Accommodating Women and the Rise of the Feminine

Key information

7:00 PM to 8:15 PM
Virtual Event

About this event

Agi Wittich, Ella Poutiainen

You can watch the recording of this event on YouTube .

Agi Wittich: Accommodating Women and Reinforcing Womanhood
Geeta Iyengar (1944-2018), as the eldest daughter of the founder of IY, BKS Iyengar (1918-2014), developed, systematized, and later spread women-oriented Iyengar Yoga (WOIY) worldwide for seven decades. While unidentified as a separate practicing unit, today, women-oriented IY is prevalent in IY classes globally and is a key feature of IY. This talk focuses on women-oriented IY's intention to answer to the corporal "needs" of females and the socially inflicted and situated "needs." While the former includes accommodating the corporal practices to females' changing physiology during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, the latter includes providing a safe space to practice yoga and encouraging a sense of belonging. However, while intending to heal and empower women, these practices reinforce gender normative roles, such as prenatal ideology, biology-as-destiny, and gender binary.

Ella Poutiainen: The rise of the feminine – Questioning and reproducing gender in feminine spirituality
This talk explores the increasing trend in holistic spirituality to develop “feminine” approaches to varying traditions of spiritual practice. Holistic spirituality is increasingly targeted to women and adapted to ”women’s needs”, but also focused on healing and cultivation of the feminine as an inner quality and a spiritual energy. The aim is to provide a feminine approach not only to dominating religio-spiritual traditions that are considered masculine, but to the patriarchal society at large, empowering women and creating a more balanced society. From the perspective of feminist theory, Ella considers how the feminine spirituality both strikes as problematic in its essentialism and binary understandings of gender, but also reworks traditional gender roles and even promotes gender-fluidity.

Speaker Biography

Agi Wittich wrote her PhD dissertation on the subject of women-oriented Iyengar Yoga practices, under the supervision of Dr. Yohanan Grinshpon and Dr. Ronit Ricci, at the Department of Comparative Religions, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. Wittich also leads an academic interdisciplinary study group entitled "Femininity in the Religious Sphere" at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. When she is not researching yoga, she is practicing and teaching Iyengar Yoga in Jerusalem, Israel.

Ella Poutiainen is a doctoral candidate in Gender Studies at the University of Turku. In her MA thesis she examined the ways in which contemporary yoga is gendered and focused on feminine yoga as an embodied method of empowerment. Her doctoral research project is an ethnographic study exploring the themes of women's empowerment and societal change in the field of holistic spirituality. Her research interests include feminist new materialisms and affect theory as well as dance and movement studies.