August 4, 2011

Twelve reasons I love having men in Yoga class.

I am a feminist and was raised by a feminist. In my teens, I immersed myself in Simone de Beauvoir and Susan Faludi (this made me a real hit in the high school lunchroom in Manhattan, Kansas). I attended a women’s college and wholeheartedly embraced the perspective that our society is patriarchal and misogynistic. Then in my early twenties, I discovered Anusara yoga, and learned a new way to think about masculinity and femininity. I discovered that gender identity could be sacred and unifying instead of degrading and divisive.

Today’s post is in praise of the masculine. Dudes are usually a minority in yoga class, and it takes real courage to step up to the plate of an activity that can be encoded feminine in modern America. So here’s to the fellas—this is why I love ya!

  1. Male energy tends to be grounding in an adult yoga class.
  2. Men tend to be bigger and denser with greater muscle mass. When there are more men in my class, the room gets warm faster. More heat raises shakti—we all get buzzed.
  3. Men tend to sweat more, so the room gets humid faster. A little more moisture in the air makes the breath move more easily for all of us.
  4. Men aren’t afraid to breathe loudly and even pant with effort. Establishing deep, full breathing is one of my first priorities for my students, and hearing even one person breathe freely makes it safe for others to do so. It doesn’t have to be a fancy pranayama technique either! Just deep, free, audible breathing.
  5. Men expect physical activity to be physical. First-timers in yoga class may be surprised by how intense it is, but they don’t resent it—they put their shoulder to the wheel and hearts into their labor.
  6. Men are generally less self-conscious, and more comfortable with the burping, sweating, farting, coughing that comes with the territory in life and in yoga.
  7. Men are generally not afraid of partner work. When they are uncomfortable with it, it’s for chivalrous reasons—they don’t want to sweat all over a female partner, or they notice that the woman is apprehensive about partnering with a man.
  8. Men are often stronger and bigger than women, so once they’re trained, they give great assists!
  9. On the other side, assisting a big guy gives you the chance to get really good at partner work. For example, my pals Julissa Carranza and Kristinn Sigridarson co-create the Anjali Clothing line. Julissa’s pretty average in size, but Kristinn is a big, tall Viking dude. They usually partner together and she handles her hubby like a champion. Julissa’s assists are fantastic because she’s used to working with a big partner.
  10. Two women partnering smile at each other and get down to business. Two men partnering shake hands and introduce themselves. So civilized!
  11. Baritones during the Invocation add a whole other color to the spectrum of a chord.
  12. More men in yoga=world peace!

I love seeing Life’s ferocity and tenderness in unexpected places. I love seeing a soft maternal woman claw the floor fiercely, and I love seeing a big tough guy melt his heart in a backbend. Yoga dudes, thanks for showing me your softness—it inspires me to embody my strength.

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