Traditional Spiritual Lineage is not right for Me because I’m Female.

Via Brooks Hall
on May 23, 2010
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Brooks Hall, Yogic Muse

Just as my female body contains a metaphor for creating new life, so also does my existence in the realm of spiritual pursuits require a creative act.

A benefit of yoga in the marketplace is that there are plenty of women leading the way; we are used to seeing images of beautiful women in advertisements so there is an ongoing potential for commercial success for svelte females in yoga.

But I recoil in shame when I consider what is coming across to consumers: perhaps that yoga cultivates commercially acceptable beauty, or that yoga is for physical fitness. Could it be that yoga is here to help us get laid? Come on… When commercial yoga panders to our insecurities, just like any other product for sale, doesn’t that cheapen the potential? Or doesn’t that cheapen our estimation of what we, as yoga teachers or yoga businesses offer?

As I read and study about traditional yoga I find myself filtering and editing as I read to try to include myself in texts that were written for male seekers. And I’ve done a pretty good job, having pushed through countless hours of reading about men in yoga. And I love men in yoga… But when it comes to conceptualizing a vision of my yoga path, the words that were intended for male seekers from earlier generations do not always hit home for me as a female yogi practicing and living in today’s world.

And I’ve heard that there are a handful of obscure examples of traditional yoga that honor women. But, I really haven’t seen any that I can identify with.

We don’t even have a tradition here in the States, what we have is a marketplace, and what this requires of us as consumers is personal responsibility. Just like it’s time for us to take responsibility for the oil we use, it’s also time for us to take responsibility for the quality of our hearts and minds.

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I struggle with being a female yogi who is not always sure where she really fits in. Maybe I should try to be thin and beautiful and perfect. Maybe you should buy into my yoga because you love my body.

This is what bothers me.

Yoga is about a union between consciousness and form, or the “inner” and “outer” worlds. If popular yoga is too focused on physical feminine beauty, are we ever going to break through to an authentic experience of spiritual depth? Are we ever going to pursue beyond our obsession with physical form and youthful beauty? Right now our “yoga” in most places seems to be right in line with commercial norms.

Yoga tradition intersects with the modern marketplace. And I think that we enter fantasyland when we try to ignore that. Even when someone has learned from a traditional source, what a teacher brings to his or her classes is what they know. It is always their account of that tradition or lineage, so teachers are actually creating as they are teaching.

But, our yoga does inspire questions such as mine, and perhaps that’s enough for now. And maybe yoga has arrived in the marketplace at this time to remind us that we are more than consumers. We are human beings with hearts and spirituality, and we can be responsible for ensuring that our world can remain inhabitable and joyful, as well as profitable.

*simul-posted at Yogic Muse*


About Brooks Hall

Brooks Hall is a Yogic Muse from Chicago, Illinois. In this capacity she teaches Yoga, writes about Yoga, and generally enjoys it. You can find her at:


61 Responses to “Traditional Spiritual Lineage is not right for Me because I’m Female.”

  1. […] spiritual lineage was, and is, male-dominated—leaving me (and many other women) to wonder “where are the women?” Do we have to match mainstream standards of perfection to garner recognition and […]

  2. Brooks:

    Thomas Day wrote a book called “Why Catholics Can’t Sing,” in which he examined some of the changes in the church since Vatican II. One interesting idea he put forth is that a lot of nuns were very much behind “the changes,” and became infuriated at appeals to “tradition,” because the whole idea of tradition and lineage, as it is understood in the church, is–as you imply here in the context of yoga–a “male thing.” Even womens’ bodies, one nun said, undergo irreversible changes resulting in the movement from one stage of life to another, with no going back. Everybody quotes the Desert Fathers, in part, because the Desert Mothers didn’t write stuff down as much. Perhaps men’s experience–maybe even in the absence of overt sexism or devaluing of women–conduces more to continuity than womens’ does.

    Of course, it may also be the case that “female lineage holders” are harder to find because the system, as it is set up, obscures them, but I will leave YogiOne, or someone else with more knowledge, to address that!

  3. this is a laugh for you from me 🙂

    Someone just said: “You Smell Prettier Than a Big Basket of Christmas Cakes …” to me and so I am going to say the same to you! 🙂

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