Uma Dinsmore-Tuli has gifted us with the most comprehensive and radical book on women’s sexual health and yoga to date. Yoni Shakti: A Woman’s Guide to Power and Freedom through Yoga and Tantra is 600 pages of feminine-infused ritual and practices, historical reclamations, personal narrative, cultural critique and revelations of the inherent superpowers within all womb bearers. The work itself liberates and exudes shakti, feminine energy and power, all the way down to the beautiful illustrations and sacred geometry found among its pages.
It is with great reverence and gratitude that I write a review of this book. Reading it called forth the song of my soul. Although I have yet to meet Uma in person, it was like having tea with one of my closest sisters—mirroring and affirming the magic of our embodied experiences and what that reveals about the great potential for this planet. I cannot speak to what this book means for me—and culture—without placing myself in this story.
Thirteen years ago I started teaching my very first yoga class, Yoga for Women. Looking back on this now I cannot quite remember how I was led to boldly teach a yoga class specifically for women as a brand new instructor. I was also a new birth doula at the time, however other than minimal exposure to prenatal yoga, I was not taught any specifics about yoga for women’s sexual health through my training. I believe that I just felt in my own body that the yoga classes that were out there did not fully speak to or celebrate my embodied experience as a woman. I was also aware that most yoga practitioners were women and that others must be feeling the same. I suppose I answered my own longing for a safe space to share our experiences as women and explore a more fluid, spontaneous and womb centered approach to yoga asana.
Soon after I started my Yoga for Women class, I had a health scare with precancerous cells on my cervix. This took me on a deep journey of healing. I slowly gathered resources from other yoginis and wellness practitioners and developed a personal practice for my healing. Now, for thirteen years I have researched and studied women’s sexual wellness. During this time my most potent learning has come through my own initiations as a woman and countless initiations that I have been invited to witness and support by other women from childbirth to abortion to assault to menopause to orgasm and many thresholds in between.
For most of my past 13 years in service to women’s sexual wellness and sovereignty it has been like searching in the dark to uncover the multitude of influences affecting women’s health and the pathways available for healing. Inevitably I found myself compelled to understand why there is such a crisis in women’s health and how contemporary western culture got so fucked up around women’s bodies and sexuality. As a science geek, academic and mystic I have poured over volumes of books and traveled many rabbit holes seeking answers to how we landed in this place of suffering and what would liberate us to thriving. What I have learned is that we cannot separate our healing and spiritual practices from our sexuality and furthermore we cannot separate any of this from the psycho-spiritual dimensions that form the larger historical and cultural context that we find ourselves in.
What I most appreciate about Yoni Shakti is the depth and breadth that it addresses holistic women’s sexuality in the context of yoga and tantra as well as within yoga philosophy, history and contemporary western culture. As someone that has been digesting and synthesizing this information both in my body and my mind for many years I express huge respect for the undertaking that Dinsmore-Tuli embarked upon and delivered in a clear, informed and bold way.
In Yoni Shakti Dinsmore-Tuli beckons us back to holy communion. First, she places women back into the historical context of yoga at this juncture where the primary yoga being taught to a student base that is overwhelmingly female comes out of male lineages and philosophies written at a time when women were systematically repressed.
Then she reweaves women’s sexual life cycles as an integrated whole. She reminds us that what we experience during our menstrual cycles will emerge again in our perimenopausal time and that our relationship with our sexual power is no different than our experiences giving birth. A term I love for this is the womb continuum coined by my friend and colleague Samantha Zipporah. Any healing or violation or experience that we have during any of the phases of our sexual cycles is in relationship and affect to all of the phases on that continuum.
Dinsmore-Tuli also remembers the alignment of women’s sexual cycles with the elemental forces of the earth and the siddhis, supernatural powers, that are available to every woman that consciously aligns with the power of these elemental forces within. Finally, she reunites sex and spirit in the most expansive way honoring the womb as the cosmic portal of creation that it is and sexuality as a ritual offering to the divine cycle of life.
If you are not a total geek for historical and cultural analysis like I am, Yoni Shakti is chock full of yoga practices and practical guidelines for women in every stage of life. I appreciate that Dinsmore-Tuli incorporated modern information on anatomy and biomechanics along with yoga roots including special attention to pelvic health. There is even a chart for womb-friendly yoga to honor our many phases as women.
I hope that Yoni Shakti becomes required reading for every yoga teacher training. I can see many people and disciplines benefitting from this work including those that practice yoga or are on a womb healing journey, those that work in medicine, psychotherapy and the healing arts as well as sex educators.
In final thoughts, I believe that we are amidst a great sea change on the planet, with an emergence of the wild feminine and deep erotic that is ushering in more creativity, freedom, thriving, intimate connection and peace. This awakening is rising through the collective and it is my dream that this book is a symbol of this work moving out of the dark corners and small circles of women on the fringe and into the larger culture. It’s time to transmute the pervasive silent suffering of women into the powerful pulse of life force inherent in our natural cycles. Read this book and have these conversations with everyone you know.
Thank you Uma for answering your soul’s call, blazing this path and for the legacy that it is leaving. In love and appreciation from my cunt to yours.
Uma Dinsmore-Tulli is currently on a North American tour. Learn more about Yoni Shakti, A Woman’s Guide to Power and Freedom through Yoga, here.
Buy the book here.