Be a man.
If you’re a male chances are you’ve heard this statement at least once in your life, if not countless times.
But what does “being a man” even mean?
Surely the definition isn’t static but one that changes with time. The sexual and gender revolutions of the past decades mean we now have a much wider understanding of what it means to be a man in the 21st century.
In the West, yoga has traditionally been viewed as a feminine activity.
Though this is slowly changing, studios still see mostly female rather than male students.
But the physical yoga we practice today was developed in India by men and exclusively for men.
The father of modern yoga, Sri Krishnamacharya (who taught the founders of Ashtanga and Iyengar yoga) only took his first female student in 1937, a Russian woman who in time helped popularise yoga in the West, notably Hollywood.
The fact that we now have to entice men to come to yoga with terms like “yoga for men” and “power yoga” is really rather ironic.
Yoga is probably the manliest thing you can do for yourself.
Because it helps you to connect with a part of yourself that is gender-less.
Yoga teaches that everything around us has both masculine and feminine qualities. We are both male and female. As a woman, yoga can help you tap into your less obvious masculine qualities. As a man, it can help you nurture your emotional, sensitive, feminine side.
Yoga makes us more complete, less binary, in short, better versions of ourselves. .
Over the years yoga has quietly been teaching me how to be a man, first in my physical body, through rigorous asana practice, but also more subtly, through quiet contemplation, breath awareness and a positive mental attitude. Everything in life is perception, and how I choose to perceive the world and everything in it has a direct impact on the quality of my life. Besides a healthy body, yoga has given me the tools to see the world as it really is: always changing, in flux. And that I am part of something far beyond my physical body.
I am more than just a son or brother or boyfriend.
I am more than just a man.
Written by: Bhanu Bhatnagar
Bhanu is a journalist and yoga teacher. In 2014 he made a documentary film called ‘Who Owns Yoga?’. He’s been teaching for five years, in the Middle East and Asia, and has recently returned to London. He enjoys teaching physically dynamic classes that connect breath to movement and help restore and heal. He teaches early morning Vinyasa classes at Yogahaven Clapham. To find out more click here.