By Durgadas, Ved Kovid,
R.A.P, A.Y.T, AMKPT
This may come as quite a surprise to many, but yoga and Ayurveda were traditionally under the domain of male practitioners and teachers. I have noted elsewhere the case for this, which wasn’t anything to do with the charges against men by today’s neo-liberal groups as feminists, who superimpose their Eurocentric Abrahamic biases upon the culture of India.
Ayurveda today has sadly become reduced down to the system of purvakarmas or preliminary therapies to even proper Panchakarma techniques and of them when they are performed, are in their shamana or palliative forms, thus misappropriating the term ‘panchakarma’ and giving an incorrect view of tradition. Imagine if we did this in western medicine, where it became reduced down to the sphere of nursing alone and didn’t involve Doctors, specialists and surgery! Sadly, this is what has occurred with Ayurveda, under the domain of women alone.
In a similar heir, people doing Reiki, Pranic-Healing and such have no knowledge of the greater tradition in which aspects as chakras, their own anatomy and science nor the fact that they reflect psychological states in the Yogic and Ayurvedic traditions. Such people are like a surgeon who wants to operate without first studying anatomy, physiology, pathology or even the use of surgical instruments etc. IT IS DANGEROUS TO SELF-PROCLAIM SUCH THINGS, YET WE SEE IT OFTEN WHEN VAIDIKA TRADITIONS ARE APPROPRIATED BY THE WEST!
Ayurveda looks at men and women in the following model:
Women = Soma (lunar) somatically and agneya (fiery) reproductive system.
Soma is made up of the elements of jala (water) and prithivi (earth). It is gravitational (gurutva) and slow (manda) in nature.
This means that women are more suitable for careers in counselling, nursing, midwifery and sympathising, as is the maternal aspect of the soma.
Men = Tejas (fiery) somatically and saumya (lunar) reproductive system.
Tejas is made up of the elements of jala (water) and agni (fire). It is sukshma (subtle) and tikshna (sharp) in nature.
This means that men are more suitable for direct and more fiery and harsh actions like surgery, advising patients of the truth of their illness for their own good.
This is why men were seen as reflections of Lord Shiva as the atman (Self), being of more subtle aspects relating to fire = consciousness (chidagni) and viveka (discrimination) whereas females were reflections of the physical creation (jagat) and illusory fields (maya), being of the more dense elements. This made men more naturally suited to attaining consciousness, whereas the karma of women to facilitate their husbands (Rishis, yogis) in this process. In saying this, some women did transmutate their energies as some men did and become great yoginis – but these are EXCEPTIONS to the rule rather than THE RULE itself.
The yogic model was one of men reflecting the antarayaga (inner sacrifice, such as of the ego) and esoteric and women reflecting the bahyayaga (outer sacrifice) or the exoteric. The latter precedes the former in yogic lore; we have to transcend the world or manifest and understand it, before we can access the higher self. In all ancient cultures, the male was the self and sky personified (Dyaus), whereas the female counterpart was the world and earth personified (Prithivi).
As per this model, men are not suited as counsellers and caregivers and mothers whereas women are with their lunar side, good for communication.
Yoga subscribed to the same model. While the cult of the Goddess did involve women, this was mutual in the rituals for males and females within the tantrika traditions, however the hatha-yoga facet of this tradition that was based primarily on purifying the body, austerities as brahmacharya (celibacy) and rigorous exercises formed a part of the male-dominated martial-arts system of Gorakshanatha for creating Gurkha warriors to be sent forth and defend India against Islamic attacks at the time. Here, women, like children and the elderly were the protected and not the protectors.
The delicate minds of women and their hormonal cycles and emotional being was also rendered unfit for battle as well, unless (as few did), they overcame these – in the same light as men were not as suited to raising children and being the caring figure and personality due to their more fiery, aggressive and confrontational nature that didn’t make good nurses and caregivers! In addition, the main reason was that yoga and Ayurveda saw babies as having more self-confidence in life and being born strong mentally and physically with mothers that were not exposed to anything harsh (battle, surgery, violent or harsh speech etc.), as such could act upon the subconscious of the mother (even in the future) or when pregnant, could cause issues as miscarriage or deformities in the child and especially compromise their psychological state (as make them born predisposed to anxiety-related and security issues). This came into regulating ahara or intake of both food (anna) and lifestyle impressions (vihara) for the mother or women.
These are the traditional reasons that yoga and Ayurveda were suited for men alone as practitioners and vaidyas. Moreover, the harsh, abrasive and rajasika actions of the shad kriyas of hatha-yoga itself could affect the delicate hormonal system of females, itself being agneya or pitta / fiery in nature and rajasika itself. It was aimed at transforming the male soma complex of their sexuality into a more fiery complex for a higher kshatra-rajas or militant-zeal for war and thus a yogic transmutation inwardly as well.
Some of the stories of the soma-complex that women are born with are also reflected in the tales of Soma / Chandra (the moon) and Shukracharya (Venus) themselves historically, both who had feminine qualities and both also stood for the asura or physical world and matter of materialism or desire (raga, or passion), the biological nature of women, which gives them also more grounding, a heavier more dense (gurutva) nature than men, required for retrospective as opposed to impulsive, brash and aggressive actions of men. This is how the yin compliments the yang. Ayurveda itself works upon this model for healing via the properties of dravyas or substances, especially Ayurvedic nutrition and pharmacology.
The ida nadi in yoga is also the lunar and feminine, derived from the term Ila, the first woman who was the teacher to mankind in the Rigveda and also the celestial muse, often cognate with the goddess Vak (speech). Here, females represent the manifest word and teaching, as through mantra and bhasha (language), whereas men represent the power of the Rishi behind it in the subtle or elemental (akashika) form as akshara or the seed-syllables, the pranic realm. Here also, males represented the oratory form of Vedic knowledge, whereas females represented the physical or written word and teaching.
This shows that females represented the bulk of knowledge as teachers of celestial traditions to children which, as noted, was the toned-down version of the teaching of the Rishis which was often fiery and harsh. It was for the advanced world. This more clearly demonstrates that the role of men and women isn’t about sexist fascism, but about the bipolar energies of the ancient systems of the east, as with yin and yang in China or soma and agni in India and harmonising these in society to avoid disorders socially, or in either gender.