Teaching balance to men.
I REMEMBER my parents putting me in a ballet class when I was maybe in the first or second grade. I was an incredibly clumsy child. I had constant black eyes and bruises. I think my parents were worried about being reported to Child Services. They were not abusing me. I could walk down a hallway and black my left eye on the right side of the wall. I think I just took one class. I did not like being the only boy. I did like moving my body. We were taught gymnastics in elementary P.E., and I remember liking it. Whatever the time of year or the sport I was playing, the drills during practice helped a lot with my awkwardness. And when I discovered disco, I found I had rhythm and could shake a leg on the dance floor. Unlike the sports, my disco dancing wasn’t exactly celebrated. I don’t remember chastisement for this, but I intuited it wasn’t very manly; being graceful, being in touch with my feelings, or moving my hips.
balance : a state in which opposing forces harmonise
If Yoga concerned itself only with the intellect, mind control and sheer athleticism, men would be all over it. But we find ourselves sitting quietly cross-legged in a room filled with girls in stretch pants, the teacher asking us how we feel and then wanting us to AUM. All of my cultural conditioning tells me this is not what men do. I am intellect: fire and creativity. Make it all emotion: water, and structure, and I want to run. Yoga teaches us that our constant challenge is to establish balance; intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. As Yoga teachers, we may apply elements of fire to a class filled with women to encourage them to go further in their postures. In that same course, I’ll hurt myself because I’ve already got the fire and I’ll go too far. Our chemistry is different; testosterone and estrogen is one obvious example. These chemicals affect how our brains act and react. In a class of men, you can temper the emotional, the element of water, and the structure to complement the experience. As a teacher in a room of men, the class tends to be louder and less structured, so and I teach vinyasa with more strength-based postures. Men have a different center of balance, broad shoulders, narrow hips, and muscular arms that are heavier to lift. With men, I teach more hip opening postures on the floor and inverted asanas that test endurance. I do some vinyasa flows that make me feel like a superhero.
Men benefit from balance.
Having written that down, I'll tell you I don’t want to be in a loud room filled with chaos. Nor do I want to exclude women or any aspect of the feminine. I seek balance. Let’s, as men, sit in the water and consider how we feel; really feel. There is nothing wrong with the question. Let’s move with grace, breathe evenly, and meditate in silence. Yoga teaches us to do this. Let us laugh when it’s funny, listen when it’s needed, and forgive ourselves when it isn’t funny because we should have been listening. Yoga for men is recognizing and celebrating our masculine selves. I am loud and intense. I understand that as a man I benefit from the struggle to achieve and retain balance. When I discover I can create happiness on a dance floor, think deeply, express my emotions, or simply sit quiet being good with myself are benefits I receive from practicing Yoga. YJL