The Joyous Yoni (1): An Exploration of Yogic Perspectives toward Sexual Empowerment for Women

By Shroff, F. M. | Journal of International Women's Studies, May 2007 | Go to article overview

The Joyous Yoni (1): An Exploration of Yogic Perspectives toward Sexual Empowerment for Women


Shroff, F. M., Journal of International Women's Studies


Abstract (3)

This paper explores yogic approaches to women's sexuality. Acknowledging that sexualized violence against women is a harsh and pernicious reality for women all over the world, the paper adopts an inclusive perspective on women's sexuality that focuses on pleasure. A basic introduction to yoga prefaces a discussion of prana (life force) and concepts of unity and oneness. These concepts provide a framework for yogic concepts of the body, with an emphasis on sexuality. Specific breathing exercises, meditations, poses, locks and seals are mentioned. The experience of one of Canada's most accomplished yoga teachers is also depicted. The paper concludes by affirming that women's positive experiences of sexuality may be heightened through yogic practices that assist in living in the body more fully. Given the vacuum of scholarly work in this area, this paper is a small step toward understanding the common ground between the vast subjects of yoga and women's sexual empowerment.

Keywords: yoga, women's sexual empowerment, oppressive social structures

Introduction

The purpose of this paper is to explore yogic approaches to women's sexuality. My interest in this topic arises from two lifetime passions: women's emancipation, including sexual emancipation, and the study of hatha yoga. In this paper I embrace a yogic theoretical perspective gleaned from my study of yogic texts, practical studies in India, Canada and elsewhere from excellent teachers and consistent practice of this mind/body discipline since I was four years of age. This is coupled with an anti-racism feminist training in sociology.

Within yogic philosophy, sexuality is a normal and healthy part of life. The second chakra, Svadhisthana, is located between the navel and the pubic bone. Its color is orange and its issues are sexuality, creativity, relationships and emotions. Within the larger context of yogic approaches to life, the body and sexuality, the Svadhisthana chakra will be examined.

Massage therapists, naturopathic physicians and other health professionals who work with the body have told me that the most plagued part of the body, both male and female, is the area around the second chakra. Yoga has profound potential to heal these repressed and pained emotions and this paper shines a light on that possibility.

Theoretical perspective: critiquing oppressive social structures

Drawing from an anti-racism, integrated, feminist perspective, this paper is rooted in theory that seeks to bring empowering and liberating thought-forms from various parts of the world together. As a Parsi woman of South Asian descent, I feel that part of the political project of freeing ourselves is to collectively decolonize the mind and body. Valuing aspects of our heritage and its worldviews is one step towards eradicating the shame and self-hatred that often manifest as by-products of colonialism (Fanon, 1967). Women's bodies have been bought and sold in the human marketplace, on screen and in the flesh. Sexualized violence against women--rape, torture, assault--occurs every minute on the planet. A grave assault on human rights around the world, violence affects about 1 in 3 women (Pan American Health Organization 2003). Violence against women is as serious a cause of death and incapacity among women of reproductive age as cancer, and a greater cause of ill health than traffic accidents and malaria combined (The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women 2004). Virtually every society in the world effectively condones violence against women. The WHO Multi-country Study on Women's Health and Domestic Violence against Women (2005) found that intimate partner violence and its association with women's physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health is widespread and prevalent. Prosecution and conviction of men who assault women or girls is rare in comparison to numbers of assaults. Only 44 countries have laws against domestic violence (Sharma and Gupta 2004). …

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