yoga poses) and pranayama (breathing techniques) designed to support menstrual health from menarche to menopause. I was lucky enough to follow one of her workshops this spring, which was an amazing experience in itself.
3. The woman's book of Yoga & Health by Patricia Walden & Linda Sparrowe.
I have never had the chance yet to practice with Patricia Walden which is definitely on my wishlist, especially as this is one of my go-to books. It is a comprehensive book about women's health issues and how to treat them with yoga. Patricia & Linda offer a complete yoga program for general health as well as pose sequences that address specific health problems—all in the Iyengar tradition.
4. Yoga for breast care by Bobby Clennell.
I ordered this book after the workshop I followed with Bobby Clennell where she spoke about the importance of breast health not only when you have severe problems as the dance starts way before that. It's a great book with loads of yoga posed and adjustments specifically for breast health.
5. Guide to woman's yoga practice by Geeta Iyengar.
“Geeta's Guide” is a great spiral bound text with 850 photos on how to practice Iyengar Yoga with a focus on the menstrual cycle.
6. Yoga for a healthy menstrual cycle by Patricia Walden & Linda Sparrowe.
I have only just ordered this book and can't wait to delve into it as it offers a complete program of yoga poses designed for menstrual health, new medical information on diet and lifestyle, and instruction on meditation and breathing techniques that relieve common symptoms experienced by many women, including: Premenstrual syndrome; Menstrual cramps; Heavy periods; Bloating and pain from uterine fibroids; Pain from endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease.
7. Pelvic liberation by Leslie Howard.
I absolutely love this book, as Leslie covers an area which most people are not aware of. The pelvic floor in itself is quiet an unspoken subject, but we do often hear about pelvic floor strengthening and it's effect. But hearing about tight pelvic floor muscles is something most of us don't even realise we have. It offers a great insight into this subject. Even though Leslie Howard is not a certified Iyengar teacher, this book definitely needs to be added to this list as she has been practicing within the tradition for many years with her main teacher Ramanand Patel and others, which really shines through in the book and the asana practice.
8. Iyengar Yoga for motherhood by Geeta Iyengar, Rita Keller & Kerstine Keller.
An absolute must-have for aspiring mothers, mothers and mothers to be. It's broken up into trimesters with thorough explanations of what you can do and when, shown in 350 detailed photographs.
If there are any books on Yoga for woman within the Iyengar tradition or any other traditions that you can recommend let me know, love to hear! In the mean time I hope you enjoy this selection as much as I have and still do.