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Sudha Carolyn Lundeen, age 57
A former oncology nurse and present-day senior faculty member at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, Sudha teaches yoga-based healthy living programs and Kripalu’s 200 and 500 hour Yoga Teacher Trainings. A perpetual student, she has studied Ayurveda and yoga therapy in India and in June of 2006, graduated from Kripalu’s 18- month Ayurveda practitioner training program.
Sudha has produced the Kripalu Gentle Yoga DVD.
Is women's yoga different than men's yoga?
I don’t believe that there isa difference between the two. A cobra pose is a cobra pose is a cobra pose. But of course, women do have unique needs that inform their practice- like when they bleed during the month or are pregnant, have a baby and are nursing.
Ideally, each of us would develop a practice that shifted according to our stage of life, physical health and emotional state. It’s the approach, the attitude, and the degree of awareness that we bring to the mat that makes the most difference. We need to regularly check in and ask, “What am I practicing in this moment? Is it serving to bring more joy, light, peace, kindness and balance into my life?”
In a culture that seems to be increasingly drawn towards acts of aggression and greed, I find it particularly important to have a place and time where there is encouragement to go within and drop the need to be “more” or “different” - to open to the interconnectedness of all things. I feel it is especially critical at this time to find ways to be fed at the soul level. Being part of a yoga community can serve to support that need.
What is your current approach to practice?
What resonates most deeply in me is a slower and meditative approach to asana. Slowing down the pace helps me quiet my mind and focus on the subtleties and sensuality of each movement. As I continue to practice with a quiet mind and attentiveness to my body’s sensations and breath, my sadhana becomes a meditation in motion.
In this state I access a more intuitive knowing of how to move. The willful aspect of alignment softens. There is a heightened sense of connection to my body and breath, a gentle surrendering to the directives of prana. Creative sequencing and variations of poses emerge.
When I am finished, moving into seated meditation feels seamless and I am more apt to carry the state of mindfulness into my day. I am more likely to remember to breathe and relax if someone cuts me off at a stoplight, to pause before I eat and give thanks for the food, to walk away from the computer that is calling me to answer emails after 10 pm….
How has your practice changed over time to embrace your different stages of womanhood?
It has evolved over the years. For a long time, I practiced two to three hours every morning and again later in the day. My practice was more vigorous.
These days it’s gentler, subtler and more fluid. Meditation is taking a stronger hold, and restorative postures are nectar after a particularly long or challenging teaching day.
My practice on the mat continues to extend into my life beyond the mat. It becomes more about the practice of being present and showing up in the moment. It’s about developing greater compassion and clarity.
What practices do you recommend to support women?
The practices that best support a woman’s well being are those that skillfully match the woman’s particular state of physical, mental and emotional health.
I don’t think just list of poses to practice here would be all that useful, so I recommend the following resources and encourage the readers to find a teacher whom they trust and take some classes:
- The Woman’s Book of Yoga and Health, Linda Sparrowe and Patricia Walden, (Shambhala, 2002)
- A Woman’s Best Medicine: Health, Happiness and Long life through Ayurveda, Nancy Longdorf V. Butler and M Brown, (Tarcher, 1995)
- Yoga for Your Type, D.Frawley and S. S.Kozak, (Lotus Press, 2001)
- The Viniyoga of Yoga, T.K.V. Desichachar, (Quanda Press Limited, 2001)
What do women most need to know right now?
Women need to remember that what they practice, they strengthen.
I pray that we come to honor our own true natures and changing bodies’ needs and refuse to be bullied into thinking we must conform to the current “flavor of the month” or to a teacher whose directives feel “off," disrespectful or aggressive.
Yoga practices offer a host of powerful tools that when cultivated will stand you in good steed for a lifetime. It’s never too late to start. Start now if you haven’t. Come back if you’ve strayed. The potential benefits gained by studying and practicing yoga are limitless. It is possible to have a practice even with a busy life… some creativity, flexibility and guidance will show you how.