When I first stepped onto a mat at Melbourne’s Gita School of Yoga in 1982, men were there in abundance. Several years later, in 1986, one of the first things I did during university orientation week was to enroll in the campus Yoga Society. It happened to be administered by students – all of whom were men. Male and female classes were conducted separately in this particular yogic tradition and the men’s classes were as well attended as the women’s.
Fast forward thirty years and the scene has changed beyond recognition. There seems to have been some kind of Yogaman Armageddon and it has me stumped. Every single class I’ve attended in the last decade – and I’ve been to hundreds – has had one, maybe two men – and they rarely return. It’s now got to the stage where a male-on-a-mat is such an unexpected occurrence I’m inclined to view them as a rare, exotic species in danger of extinction.
The irony of the Yogaman apocalypse is that Yoga was brought to the west by a lineage of male teachers. Women were largely absent from the yoga scene for thousands of years and yet now, after only a few decades here, they vastly outnumber men.
I can’t believe men have lost interest in self-development, so maybe they are going elsewhere to meditate and stretch such as Buddhist retreats or their own private sheds. Or maybe they’re not. Perhaps it’s a vicious cycle: The more women in a yoga class, the more the men feel self-conscious and the less likely they are to return. Perhaps, also, men have come to view yoga as a body beautiful exercise routine (a chick thing) and never bother to consider it as a worthwhile pursuit. Whatever the reason for this self-imposed exile, it’s time men returned. There is a quality, strength and energy in the male expression of the yogic tradition that works to balance the female interpretation. I feel it’s by working together that this profound, transformative practice can bring out the best in both men and women.
So, I’m heartened to read recently about Broga, a type of yoga developed in the US specifically for men (by men) and it’s growing in popularity. It incorporates challenging balance and strength-building yoga poses – which men are especially good at – into a class where men can be with each other in a more relaxed and less competitive way. As far as I know, Broga’s yet to appear in Australia, although I sense its time is near.
Until it – or something similar – takes off here, would all you Yogamen please dust off those mats and get ready to twist again like you did all those years ago. You’ll be amazed how good it feels.