Does it make sense to have a mixed yoga class? Let’s face it, men and women are built differently. Males carry their strength in their upper body with a larger chest, shoulders and arms. Females have a stronger lower body, especially the pelvis and hips for child bearing. The male physique is generally more muscular and solid, the female softer and more flexible. The female also differs because of her monthly cycle and changes occurring during pregnancy.
On an energy level male (yang) is more active, aggressive and strong. However, men can be more rigid and stiff. Focus should be given to asanas that provide more stretching in certain areas, such as hamstrings, legs, and hips, and to opening shoulders to bring more balance with their natural strength. Asanas are best held for at least 40 – 60 seconds for maximum benefit.
Women (yin) are generally weaker in energy and need poses that will strengthen, especially the upper body, as well as stretch. Focus on asanas that benefit arms, pelvic stabilizer muscles and abductors and adductors of the thighs.
Yoga during menstruation and pregnancy
Other natural differences to take into account when practicing yoga are the female monthly cycle and changes taking place during pregnancy. It is always advisable not to practice yoga during the female menstruation period. This is the time to rest and let nature take its course. In particular, inverted poses are not recommended as they oppose the natural downward flow of menstruation. Standing poses may also be too strenuous at this time. However, some asanas, if done gently and slowly, such as Virasana (hero pose), Janu Sirsasana (head to knee pose), Baddha Konasana (bound angle sitting pose) and Upavistha Konasana (open leg forward bend) may relieve the symptoms of an excessive monthly flow.
Yoga asana practice can be helpful in pregnancy for relaxation but also for delivery of the baby. Those poses that stretch and open up pelvic and hip areas are the most beneficial. In general, avoid any asanas that put pressure on the abdomen ( eg cobra and bow poses) after the first trimester. It is advisable to stop all inverted poses during the third trimester. Good asanas to practice are those that bring strength and flexibility to the spine to help carry the extra weight of pregnancy. Upavistha Konasana (open leg forward bend) and Baddha Konasana (bound angle sitting pose) are recommended. Don’t practice yoga for at least one month after giving birth and only do gentle asanas for the next three months.. This is the time to honor your body and allow nature to heal and restore harmony.
By paying attention to the natural differences between the sexes, you will be able to get the most out of your yoga asana practice, whether it be in a unisex class or not.
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