First of all, happy summer solstice, the day with the highest light intensity of the year in the Northern Hemisphere!
I’d like to talk about male yoga practitioners (yogis) and teachers and female yoga practitioners (yoginis) and teachers, and some of the overall impressions I have observed. Does the masculine energy of male teachers (the yin, the animus) promote a stronger, bigger, and more external practice, while the feminine energy of female teachers (the yang, the anima) promotes form, spiritual, and inward-focused practice?I do admit that in my own practice, as a guy, I’m all about upper body strengthening, arm balancing, physical challenge or “acrobatic” poses, and chaturanga push-ups, etc. These are not the sole domain of men’s yoga practices, but push-ups and “working out” do seem to be a bigger part of men’s lives in general.
In taking various yoga classes with both male and female teachers, I do think that the generalizations are just that – stereotypes, however they point out the two sides of yoga: the physical and the spiritual.
East and West
I attended a seminar led by Chuck Miller of Yogaworks, earlier this year in Toronto, and he spoke of the East as the birthplace of yoga as the science of mindfulness and connection with the divine spirit, as a deep well of wisdom and observances built over thousands of years of introspection by the yogis.
He then pointed out the West’s view of yoga, as more synonymous with “asana practice”, or a form of exercise. The West is advancing and adapting yoga to the modern world, and that is exciting. Scientists are studying yoga’s physiological effects on the body, and even conventional doctors are recommending yoga. Chuck says “the East needs the West”! That is, yoga is growing and evolving to meet the needs of our changing world, thanks to our approach in the West. The spirituality and the physical/scientific sides of yoga are coming together. The West needs the East too. We here in the West can learn about and celebrate the wisdom learned from this ancient practice, born in the East, and apply it to our technology-driven, sometimes dehumanized or de-spiritualized lifestyle.
Male and Female
West and East, male and female, yin and yang – however you like to approach yoga, it’s great that yoga is coming full circle, and evolving and advancing. Over the millennia, almost all the great teachers and yoga authors have been yogis (men). Yet today, the vast majority of yoga teachers are women! Most of the great female yoga authors are still living, attesting to how recent this movement is. Yoga is truly merging and evolving into an art and science that includes both male and female aspects, which will continue to serve us into the future.