What is Masculinity, Really?

by Apr 21, 2016Men's Roles, Self-Knowledge

“Place your ego aside, soak in the energy and celebrate what it’s like to be a man.”

A few of many wise words expressed by Mark, our yoga teacher, during the welcoming comments of an eight-week yoga program for men. Yes, I was intrigued too when I heard that Sukha Yoga was hosting a yoga program dedicated for us fine fellows. “Real men, Real yoga, an inquiry into what it means to be a man through the lens of yoga, ancestry and expectation” was the message presented when I signed up online. I’m not 100% sure what this meant, but I was certainly intrigued by the sound of it.

Practicing yoga is not a foreign concept to me as I’ve ‘dabbled’ with the practice off and on over the years. I’m the first to admit that my downward dog is extremely rusty. Yet, I was really willing to give this a shot because it connected really closely with the theme of personal self-care. Self-care has been a theme that’s been a core focus for me over the past couple of months. It started when I was invited to co-present to a group of health care experts on the topics of personal and professional self-care. A fascinating exercise as we healthcare professionals often neglect ourselves in favor of being present heart, mind and soul for others.

Another motivating factor is because of my Dad. At the youthful age of 70, my father recently had surgery for something that has been troubling his health for some time. In all honesty, this is the first surgery that I can ever recall him having. Not bad for the fella. Since then, I’ve had a few moments where I’ve reflected on my own health and mortality. Subsequently, I’ve shaken up my exercise routine to help with an old surfing injury that’s been bugging me for years. I’ve been trying acupuncture and herbal medicines to address some bad sleep patterns. I’m also (with mixed results) trying to cut down on the carbs that lurk in my favorite brews. As the saying goes, if you don’t use it, you lose it.

So, here goes. My personal journey into yoga and discovering what it means to be a man through the lens of yoga, ancestry and expectation. Over the next few weeks, I’ll hopefully provide an account of a self-care voyage that will include some insight, thoughts and learnings from this self exploration.

Week 1

Our first session kicked off with a fairly large group of guys milling around the reception area of Sukha Yoga. Some of these guys clearly look like regular yoga attendees, others appear (including myself) like lost lambs. I keep reminding myself that this place is all about non-judgment, but I’m relieved when I recognize that there’s definitely a few extra newbies. I’m in good company.

We sheepishly enter one of the studios and in true male fashion, there’s an immediate volley to find a patch of ground for our yoga mat at the furthest distance from the front of the room. That tactic doesn’t last long as there’s a huge turn out and Mark our yoga instructor quickly rearranges the room to fit us all in.

Mark welcomes the group and introduces the intention behind the program. He states that over the next eight weeks we’ll explore through discussion and movement (accompanied by a few beers afterwards) what it’s like to me a man in today’s world. Typically, this type of talk would send most guys packing in the opposite direction. However, I get the impression that this group is here with a real intention. They are here for business. We’re asked to introduce ourselves and offer a word that describes our current state of mind or something that we associate with. I offer the word, ‘curious’.

We warm up into a range of stretches and poses. Within minutes I’m in the zone, trying to pace my breath while observing rivers of sweat drip down and soak into my mat. Mark narrates while we move from pose to pose. The concepts of shame, pride, ego and the relationship to vulnerability as it relates to masculinity are interwoven with various yoga mantras. The session builds in intensity as the movements become more challenging. We’re in the thick of it. We’re stretching the body as well as the mind. However, my body’s feeling the brunt of it all.

While my focus is so concentrated, there’s a power that’s generated in the room that is presented when we’re asked to voice an ‘om’. The assortment of pitch and resonance differs greatly from person to person, but the collective sound is amazing. This sound, resonating in the room is the essence of the authentic power that a group of men, when they have circumvented the masculine facade. This is the essence of what these men have come to discover. The session ends with a few final words from our sherpa. I feel energized. I know that I’m going to be hurting tomorrow.

Looking for more? Start Here. 

Thanks to Mark Herron, Co-owner & Yogi and the amazing team @ Sukha Yoga for the inspiration for this weeks post. www.sukhayogaaustin.com.