Slavic Way: Bereginya, the Slavic Gymnastics for Women.

Slavic gymnastics for women, also known as "the witches' gymnastics", is an old system of simple exercises that used to be passed down from mother to daughter in eastern Slavic countries for generations. It was always more of a family thing rather than a popular discipline, until over a decade ago, when a group of people decided to research it and put all the pieces together to create a system of exercises that is getting more and more recognition amongst Slavic women today. There are a few schools of Slavic gymnastics to choose from, all of them ultimately sharing the same core.

This system of exercise consists of 27 dynamic poses in total, divided into three Worlds of Slavic mythology, 9 poses each - The Upper World (Prawia), The Middle World (Jawia), The Lower World (Nawia). Each of the poses represents a trait, virtue or an aspect of life, has its own symbol/sigil, as well as other correspondences (affirmations, spells, purpose). From all 27 poses, you receive a set of 7 personal exercises, calculated based on your date and location of birth. A personal set consists of 6 basic poses (2 from each of the three Worlds) + one main pose that represents your life's purpose or mission.


My personal set of 7 poses


The symbols you see on each of the cards above come mostly from traditional Slavic embroidery. Slavs used to embroider symbols like these onto their clothing and other textiles for various magical purposes - protection, strength, harmony, good health etc. They can be also used as sigils in magical workings and as talismans.

In August last year I took a course in Strength Bereginya (Moc Beregini), one of the schools of Slavic gymnastics for women. And yes, it did change my life! I met a bunch of amazing, open-minded women in an atmosphere that could only be compared to what you experience in the circle - it was hugely transformative for me and opened something up inside me. But, what's more important, Bereginya made me feel at home with my personal practice - it filled the little empty spots, mended everything together, enriched my practice with a sense of flow and me being the source of that flow.

What does Bereginya feel like? It could be compared to yoga, in a way. It is completely different because it's a feminine counterpart to the masculine yoga. Bereginya focuses on feminine body parts - breasts, hips, abdomen, thighs - as well as organs such as thymus, thyroid, lymph nodes; and is suitable for pregnant and menstruating women. In fact, it soothes menstrual pain and helps with various feminine ailments. It also feels much more personal.

Each daily practice is a ritual, literally. You have your set of cards that depict each of the exercises, their names, sigils, spells; you have your special blanket that you use just for this practice. And you always practice braless, preferably in a comfortable flared long skirt or at least comfy loose pants.

Once you've prepared yourself and your space for the practice, you light a candle and set your intention - each time you do Bereginya, you do it for something, be it a goal, a dream, better health, flourishing relationship. Then you ground yourself by connecting with Mother Earth in a method of choice. Once you're calm and grounded then you can begin your practice which takes roughly around 15 minutes. At the end, you lay down or curl up and relax, saying words of gratitude to Mother Earth for hearing your intentions and nurturing you. Lastly, blow out the candle and you're done.

For me Bereginya is also a gateway to other activities. By the time I'd normally blow out the candle, I'm in such an otherworldly state of mind that it would be a crime not to use it for drumming, meditation, mirror play, pulling some cards for myself etc. Incorporating Bereginya as an opening for more elaborate ritual works has given me a new sense of structure and consistency in my spiritual practice as a whole.

Strength Bereginya is often incorporated into women's circles and group rituals such as Mokosh Friday or Fire Spiral ritual.

Fire Spiral Ritual from Ksenia Siłajewa,
the founder of Strength Bereginya school

As of now, the only downside of Slavic gymnastics for women is their availability or rather the lack of it. It is quite well-established in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus (around 10 years) but it only reached Poland in 2016. Most of the written sources available are in Russian/Ukrainian, as are most of the courses, especially advanced and teacher grade. There's only one teacher of Strength Bereginya school in Poland, and a couple other teachers of alternative schools. The secrets of this practice are strongly protected to ensure new enthusiasts getting their training from legitimate sources only.


Slavic dance Kvitka
Incorporating elements of Bereginya into dance


We might have to wait another decade for this practice to become more internationally available. But when it does, I strongly recommend it to every woman with Slavic roots - it will complete you and help with establishing a stronger connection with your roots and your femininity.

4 comments:

  1. That sounds like such a lovely practice. I really like how personalized it is. Very cool. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Glad you found it interesting! :)

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  2. Wundervoll! Ich bin Deutsche und gehe einen weiblichen spirituellen Weg. Ich habe ein großes verlangen diese Bewegungen der Urmutter zu erlernen und später an meine Tochter weiterzugeben. Danke für das Teilen.)O(

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    1. I'm glad you liked the article, Karin!

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