The Deep, Dark Secret of Western Yoga. ~ Kevin Macku

Via on May 14, 2013

Are you sure you’re ready to read this?

I didn’t come here for the spirituality.

I didn’t join the yoga community for the oms, the chanting or even the incense. There was a time not too long ago that I didn’t care about Patanjali or Arjuna, I couldn’t tell you the difference between Krishna or Vishnu and I called Hanumanasana “the splits.”

Okay, part of that’s a lie: I called that thing you call Hanumanasana, “that thing I will never and men should never do.”

Hm. Let’s go back a bit.

I was always the smart kid in school.

You know the joke: who’s really gay—the sweaty wrestling guys rolling all over each other in the ring, the guys trying to tackle each other on the football field or the guys in show choir who get to hang out with girls after school?

My friends and I proved that straight, masculine men could work it on the dance floor, that the Fall Formal didn’t have to be all bump n’ grind and that we knew that, later on in life, in almost any company shy of a hostage situation—a high school talent show, a wedding, the International Space Station—from sea shanties to Bach to Bowie, a good song lifts spirits and helps people meander through day to day drudgery. Being able to bring that to someone is worth to me a hundred plastic trophies.

Fast forward a little, then, to that phase of masculine development where we men learn what it is about women that we like other than boobs: my undergrad.

Amid the cheap Collegetown cocktails of attraction, scandal and drama that my peers and I indulged in whilst throwing darts at our degrees, there’s a theme I noticed that kept coming up time and time again: mostly, the women to whom I found myself attracted did this thing; it’s either a practice they followed, or, in many cases, they taught: yoga.

Now, in my acting training we did some “yoga,” but it was always just a warmup. People did that crap for an hour? In 100+ degree weather? Just who the hell were these people?

“But the women!” shouted the Universe. “Look at them!”

Not only were yoginis appealing to look at—and to be fair, I thought you all knew those pants were sheer, it was just polite to not say anything or look for more time than it took to see if they were either stripes or polka dots (stripes are classier, just saying)—but in a virtual desert of surface-level communication, yoginis provided these oases of meaningful discussions; even if they were just regurgitating what they heard during the post-Savasana pep talk, to the uninitiated, it sounded like some cool gospel from a faraway land of (almond) milk and (local) honey.

At some point, it just occurs to a man, “I like these people as a whole. Maybe I should be doing yoga.”

Hence me walking awkwardly into the local YMCA class with my Gaiam mat from Targét murmuring that line we all said on our first day of an actual asana class: “Yeah, I’ve been doing yoga on and off for, y’know, about four years.”

I still hear that phrase to this day when I sub classes. It mocks me.

So, let me get this out of the way for the exceptionally dense: I came to yoga for the women.

yoga girls guys men women ratio class The women (and men, let’s include them too) in my life who had some varying fraction of a yoga practice or who taught were the same ones who were already founding members and/or CEOs of magazines, theater companies or wine and craft beer stores. I wanted in on the secret.

The culmination of my desire to be a part of this society came, of course, after I’d been invited to this amazing class at a studio shala that I later fell in love with, boasting people and a society I loved hanging out with after class; a few months later, the owner of the studio is saying, “You know, we do this teacher training and…” I stopped listening. I was hooked.

But here’s the thing. When I started going to Yoga Teacher Training, something changed. I don’t know what happened or when, but at some point, it stopped being about the women. Yeah, the pants were still sheer, and I still thought it was polite to not say anything, but I was more interested in my hour+ of mat time. I switched out my old beater mat for a shiny new one, I found myself making a playlist for the fantasy class I’d teach one day and here’s the strangest thing…

I went back to church.

Can you imagine how strange it must have been for a 25-year-old man to walk into church for a random Sunday service—alone? It’s no wonder that, after mass, I was approached by some folks insisting that I join them for coffee and cookies—which I politely declined, insisting with the lies through my teeth that I had someplace to be. I don’t blame them—I walked into a Catholic church unannounced and unattended.

Men my age do not walk into church alone for no reason.

All I really wanted was a little more than an hour in that architecture to hear some chanting, some Latin and some private time with a higher power I to this day have yet to name. Say what you will about Christianity—in America, they have some very pretty architecture.

Yoga Teacher Training taught me the Primary Series. I was gifted my own practice. I learned how to say, “Supta Ekampada Rajakapotasana” five times fast. And because I know you just tried it, know I still have some trouble with it too. I think I can get three pretty regularly. After that, it gets a little funky.

Yoga BumsWe sit here and talk about what yoga is, because “Yogas citta vritti nirodhah,” apprently isn’t enough anymore. But you know what? I don’t care, honestly, what brings people to yoga. If someone wants a better butt, or for that matter to be better at anal sex, or if someone comes to yoga because they saw some model tied up in a 50 Shades of Yoga book and was like, “Okay, fine, I’ll try it out,” fine. If someone is 100 percent convinced that yoga is or should be just the stretching, fine. We have a place to start that dialogue. We can talk about what yoga is for you—104 degree rooms, the Primary Series or playing on the beach. I was that guy for the better part of a year (“on and off for about four years,” I believe the phrase goes).

I, for one, don’t care if it’s your sex life or your relationship with God that brings you to your mat. I came to yoga for the women, yes, but it stopped being about that a long time ago. Now I do yoga for yoga, to practice stilling the fluctuations of my mind.

I would never have found that—I would never have found yoga—if I hadn’t been chasing skirts sheer Lululemons.

You tell me you want a better butt? Here’s yoga. You tell me you want Madonna’s arms? Here’s yoga. You tell me you’re having a spiritual crisis and want to be closer to God? Here’s yoga: a series of postures, breathing techniques and texts, designed to still the fluctuations of the mind, but—along that path—may accomplish any number of other things. My teachers blessed me, and thousands of teachers like me, with a tradition, and everything they offered to us plus our experiences in life, we offer to you.

Why you end up in the room, and what you do with that, is entirely up to you. I hope and I pray and I work towards the goal that one day we might be able to offer you coffee and cookies in our space. I know you’ll decline and lie through your teeth that you have someplace else to be, and I promise you that we’ll understand.

And I promise you that we’ll still keep the coffee and the cookies waiting.


KevinMacku2Kevin Macku is a fledgling yogi in the body of a 20-something who has held a number of scandalous love affairs with words. His bachelor’s degree is in dramatic performance, and he has appeared in local stage and film productions in the past few years. Since graduation, he has found himself in the middle of a spiritual revolution, and has set about recording what he can for posterity. Like his writing? Follow him on Facebook and Twitter!



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Ed: Kate Bartolotta

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39 Responses to “The Deep, Dark Secret of Western Yoga. ~ Kevin Macku”

  1. amySaysOm says:

    Thank you for this post! I am so tired of people (especially EJ authors!) pontificating what yoga absolutely IS and what it must be and what it can't possibly be. Isn't it entirely plausible that in a physical practice comprised of 525,600 poses, there are the same number of variations as to exactly how to define it? To me, stepping onto a yoga mat is no different than falling in love or pursuing a path of recovery or any number of incredible things that we choose to do in our lives – it doesn't really matter how or why we got here, it simply matters that we have arrived.

  2. lana says:

    "…it doesn't really matter how or why we got here, it simply matters that we have arrived."

    Love it. and YES.

  3. This is a fantastic article. As a teacher and soon to be studio owner, I firmly believe that whatever brings someone to yoga is their business and I have as much love and respect for them as I do for the spiritual seeker. We are all at different places on our path and I'm just grateful and inspired by another person on the path. Thank you.

  4. fragginfraggin says:

    Thanks for not telling me what I should think, what I should do or what yoga is or is not. Finally, a decent read this week on EJ.

  5. katie says:

    what a good article!

  6. Ana Guardia Ana says:

    I love love love this!
    One day I want to be really brave and stay for the cookies.

    thank you for this! made me laugh and touch my heart

  7. Lynn Hasselberger Lynn Hasselberger says:

    Love this Kevin! Authentic, funny.

  8. aseem_giri says:

    A nice treat. Thank you for 'passing' on 'passing' judgment.

  9. Revo Luzione says:

    Excellent post, young Jedi.

    A long time ago, I had a boss who was a fundamentalist Christian. He was kind of a pompous person, to be quite blunt.

    But something he said to me really stuck with me–that you cannot impugn someone's intent when they do good deeds. All that matters is that a person is doing good deeds. In this case it's yoga. Good work!

  10. Karen says:

    Best and most honest article on EJ in a while. Thank you.

  11. Jennifer says:

    Great article! Really related to this.
    Im not going to lie but I took up yoga because I wanted to tone up and have a nice yogini body, but after a few months I was captivated by the spirtial side and it has now completely changed my life!

  12. Kim says:

    Nicely done…great read!

  13. bertusx says:

    Something that needed to be said – and said well. Great.

  14. Andy says:

    What is it about that "off and on" comment that gets you? It's always the truth for me, and longer than 4 years… That said, thanks for the good read- it hooked me in, entertained me, brought some perspective. And touched that personal place where my body & mind are -literally- SCREAMING to get back into yoga.

  15. Meredith says:

    I'm surprised that this idea—coming to yoga for other reasons than spirituality—is still a “deep, dark secret.” Perhaps I only think this because I’m mostly an outsider to the yoga community. It just seems like plenty of folks here have come to yoga for a variety of reasons.

    The most important takeaway, I think, is for you as a teacher, K. When you’re interacting with your newbies, it seems helpful to repeat what you wrote here: “Why you end up in the room, and what you do with that, is entirely up to you.” I’ve never really heard that in a yoga class, and it would have been nice to keep in mind when I was starting out in yoga at a very vulnerable point—fresh out of eating disorder treatment.

    To this day, sometimes I get intimidated talking to you because I didn’t come to yoga for spiritual redemption and I don’t have a grasp of all the spiritual underpinnings of your work. But maybe that’s okay. Wherever we are along a journey, or whatever our motivations are/have been, we have to be gentle with ourselves and others. That goes for teachers and students and generally anyone (beyond yoga devotees) who wants to be a good human being.

    Oh, and if your future yoga endeavors ever involve offering a class that literally serves coffee and cookies… sign me up. Right away. :)

  16. Honey B says:

    Dang. I'd go to yoga more often if you were the instructor. Just saying' 😉 (also, cool article. Thank you!)

  17. Susan says:

    Excellent read. Thanks for the honesty and, yes, most definitely, the lack of pontification. So tired of the holier than thou crap.

  18. Jim says:

    Thank you, most times I feel like I'm the only one that feels this way. I do yoga because it makes me feel good. End of story.

  19. Joe Sparks says:

    Hi, interesting perspective, nice job admitting every other guys distress around closeness with women. Do not kid yourself, every guy has that pattern of chasing skirts. All men are saturated in sexism, and it is not going way anytime soon! How do you not act on it? Because doing yoga will not take that pattern away, you have had since day one. The first step is admitting. Good job.

  20. Ramani says:

    any article involving sex, or especially sex and yoga gets a lot of response on EJ. It's pretty obvious from the first day you look at the site. Don't tell me what yoga is? I'm sorry but there is a certain science behind the subject and if you can't respect or see that then you are full of yourself even more than the people who tell you what yoga is. It's like saying…mmmm Netwonian physics might work for some people…Please people, your arrogance and pride is beyond reconciliation. It's okay that your not yogis or not spiritual, really it's okay. But lets not pretend to be something were not. If your doing some yoga postures that are basically gymnastics exercises, thats cool, but wake up already.

  21. Ramani says:

    well I can give you a textbook answer about patanjali and meditation and calming the mind and all this other stuff that you can look up what yoga "is". Which it is. But experiencing those things on your own leaves a lot of room for self deception, without guidance from a master. How do you find someone? That is karma, faith, and grace and most importantly you have to want it. There are scriptures that will give you qualifications of a guru and what to look for in one and how to tell. But who wants to let go of their ego? Who wants to look at all their BS games and stand completely naked with the universe? It'll scare the shit out of you and possibly ruin your life, especially if you don't have guidance, I can almost guarantee it. I've experienced a lot of what yoga is not, and anything I've learned about what it actually is is from my teacher not my own half baked crap which is why I recommend going to find a teacher. Words do not equal experience. Sex has to do with the fact that this article is about picking up women. Sex+ yoga = money on this site.

  22. Ramani says:

    Fair enough, points taken though a lot of this postural yoga is actually harming people if you know some of the other Indian disciplines – which is a whole other story. By money I meant views, success,etc.. not actual money which I suppose wasn't so clear. Best to you.

  23. annabel says:

    Happens in India too, I can tell you that from experience!

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