If you've been experiencing loneliness in your life, then a women's circle could be the answer. For centuries, female connection has been built in this way - with a shared celebration of the highs, commemoration of the lows and a general strengthening of the bonds of sisterhood through conversation and shared experience. However, in modern times - when society has become more fragmented and hectic - many have difficulties to finding female kinship.
Have you spent years focusing on family and work? Are you at a point in time where you'd like to build up your support network with like-minded women? Then a women's circle could be an ideal place to forge these new connections with those from all walks of life. What's more, increasing numbers are choosing to do so - according to the online groups platform MeetUp.com, there are currently over 200 worldwide with a combined membership of more than 30,000.
So, in amongst learning how to get fit and understanding how to relax your mind, make joining a women's circle part of your weekly self-care routine. We'll explain exactly what one is, as well as the research on the positives of these female-focused spaces, and introduce you to those leading this fantastic opportunity for shared growth...
What is a women’s circle?
A women’s circle is essentially a safe space where women of all ages can come together to share their life stories, express their emotions, set positive intentions and harness the collective power of a group of like-minded individuals who are attuned to their need for connection and, in some cases, healing. They also provide an opportunity to embrace the ‘divine feminine’ – not so much relating to gender as it is, but to an innate pool of wisdom and spiritual energy.
Activities during women's circles vary greatly, and are usually not connected to any religion or movement. They can include everything from guided meditation (a real-life version of those you enjoy using the best meditation apps) to sound healing, yoga and rituals to observe the cycles of the moon. All ideal if you're trying to work out how to reduce stress in your life.
Research is starting to shed light on the possible positives of women's circles. According to recent data from the Office for National Statistics, a higher percentage of women than men report feelings of loneliness. Meanwhile, a previous study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health highlighted that having a wide circle of friends was crucial for midlife wellbeing in women - and, unlike men, this played an even more central role than having a network of relatives on hand for support. What's more, findings from Ghent University revealed that women's circles specifically "offer a growing number of women from diverse backgrounds a space that they find lacking" in the rest of society to "‘re/connect’ with each other, their bodies, their inner selves".
Who leads women’s circles?
Women’s circles are generally run by a variety of spiritual practitioners who have experience of one or more healing modalities such as shamanism, which is an ancient healing tradition that connects spirituality and nature.
Meet two of them here, as well as two women who have benefited from joining such groups:
Fiona Reilly, 44, works as a counselor, postnatal doula and reflexologist. She lives in Edinburgh and has been facilitating women’s circles for a number of years
I facilitate women’s circles and retreats and am passionate about preparing and eating healthy plant-based food. I also worked as a facilitator and retreat host with a spiritual community for over 10 years.
Women’s circles vary hugely and what works for one person doesn’t work for another. Some people like big groups, others like small gatherings, informality resonates with some, while others like structure. I celebrate the wide variety of formats in relation to women’s circles and would encourage anyone who feels drawn to participate in one to find one that is a good match for her needs.
Originally I got interested in women’s groups as my partner at that time was part of a regular men’s group and I could see the value it had in his life. I knew I wanted to establish my own women’s group, but it took a few months for the right people to ‘show up’. I was clear that I wanted it to be a closed group of four to six people - so that we could build up trust and intimacy - and that I didn’t want to lead it. It was a place where I felt I could equally give and receive. We would gather together once a fortnight and share together. We would begin with a few minutes of silence to allow ourselves to settle into the space and then usually have a check-in.
Each of us would have the opportunity to share where we are at in our lives; sometimes we would have something specific to focus on, activity or theme to explore. We sang a lot, and the group found its own rhythm. We altered the location among women’s homes. Creativity and sharing food were often part of our circles, it’s nice to have activities that aren’t based around chatting and facilitated connection in other ways.
That first group was several years ago and I now participate and host groups and retreats in various forms, such as for women without children, as part of the Scottish Doula Network and with a closed group. Typically, there is a beginning, middle and end to a gathering. The beginning usually involves some sort of arriving ritual and introduction or planning, the middle a sharing and then there is a closing ritual. I feel that the group should be empowering for the participants and a space where a good leader fades into the background.
I think the benefits of being part of a women’s circle are different for each person, for me it’s having a space where I can hold and be held. It’s a space where I am fully accepted. Where I can cry, play and laugh and it's all ok. It’s very powerful to share your experience with others and have it witnessed and often bring new insights and clarity.
I believe women’s circles bring us community and support. They are a space where we can connect and share our experiences. A place to recognize that we are not alone, a place to meet the sacred within us. I feel that being in a same-gender group is important as there is a deeper understanding of each others’ experiences. I feel that women’s circles are important at this time as society is so fast-paced and focused on achieving things. Women often give hugely to the world and don’t allow time for themselves. Women’s circles are also spaces where women may celebrate, nurture and replenish themselves.
Andrea Takacs-Carvalho, 44, – aka The Gaia Healer – is originally from Brazil and now lives in London. She is Sacred Feminine Priestess, Spiritual Healer, Shamanic Practitioner and Women’s Circle organizer, and hosts women’s circles both in the UK and other locations
I’m trained as an electrical engineer, but I have walked many different religious and spiritual paths, and learned tons of self-development techniques.
Shamanism came to me when I was in my late teens and I met a Brazilian shaman who trained me and initiated me. In 2015 I completed a Womb Awakening apprenticeship that expanded my tools to work with the Secret Feminine energies.
In 2013, I joined a well-known and respected Shamanic organization that had been offering the New York City community the chance to experience shamanic journeys and healing for more than 20 years. As a volunteer and core member, I was part of a small group that created up to four gatherings per month, for groups of 30-plus people. Shortly after I joined them, I was selected to run the 13-year-old monthly Women’s Circles. The first time I stepped up to the role of Women’s Circle organizer, I felt like everything that had happened in my life had prepared me for that moment, and I had finally found my life purpose.
I usually explain at the beginning of my circles that a women’s circle can have many flavors, and the ones I organize include elements of shamanic practices. I create an altar at the center with lots of flowers, an oracle deck, chocolate, fruits, sacred objects and candles. I smudge the participants with sage or Palo Santo to cleanse the energy and open the circle with an invocation to the Divine Mother, our ancestors, our guardian spirits, and the elements. Then each participant introduces themselves and has their name repeated and their presence is acknowledged and honored with a Namaste. They do a Shamanic Journey while I drum, based on a theme that I give them, which I usually receive in a transmission before the event.
The women who attend range in ages from 20 to 60, but are often in their 30s and 40s. The women are usually warm, but have often lost connection with themselves, a community and a spiritual path, and they find all of that in one single event. They are strong but don’t find validation of this in our culture, and they don’t feel safe to open up about their true feelings.
The modern women who attend the circles – a tradition that has been around since ancient times – identify a part of themselves that had been dormant, and awaken a thirst for being in ceremonies, and connecting with their unique spirituality. Sacred circles have always existed and will always exist, and right now Priestesses like me are again revealing the power of being a woman, in an often male-dominated world.
I usually receive a couple of notes after the events from women saying they feel centered, empowered and with a more balanced sense of wellbeing. ‘Happier’ is a word that has often come up in conversation with people post-circle attendance, describing a clearer understanding of their own lives. Most also experience healing from their feeling of disconnection and sense of not belonging.
Zoe Phillips, who’s in her 40s, is currently unemployed but usually works as an executive global marketer in pharmaceuticals. She attended one of Andrea’s circles
I was drawn to attend one of Andrea’s circles because of my state of mind following a six-month job hunt that still hasn’t resulted in a role. My boyfriend had also left me for someone else, and I felt that I had lost everything and couldn’t help but ask the Universe ‘what will become of me?’.
I do a lot of yoga and when I was emailed about the new schedule at Battersea Yoga this class intrigued me. It felt right, and I just so happened to be free that Saturday night.
Attending felt like a relaxing and magical way to escape from the normal humdrum of life, its expectations and the social media circuit. It’s a complete sanctuary with just women, and it’s great to spend a weekend evening on a restorative activity that doesn’t involve drinking.
I went with an open mind, and it felt almost primal, getting back to our roots, a private – yet protected space – where I could be who I am and find out about myself.
I had plenty of ‘aha’ moments during the circle. I realized I don’t necessarily need to stick anyone in the 'bonfire', but that I need to stick all the negativity about me that was in my head into the bonfire and realize that I don’t need the ex-boyfriend, I don’t need the attention of so-called friends that feel like they have deserted me, I don’t need his new girlfriend, I need me, just me. It may sound obvious but it was a revelation that came to me during the circle meditation. It was a very powerful evening.
Sophy Mills, 34, a yoga teacher, also attended one of Andrea’s circles
I decided to attend the circle out of a desire to be part of a supportive and safe space for (intergenerational) women to share their experiences.
I feel that there were so many benefits to being a participant: feeling closely connected to the other women; a sense of kinship and community – all without feeling judged. This was on top of the passing down of wisdom between generations. It’s changed my life in many ways, including the fact that I met Andrea – a beautiful soul and inspirational woman who will be a part of my life going forward.
I would highly recommend to any woman wanting to feel supported to come and be a part of it.
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Lauren is a freelance writer and editor with more than six years of digital and magazine experience. In addition to Womanandhome.com she has penned news and features for titles including Women's Health, The Telegraph, Stylist, Dazed, Grazia, The Sun's Fabulous, Yahoo Style UK and Get The Gloss.
While Lauren specializes in covering wellness topics—ranging from nutrition and fitness, to health conditions and mental wellbeing—she has written across a diverse range of lifestyle topics, including beauty and travel. Career highlights so far include: luxury spa-hopping in Spain, interviewing Heidi Klum and joining an £18k-a-year London gym.
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