Asked to write about Uma Dinsmore-Tuli's Yoga Nidra and Womb Yoga workshops this weekend at Yoga Tree, I sort of had trouble deciding which to choose. So I didn't. Perhaps it's because I love the lady so freaking much, with her passion for all things feminine, her deep and well-researched knowledge of Yogic tradition, and her strong gift for teaching, but honestly, I'd recommend doing anything with Uma. Even a trip to the laundromat with this goddess would probably prove worthwhile. But I'll keep it to yoga.
Friday began with the Total Yoga Nidra Teacher and Facilitator Training, the pre-requisite to her full training, for which you can find info here, at the beautiful Yoga Tree Potrero Hill space. We received an impressive little handbook, concise to a tee, introducing us to the various schools of Yoga Nidra. Then, in accordance with her very useful comparison charts, we jumped straight into practice so we'd be able to experience differences and similarities between each practice, for ourselves. Over the course of the day, we were led through five 20-minute practices of Yoga Nidra, which felt somewhat like some much-needed Savasana time; from Swami Satyananda's technically prescriptive practice, through the Himalayan Institute's, and all the way to the more introspective Integrative Restoration model. What stood out was not just the inherent uniqueness of each practice, but how the time seemed to flow with it. With some of the more dreamy meditations we were led through, I could've sworn I'd been asleep for hours. Of course, we learned the history of the practice, some philosophy, basic brainwave science, the intricacies required for leading such a meditation, but this is not what stood out for me about our day. No, among all of the rich information Uma Dinsmore-Tuli fed us that day, what was so overwhelmingly refreshing about it was the inclusivity. Because before us was not a teacher who wanted us to follow her rules. In fact she very distinctly specified the reason she'd presented such a diverse blend of material was that she wanted us to follow our own. Which makes sense, given that connecting with inner wisdom is sort of the whole point of Yoga.
And now on to the weekend, with her Womb Yoga teachings, where a large group of women gathered to learn how to teach to women. Did you know that women's elbows bend differently than a man's? That a woman should NOT be advised to tuck her tailbone under due to the stress it causes to her pelvic floor? Hopefully. But if not, Uma's teachings are well worth your time because Hatha Yoga, with all its rich and valuable teachings, was designed by and for men. That's just 50% - ish of the population, and, as you may or may not have noticed, we're sorely missing the other piece. Now, this doesn't mean that modern Yoga practices have nothing to offer women, because they absolutely do, but having an inclusive understanding of the subtle differences in our bodies is helpful to say the least. While a man's hips were not necessarily made to swivel in a sumptuous figure-8, I know mine certainly were. And because you either move it or lose it, I'd like my movement practices to include these please. And what about learning how to tailor our practice around our menstrual, menopausal, and natal cycles? Kind of important too, since we women fluctuate constantly with the moon.
Not only did Uma provide case studies and healing tools for the Yoga teachers, doulas, and other professionals in the room, but she provided useful tips on how to properly advise clients so they can avoid many of the common women's issues she's come across in her decades of teaching. For instance, a woman of any age should work towards optimum mobility balanced with nourishing stability and strength in her pelvis, lest any unhealed issues from her youth, from giving birth, from life, come back to bite her in the butt (literally!) at the onset of menopause. We learned the power of menstruation, of our sexuality, how to honor our ever-changing bodies through breath, meditation, and movement, according to the traditions in Ayurveda with much attention paid to female-positive language from the pre-Hatha Tantric tradition. We learned anatomy, got to check out a 3-dimensional model of a lady pelvis, which, let me tell you, looks A LOT different from its 2-d version, and best, the whole thing was fun. Because, is there anything better than getting together as a group of ladies? Maybe laundry with Uma, but I think it's a clean toss-up.
To see what workshops are coming up next at Yoga Tree, you can visit yogatree.com.
And if you are in the Boulder/Denver area this weekend, you can find out more information about Uma's workshops here.
Photo: Leticia Valverdes
Post written for SFYogaMag.com