January 28, 2011

Yoga & the Western Man.

Photo: Nicholas_T

Get on the Mat and “Take It Like a Man.”

“Taking It Like a Man,” read the headline of one of this week’s My Yoga Journal online postings.

It caught my attention virtually on the heels of an exchange with one of my male colleagues who is aspiring to be a yogi. His “beef” with the bulk of yoga magazine articles (Western, primarily) is that they are geared mainly toward women. Point noted.

As I read and re-read the title, “Taking It Like a Man,” my perplexity increased. I assume that this testosterone filled statement was intended to massage the male ego. After all, is this not the place from which they hunt, fight, compete and protect?  So c’mon you men, man up, muscle up and roll out your mats. Show the world that you can breathe, focus and center yourself like the rest of us human (female) beings!

I recall a recent exchange with American, Bosnian-born forensic psychotherapist Danica Borkovich Anderson of Kolo (Women’s Cross Cultural Collaboration). Kolo is a group that works to address trauma issues spanning the globe. Our conversation was prompted by a recent article written by a (western) male who spoke of the West’s “addiction” to yoga.

According to Anderson,”Yoga and body movement can be orgasmic, which is one of the highest levels of spiritual feminine origins.” Returning to the origins of yoga–descending from the imported western version at least–the Indian yoga asanas, or postures, were all developed by the men, for the men and about the men.

I suspect that our eastern yogi counterparts, rather than suppressing or suffocating the Divine Feminine that they clearly recognize within themselves, through the sacred gift of yoga celebrate and honor their Sat Nam–their true selves. Pattabhi Jois’s Ashtanga series for example, was initially developed for young males in the Indian military. Clearly, it was appreciated and understood that a conscious warrior–one who, on the battle field, was present in mind, body and spirit–would be of greater service than a fear driven, unconscious one.

Still, western men largely shun (some even to the extent of ridicule) the notion of a Divine Feminine alive within. Somehow acknowledgment of Her presence feels threatening to their masculinity. Perhaps through an emergence of western men embracing yoga in their lives, they will come to learn that to reject Her is to, in essence, discard a necessary part of them.

Jamaica, my birthplace, serves as a prime example. Strongly influenced by the nearby United States and documented to be one of the most violent, homophobic, male driven societies in the Western Hemisphere, little respect is paid to the few men who dare to tread upon the yogic path.

Meanwhile, Jamaican women in the droves are enthusiastically pursuing this yogic journey. The result is that our women–who are already the forerunners in business, education and especially in the home (most households are led by a single, often female parent)–are now further empowering themselves through heightened awareness and consciousness. So now the Jamaican male is potentially threatened by two feminine forces–the one within, as well as the physical one who could be his boss, his wife, his lover, his sister, even his mother!

Continuing to “take it like a man” by ignoring the feminine within, the “bad man” Jamaican context will only serve to escalate the dark, desperate anger which is the primary underlying cause of all the woes that this promising nation faces.

In a highly sex-driven society (just listen to some of the dance hall music), the courageous few males who are stepping onto the mat and/or seeking a more balanced life face these societal pressures to be a man. For example, prioritizing the pressure to hold down a decent bread-winning job and handle all of the associated stress, rather than pursuing the promise of better sex that calls them forth to the mat. In other words, they are worn out by the dictates of the society. The aforementioned article, references men being attracted to yoga as it purports to have wonderful benefits for their sex drive. Fair enough, likely and quite possibly true.

Each of us who have ventured along the yogic path have arrived at it for one common reason: seeking change. If we really want to see more men on the mat–which, by the way, would be of tremendous benefit to all areas of our daily lives from economical to political to social to cultural to relationships to sexual–by all means let their testosterone lead them! Perhaps as they begin to experience and witness change within and beyond, mostly subtle yet with profound impact, revering and honoring their Divine Feminine will become par for the course. In fact I’m told by ‘yogi-golfers’ that there is an uncanny similarity between the two, that both bring conscious awareness to the present moment.

Thankfully, I have been blessed with some incredible yogis in my life. I acknowledge them for being “more man” by stepping up to the plate and onto the mat.


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