I wonder if this has ever happened?
A man walks into a yoga studio and unrolls his mat. The yoga teacher welcomes him and asks, ‘why are you here?’ The man says, ‘I wanna study the contours of my existence.’ The yoga teacher faints, revives and lets the man lead the class. He doesn’t have a playlist but all the students are moved. Somewhere, someone weeps.
I ask because I just read a Yoga Trail article that advises yoga teachers– especially women– to mind our yoga talk when men come in the room. As in, cool it with the convo about ancient wisdom and hooha because guys just want a workout. As in, dudes aren’t reflective beasts so let them scratch themselves. As in, grunt roar burp. (To be fair, the writer lists a few common restrictions in the male body that can present a challenge in asana. But yoga, remember, is not all physical.)
Which brings me back to this: Poor men. It’s a sad stereotype they’re expected to abide. And, I think, an incorrect one. I’m not sure I can lead a charge to free them of it, but I’d like to provide three examples of perfectly manly men who manage to tolerate– read: teach me a thing or two about– introspection.
Example One: This morning, I taught A Restorative Yoga Class at PB Yoga & Healing Arts.
(FYI: You can find me there every Sunday at 9am, or every Wednesday at 6pm, or every Tuesday and Thursday at 8:45am, or, starting August 3, every day in my massage room! Oh, that’s big news that will be trumpeted later.) A new student (to me, anyway), male, entered the studio and asked, ‘So what’re we doing this morning?’
‘Did you really just stumble into my restorative class?’ I asked.
‘I don’t like to have any expectations,’ he said. ‘Where do I sit?’
Let’s all consider, for a second, just how awesome that preference is. It’s a perfectly good representation of how our circumstances are mostly irrelevant. They arise; they pass. They transit and leave us behind. This guy knew he was going to yoga. Beyond that, he was free. He was the constant. He claimed his space with himself. He settled into a lazy boy of blankets and let go a few groans. He never once complained that he would have preferred to bench press the bolsters. He even stuck around to chat and admire the rain.
Example Dos: Two of my current teachers– Gary Kraftsow and Juris Zinbergs— are guys. Developed of an XY chromosome and yet, somehow, compelled to inspire me to re-examine my relationship with yoga philosophy. From them, I understood that this was where my body wanted to be. That I was ready to practice yoga in a new way so that I can better know myself. Also, so I can join the discussion. Four of my former teachers are also men. In fact, I can’t even say that they’re former teachers as any of them, except the dead one, would likely take my call and blow my mind with something that is not at all about crunching abs but crunching old patterns of thought.
Example Three: This one is not so much an example as a statement of fact. Every man is capable and competent in perceiving his own thought, emotion, condition and mortality because every man is human. While a certain feminist spirit kindles in me that women have claimed a few modern soapboxes to remind their communities to occasionally peer within– just, I might add, as some revered yogini were known to do in the wayback– it’s still the case that the past few millenia of history have been largely recorded and contemplated by men. They are certainly capable of managing a moment of insight in a yoga studio.
So, yay men, I suppose, and yay to women as well. Seriously. Whoever you are and however you identify, there’s great intelligence available for you if you start listening in. It’s one of the burdens and blessings of being alive.
And that, to man or woman, can be a frightening proposition.