It is International Women’s Day.
It’s a day to celebrate being a woman.
Today my Facebook is plastered with inspirational quotes from powerful woman and also sobering statistics that one in every three woman will be sexually abused in her lifetime.
As I meet my yoga mat, I ask myself what does it mean to be a woman.
Today it means that I allow my yoga to meet me exactly where I am in the moment. Instead of trying to control my yoga practice, I become open to tuning in and listening to my body and letting my yoga practice be more intuitive and spontaneous. Trusting that the poses I find myself in are exactly the ones I need.
When my daughter, who is now 16, was a preteen, I remember looking over at her while I was driving her somewhere and her presence gave me reason to pause. I couldn’t stop looking at her, taking her in. If I could have eaten her up in that moment, I would have. Sometimes I let myself get too busy to see those that matter the most. In that instant, for reasons that I cannot quiet identify, I looked over and saw her. I mean I truly saw who she was: her loveliness and her absolute beauty that came from somewhere vast and open. I saw her vulnerability and I felt her strength. She was and is magnificent.
In that moment I knew it would not be long before her absolute trust in me will be gone for a while. Not just me, but maybe even the world in general.
In my opinion, our daughters (and us when we were this age) get far too many messages that they are just a body, a Barbie doll to be clothed, a sex object. All of these messages begin to register right around the time our daughters are getting their periods. This is the time that many girls, for the first time, experience depression and hopelessness, anger and self-esteem issues. Eating disorders, body image disorders, and God knows what else. They are on the cusp of new and raw emotions coupled with the realization that society’s values are askew and, unless they are sexually powerful, our daughters are rendered powerless.
I wanted to hold my daughter steady. I wanted her to know the truth of who she is-talented, kind, courageous, beautiful, and wise. Messages will bombard her telling her otherwise. I want to keep her safe from the world and its oppression of women. But I know I can’t keep her safely in my sight at all times. I am going to have to let her go. She is going to need to individuate and learn how to be in this world without me holding her hand or suffocating her.
A wise female friend put it to me like this
“As mothers, we need to be like a swimming pool. We need to have strong sides so that when our daughters need to kick off of us, we are there to support that.”
The message comes to me: boundaries matter.
A strong container matters as well. As a mother, my sense of self, body image, and my own identity needs to be strong. But I also feel it is important to be soft and yielding as well. Isn’t this the feminine aspect that is so much needed to balance out our patriarchal society?
Trust in the qualities of patience, love, and tenderness.
This brings me back to my practice of letting the yoga meet me exactly where I am in the moment. I need a bit of folding inward and letting my love flow outward. I am a rag doll, forward fold, an exhale.
I am attracted to the poses that reveal the surrender.
My daughter is now 16 and I have had to surrender to the emergence of her as a young woman with more autonomy in this oftentimes harsh and careless world but it will not be without offering my own self as the container to which she can return to for both strength and comfort. I ask that nothing keeps me away from that.
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Ed: Kate Bartolotta