Talking Yoga, Sex & Feminism: An Interview Series with Vajra Ma & Dr. Melody Moore.

Via Melanie Klein
on Dec 3, 2012
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Part one of a four part series.

“Yoga is union. Sex is sacred. Feminism is equality.”

When I first heard about the newly launched Yoga, Sex and Feminism, Tantra Vinyasa conference in Dallas this year, I was excited and intrigued. But I’ll admit it, I was also a bit skeptical. Yoga and feminism? Yeah, I got that. Yoga, sex and feminism? I wasn’t so sure these three went together. I wondered if “sex” was thrown in as an attention-grabbing tactic to generate controversy and promote the event.

Setting my inner skeptic (and, my internal cynic) aside, I decided not too judge too harshly without further investigation. Admittedly, I didn’t agree with everything the conference website stated or promoted, but I was impressed by their line-up of speakers and workshops, including “queer and trans- yoga,” as well as their stated commitment to activism in the pursuit of social change.

Vajra Ma

To get a better sense of the conference, it’s mission and it’s impact I decided to interview two women I know and highly respect; Vajra Ma, the conference’s keynote speaker, founder of  Woman Mysteries of the Ancient Future Sisterhood and The Tantric Dance of Feminine Power and Dr. Melody Moore, clinical psychologist, yoga instructor and co-founder of Embody Love Movement.

Melanie: As you both know, I attribute feminism and yoga as the two most influential aspects of my life and have written about their intertwining influence frequently, notably and most recently in my chapter on feminism, yoga and body image in 21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics and Practice. To me, yoga and feminism have the same intention. They’re both about awakening to the reality of what is. They’re about raising consciousness and allowing us to untangle ourselves from oppressive social systems as well as our own mental state. They ultimately lead to social and personal transformation.

Unfortunately, they’re not always easy bedfellows. From my own experience, in many of the personal and online conversations I’ve engaged in, I’ve found that many feminists have dismissed yoga as simple navel gazing and cultural appropriation while many yogis have replicated the larger culture’s disdain for feminism. So I was certainly thrilled that other members of the wider yoga community were connecting these two liberating ideologies and practices.

I want to start this interview series by asking each of you how you came to identify with feminism and label yourselves as such.

Vajra Ma: I came to feminism directly through feminist spirituality, specifically through Dianic Wicca as taught from a feminist understanding by Ruth Barrett. In addition to this, two books sparked my irrevocable feminist awakening, Gyn-Ecology by Mary Daly and The Politics of Women’s Spirituality, an anthology edited by Charlene Spretnak.

During this same period of time I was studying subtle body/internal movement. From the beginning of my feminist awakening, feminism has been deeply linked with the awakening of the subtle body.

Melanie: That’s exciting, Vajra. One of the eras of feminist history that I am particularly interested in and share with my own students in my Women’s Studies classes is feminist spirituality. What about you, Melody?

Dr. Melody Moore

Melody: My initial introduction to feminism did not come until I was 20 years old, a junior at Pepperdine University, when for the first time I met a girl who self-identified as a feminist. At least she was the first girl that ever told me so, and took the time to explain to me what feminism really meant. Prior to our relationship, I had been reared within the confines of the Bible belt by Christian parents and in a church community that upheld the biblical principal that “wives must submit to your husbands,” who were to be the head of the household. Really.

Since that never sat well with me, I was immediately drawn into my new friend’s passion for books, music, and art made by feminists, for feminists. She lent me books and I read voraciously:  Betty Friedan, Toni Morrison, Gloria Steinem, Susan Sontag, Carol Gilligan, Alice Walker and so many more authors that were opening up my heart to a new understanding that I, as a woman, mattered.

I began listening to, almost exclusively, Riot Grrrl Music. I fell in love with Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, and my all time favorite, Sleater Kinney. I attended the first LadyFest, a festival by women for women, in Olympia, Washington. I subscribed to Bust Magazine. I so strongly identified with Feminism that I attempted to start a Feminist Society at Pepperdine, but the proposal was officially denied legibility as a formal club by the University. It was 1998. I’m hopeful that things have changed since then. My identification as a feminist was solidifed as I understood it to mean that women and men were equally valued and had equal potential. I knew that I wanted to be part of a society that supported my input and my contribution just as much as it would were I born male.

My immediate dive into all things Feminist was very much about personal empowerment. As the third child born to my father, I was “supposed” to be a boy. Because he so desperately wanted to share his traditionally male hobbies and pursuits, my dad had been very attached to the idea that his third and last offspring would be male. Although my dad had the best intentions, and loved me dearly, his perceived disappointment in my gender being female was well known to me and deeply felt by me. Without his awareness, it led me to believe that my being a girl was not enough. Not for him, and therefore, not at all.   For this reason, my finding the feminist movement, and my discovery that being female was seen by some to be a gift, rather than a curse, was, in fact, transformational.

Check back for the next installment of this four-part interview series on Monday, December 10.


Ed: Kate B.

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About Melanie Klein

Melanie Klein, M.A., is a writer, speaker and professor of Sociology and Women's Studies at Santa Monica College. She is a contributing author in 21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics and Practice and is featured in Conversations with Modern Yogis. She is the co-editor of Yoga and Body Image: 25 Personal Stories About Beauty, Bravery + Loving Your Body, and co-founder of the Yoga and Body Image Coalition.


32 Responses to “Talking Yoga, Sex & Feminism: An Interview Series with Vajra Ma & Dr. Melody Moore.”

  1. Samina A says:

    I agree with your first thoughts that they used sex as an attention grabber as most people do. I understand now why yoga and feminism have the same intention and really have found a new respect for yoga and a different eye for things like that. After reading communion and many of your articles on feminism, i have found a new eye for seeing things. It is about raisins consciousness because it was by chance that I took this class and now nearing the end am so happy that i did. Just like Dr. Moore mentions, it was by chance that that one girl referred to herself as a feminist and thats how Dr. Moore got into it. Not many people know how to self love and self respect and so they are just bound to end up as the women who must sit quietly and serve her husband, which doesn't sit well with me either. I am so thankful that I am in a time where i have the opportunity to be educated on such things and to have the chance to make a name for myself and have the level of respect a man would get.

  2. NatashaN says:

    I did not notice the connection between yoga and Feminism before reading this article. After reading it, I agree that they are similar because they both serve as a reality check. They also make people aware and free themselves from oppressive social systems. They both also ultimately lead to transformation of oneself, in a positive manner. When putting the word "sex" in the title of an article, I agree that it can be an attention grabber, however, in this case, that was not its intention. This article, among with many other articles posted have made me aware of the benefits of yoga and has opened my eyes to the similarities between yoga and Feminism.

  3. Nathan R says:

    I never thought of Yoga as a way to release ourselves from oppressive social systems. Feminism’s purpose is clearly stated out to which I understand, but I never previously thought of Yoga as a way to free one’s self from not only our physical surroundings that chain us so, but also our mental chains of inaction. I find it interesting how Melody first became introduced to feminism at Pepperdine University. My oldest sister studies at Pepperdine University for Law School and ironically enough, I introduced her to feminism due. While she may not have had the enthusiasm Melody had in which she became a full-fledged activist, she still found it very easy to relate to feminism. One reason why is because like Melody, my oldest sister and I come from a very traditional family and since I was the only boy, my father wanted her to be a male as well. However, when my father’s dreams were ultimately dashed, he made due and I look forward to sharing feminist and yoga ideologies with not only my family, but with my friends as well

  4. Daniel S. says:

    Reading this really sparked in idea in my head in which there are quite an amount of people who are not really exposed to the idea of feminism as these people have a thirst for equality but don't know how to form that thirst in to a constructive manner due to the lack of publicity feminism gets well that positive publicity that is disregarding all the famous stereo types. The respect I have gained for yoga is shocking as I believed before it was a form of health exercise which is great for stretching as well I know realize it is much more than on a more less physical manner as it aids the mind in meditation and this article has encouraged me to try out yoga and prescribe to ant friends I have with the long list of issues it seems to be able to be very helpful in.

  5. Mita S. says:

    At first I thought it was kind of odd seeing the words "sex", "yoga" and "feminism" in an article together but after reading this, I kind of see the relationships between those topics. Well yoga and feminism really correlate together well because both serve a purpose to kind of find yourself and discover yourself but in a positive way. The article states that "feminism has been deeply linked with the awakening of the subtle body" I've actually never really seen how that connected with yoga or feminism. I always thought yoga to be spiritual and a feminist to be really outspoken and obnoxious to show and teach other people about their views. But after reading other previous articles about yoga and after being in a Women's Studies class I realized I was very wrong about both of them. Sure feminist are loud and opinionated, but then again it's also a big stereotype against them. And yoga is spiritual but it's also about learning about your strengths, whether it's inner or outer strength and it relates to feminism because my Women's Studies class helped me find strength and beauty. And taught me to be confident and complete.

  6. Sofia F says:

    What an interesting combination of topics and speakers. I can see how feminism and yoga could be contradictory endeavors, at least to some yogis. I think feminism and yoga share a spiritual window into our lives, showing us – perhaps – a brighter interpretation of our bodies and our lives. To some extent, I suppose all of our lives were shaped in part by our parents or whoever raised us. I have friends whose father’s treated them like boys when we were kids. I don’t think any of it was ill-intentioned. The bottom line is, I think, that the more we study women’s issues, the more voices and opinions we share, the closer we will come to true equality. The fact that many of us were raised to avoid discussions of sex and femininity leads me to welcome that existence of conferences addressing those and other matters of importance to women.

  7. Danny S says:

    Well i also think that yoga is a way to release ourselves from the oppressive and social systems. And the idea of Feminism is clearly stated that its a movement to bring equality to women and men in our society. But I never saw Yoga as a way to free one’s self from our physical surroundings. Which had all made sense to me when i thought about the relationships between those topics. And how yoga and feminism really correlate together. Because both serve a purpose to find yourself and discover yourself in a positive way. And also found the topic of sex related to this this article and how it mixes in with the topic. Because it is also a form spiritualuality and relates to yoga and feminism and how it oppresses us. And in fact made clear sense on how it related and mixed in with yoga and feminisim.

  8. Angella F says:

    After reading this article, I clearly see the connection between yoga and feminism. Feminism brings equality not only to women but also to men in society. It brings peace. In a similar manner, yoga brings equality to the body and makes the mind and environment peaceful. Through yoga a woman will find a way to discover themselves in a positive way and be able to relate that positive thinking to their relationships with others in society. Feminism is a way for a woman to find herself and to be able to be herself in society without being oppressed or judged.

  9. milab says:

    Thank you for sharing this article with me. I am grateful to learn how feminism and the “awakening” comes to each woman at a different time in her life, some in early years, others later. This article provides such valuable “notes” of names and tittles of key people in the history of feminism, along with music, film and books to read in the future. If one was to find this article in a 100 years, they would be able to see a clear timeline in history. I am thrilled to know that people, mostly women, see younger or of the same age group women and open up a world in understanding of why women yearn for love, why we seek approval, why we constantly transform ourselves and morph into whatever may make another happy. Through yoga, comes a similar awakening and appreciation for oneself. This encourages me to get back into practice.

  10. mbogdan says:

    Thank you for sharing this article with me. I am grateful to learn how feminism and the "awakening" comes to each woman at a different time in her life, some in early years, others later. This article provides such valuable "notes" of names and tittles of key people in the history of feminism, along with music, film and books to read in the future. If one was to find this article in a 100 years, they would be able to see a clear timeline in history. I am thrilled to know that people, mostly women, see younger or of the same age group women and open up a world in understanding of why women yearn for love, why we seek approval, why we constantly transform ourselves and morph into whatever may make another happy. Through yoga, comes a similar awakening and appreciation for oneself. This encourages me to get back into practice.

  11. JoseB says:

    I was also impressed of the combination of yoga, sex, and feminism. It ran through my mind that sex would be used as the media tends to use it, to grab attention and to make profit out of it. Reading this article also made me wonder not to judge this too harshly. From previous articles I've read about feminism and yoga, I now look at yoga differently, I used to think of it as a sport. Although, I have never taken a yoga class in my life I now fond of the idea to consider joining this community. I think this system of patriarchy had made me ignorant of what feminism is all about, until I took women studies course. I feel like yoga reinforces a sense of empowerment and liberation that feminism brings about.

  12. Oliver M says:

    This article was very interesting to me, it made me want to join yoga. Yoga seems a great way release negative energy and get in tune within yourself. The "sex" seemed to be a big attention grabber for everyone but once you read the article it isn't for a sexual pleasure. Yoga is a wonderful outlet for a stress reliever and recommend it not only for females for males as well.

  13. Ellie G says:

    I never really thought of feminism and yoga being connected, but after I read this article I can understand a new way of looking at these two concepts. I was introduced to the concept of Feminism by my older sister, who has a Master’s degree with much of her studies being in Gender Studies. She talked to me about the concepts, but I don’t think I really understood them all until taking a Woman’s Studies class. It is up to us with a feminist paradigm to help people understand the inherent value in being feminine. We need to point out when advertising and marketing devalues women, even if it is in the yoga culture. The intention of yoga raising spiritual awareness and consciousness and feminism doing the same is a beautiful marriage.

  14. Dorsa D says:

    The media is constantly selling products. Once something is considered “hot”, they take the opportunity to market it and sell it as a product. Yoga was something that I used to consider pure relaxation, something that I looked forward to, but now the mainstream media took over Yoga and want it is intended for. The media is using yoga to sell their products. We see companies like Lululemon and other brands selling “sexy yoga pants”. I think to myself, “How can yoga pants be sexy?” It is unfortunate that the media is using yoga to sell products. Yoga is all about finding your inner self and enriching your body and body. It is not about wearing skin-tight pants to show off your ass or holding a trendy water bottle in your hand. The media is influencing are everyday decisions and soon the media will start making our decision for us. I honestly just wish the media would leave Yoga untouched, but it is too late for that.

  15. Taylor W says:

    After reading this article, I can see the similarities between yoga and feminism. I used to think of feminism as a power struggle between men and women, and that feminists wanted all of the power. I know understand that's not the case; it's about equality. And when I think of yoga, I think of balancing the body. A balanced society with everyone having balanced bodies would be ideal. It's a great comparison.

  16. NedaM says:

    I never really sought to see the connection and relationship that feminism and yoga had with one another until after reading this article. Feminism and yoga are all about finding equality whether its for the masses or for yourself. Feminism is about finding equilibrium with both men and females in the world and yoga you learn to find the equilibrium within yourself. Everyone should try out yoga and also be a feminist!

  17. Saman M. says:

    I agree with the statement that yoga and feminism get people in touch with reality and it raises consciousness.Feminism helps people see how women deserve equality and that they shouldnt be oppressed.As a result they wont be ignorant about the reality of how some women go through sexism.Yoga helps people get in touch with their emotions and their body to help tthem build confidence.It helps them to not be delusional thinking they have body dysmorphia when they look good just the way they are.Just like many exercises,yoga puts you in a better mental and physical state,but it also helps you realize how even though you may go through some problems in your life,the reality is you're a human being with a specific purpose in this world and that you have alot of potential.

  18. Alexander K. says:

    I find it interesting how much yoga has to offer to a person's physique and mentaility. I feel like it not only opens the pores and veins of a human body, but also the nerves that circulate around the brain. Although men are very concrete about their mentality and structure of body, I believe that yoga would play a better benefit for women instead of men. Women are always in pursuit of discovering and experiencing new things. By performing yoga exercises, many women have the opportunity to open their mind and percieve their surroundings through a new perspective. Their experiences, what they discover, everything they do, are all components to help them find solutions to the daily struggles that they face everyday. If more women who face the problems of relationship issues, drug abuse, or addicted to alchohol do yoga then maybe they wouldn't need to go to therapy, rehabilition insitutions, nor alchol anonymous meetings. After reading many articles of Yoga, I found that it can be a solution to help a person find the answer to the problems that are bestowed upon them.

  19. SydneyO says:

    “Yoga is union, sex is sacred, feminism is equality.” I love this quote. I pondered why yoga would be related so much to feminism and sex but it makes sense now. I would like to relate it to the ideas behind Communion. It is a way to bind all 3 of these ideas together. In Communion, the reader is taught that women can only love once they love themselves, their physical and emotional self. Once they have this self-love, the can love another. This feminist thought is absolutely right, and a way to accomplish it is through yoga. It is focusing on your body and loving your body. Once this is fully accomplished, the sacred part of sex will be there- with the newly found love for yourself.

    I can relate to how Dr Melony Moore found feminism. I have always been for equality, whether relating to race, religion, sex, etc., but it wasn’t until this Women’s Studies class that I realized what kind of an impact society is making on our gender. It is so important to bring equality into all parts of our life. With my new exposure, I consider myself a feminist.

  20. CourtyanaF says:

    I agree! I can understand yogo and feminism coexisting with eachother but definitely not sex. I think it’s cool to see dr. Melony talkin about figures like Betty freidan and listening to riot girl music. It brings me back to everything I learned this semester in women’s studies. This figures along with many more, taught me about my history as a women. I did not know until women’s studies that we had so many powerful women who made a difference. Feminism is something that should live in all women. Unity is desperately needed, especially in this country. Women and men need to come together and fix the issues we go through as women.

  21. BrittanyP says:

    I never realized the relationship between feminism and yoga until having read this article. The interesting thing about both is that you are oblivious of it until you are introduced to it.You realize there is a lot that you have been missing out on and a lot that needs to be altered. I can relate to the second woman being interviewed, Melody. I am almost twenty and was just exposed to feminism in my women studies class. It really shocks me how even to this day women are being mistreated and disrespected. I firmly believe anything a man could do a woman could do just as well if not better. Gender should never classify one's abilities.

  22. Lucy M says:

    Before I never made the connection that yoga and feminism go together, but now I can see that they both open your mind and let you step away from this social system and let you explore your thoughts. Im still interested to know how sex comes into it because usually sex is being dominant and not equal. It would be very cool to see maybe how sex can be more than that through feminism and yoga intertwined. Its also nice to hear about how these woman came to call themselves feminists and like Melody I was suppose to be a boy and can relate to the feelings of not being enough, and thats why this class is so eye opening because it question why am I not enough? It makes you realize that you do matter and how oppression happens everyday, everywhere and needs to be changed.

  23. InokeT says:

    To tell you the truth, I think personally yogo is sex!! That’s how they grab your attention. But I know why yogo and feminism go hand in hand, it’s the person itself looks and think what yogo and feminism is about. We just have to respect each other and just keep it pushing.

  24. Tasnim D says:

    I agree with the statement about yoga and feminism “They’re about raising consciousness and allowing us to untangle ourselves from oppressive social systems as well as our own mental state, they ultimately lead to social and personal transformation.” As I was first introduced to feminism in my Women Studies class though I have heard about feminism in other class such a Sociology I had never been considered about feminism until recently when I figured out that it is important part of our society we need to be questioning the patriarchal societies norms about woman and fight for equality. It is unbelievable that we can get gay rights to pass in several states yet women still till this day don’t get equal pay .

  25. Kasaun A says:

    I honestly find it interesting that you can link yoga and feminism together. It crazy how they both are about the same aspects raising consciousness, and releasing people from oppressive social systems. I believe sex is a false ideology and can be very deceiving on being the greatest aspect of life and very fulfilling, when you can easily do yoga, or even find self love for your self and purpose in life and feel 20x times better.

  26. StephanieR. says:

    Definitely interesting to see how two important people to the conference got their start in feminism. One through spirituality and the other through a friend. One thing that I noticed was that Dr. Moore's introduction is something I've yet to see. I have never been introduced to a peer and have them out right say that they are a feminist. Even among my friends, it is just assumed and no one has committed to saying it aloud.

  27. Michelle G says:

    I love that Melody mentioned that she hadn't really known there was another way until she was introduced to feminism in college. I have witnessed it a lot since I started college, the transition that occurs within people. College is a lot more diverse than high school, especially mine, and I've seen many people kind of enter a culture shock when they first enter college. I have personally discovered many new things upon entering college, such as feminism from my women's studies class.

  28. Shahriar M. says:

    After reading this I can definitely tell how yoga and feminism can be related to one another. They both allow women to come into contact with reality and teach them to accept themselves for the people that they are. Both yoga and feminism help ease your mind and teach you that whatever you have is a gift, not a curse. This is making me want to do yoga!

  29. OliviaW says:

    It is annoying to see that sex is thrown out there as an attention grabber. I feel very bombarded with all the sex/sexual messages out there. Your article but I wished you explained what conference said about sex. This women's studies class was a class I took by chance. I knew nothing about women's studies and wanted to see what it was all about. I am so thankful I did! Yoga has been a big part of my life in the last year and now with the combination of feminism in my life I feel much more empowered.

  30. […] part one of the series, Vajra Ma and Dr. Melody Moore talk about coming to identify as […]

  31. […] part one of the series, Vajra Ma and Dr. Melody Moore talk about coming to identify as feminists. In part […]

  32. […] Talking Yoga, Sex & Feminism: An Interview Series with Vajra Ma & Dr. Melody Moore. […]