A couple of weeks ago I was away at the Womb wisdom yoga retreat which was held over a weekend at Hawkwood College just outside Stroud. This retreat was led by two women: Uma Dinsmore-Tuli who taught the yoga and meditation, and Alexandra Pope who led the menstruation cycle sessions. I booked to go as I had enjoyed Uma’s pregnancy and post-natal yoga teaching weekend and her approach to yoga that is appropriate for women and I wanted to learn more from her and pick up ideas for myself and for the classes I teach.
I enjoyed all the yoga sessions and during the first class (‘sunset yoga’) we were able to move whilst watching the sun setting which was lovely and set the tone for the rest of the weekend. The fresh fall of snow the night before gave everywhere a very beautiful wintery look.
Both mornings there was optional early meditation in the specially-built wooden meditation chalet in the grounds. We met at 6:30am for a moonlit and crunchy-under-foot short walk to the chalet where we chanted the Gayatri mantra 27 times before meditating in silence. Arriving in darkness and leaving as the morning started was quite special. Especially as we were also in silence from the night before. There was a real stillness in the air, possibly enhanced by the light snow covering. A total of 13 people managed the meditation the first morning (out of 29 of us), but only 4 the second morning!
The days were a mix of discussion and thinking sessions about the menstrual cycle and womb yoga sessions. In one of the womb yoga sessions we did some sequences relating to the ‘four chambers of menstruation’ (separation, surrender, renewal, clarity), the first one of which Uma had adapted from a Native American ritual which is best done in bare feet in contact with the earth. The brave in the group (about 5-7 of us, including me!) did this bare foot in the snow, whilst the others kept their boots on. The next three sequences were done back in the yoga room and my feet felt lovely, after the feeling had returned to them…
There were six yoga sessions in all, including yoga nidra on the first night, and early yoga sessions before breakfast. Some of the sequences we did can be found as downloadable .pdfs on Uma’s website. Her approach encourages a more woman-centric focus to yoga, for example developing sequences that are beneficial for the pelvic region as well as versions of classic asanas which may be better suited for women e.g. a wider stance for tadasana and not applying the ‘tuck your tailbone under’ instruction.
The menstrual awareness work with Alexandra was also interesting. We were introduced to the four main sections of the monthly cycle, the different feelings or characteristics associated with each stage, and as an aside, when it’s a good time to make some raw chocolate which is good for you! Alexandra has a number of resources about menstrual cycle awareness on her website. Mulling over some of the ideas later at home, I also found this website useful, especially for its monthly charting table which provides more context about the monthly changes. The key principle is that once you become more aware of your daily/weekly changes during the month, you can become more aware of regular patterns and either change some elements of your behaviour to ease any negative issues (e.g. being more stressed or angry during particular phases) or even planning your diary/work (if possible) to take advantage of when you’ve got most energy, can cope with more stressful situations or when you want to be more quiet and still.
Uma is running some other womb yoga retreats this year on her own, and a 13-date moon tour, including one day in Cardiff. I may be tempted by one of these! There was a lot to absorb from the weekend and it seems that it’s a growing area of interest – there are many books and websites on your moon cycle, if you want to follow up some of the ideas.