Having practiced yoga for nearly 20 years and taught for a little more than a year now, I think I can safely say that all-male, or even majority male, yoga classes are extremely rare. I don't think I've ever attended a weekly class with more than two or three men among the 10 to 20 women.
And when I teach, I occasionally have one guy among the students — usually a partner who's been wrangled into coming along with his female half.
Until last night.
"It's raining men," I joked with the center's owner.
The only woman who had registered didn't show and so as I took my teaching mat, I found myself the minority.
I took a deep breath as I always do. Asked my students to settle into a comfortable seated position, and began.
My teachings didn't change. My poetry readings didn't change. My cues didn't change. I tucked each of them in with blankets to warm their bodies, and covered their eyes with pillows to keep out the light. I watched their chests rise and fall as their breathing slowed, and I listened to them softly snore when sleep overtook them, as it often does during a restorative practice. (Nothing new for me — both women and men snore in my class.)
I was filled with my usual joy at seeing a group of individuals take time out of their regular schedule to rest and relax and restore.
While a lot of the "celebrity yogis" out there are men, I think yoga is still seen in America as primarily a woman's activity.
And while restorative yoga — with its emphasis on relaxation, relieving chronic stress, soothing of organs, enhancing of heart function, balancing of feminine and masculine energy, and generally just allowing us to let go and return to a natural state — is both accessible and beneficial for every body, it too attracts a female base.
I think this needs to change. Research around the benefits of yoga — physical, emotional and spiritual — continues to grow. One of my students last night, a former Army sergeant with the 4th Infantry Division, used his yoga practice to find sanctuary while overseas, surrounded by the atrocities of war.
Yoga can help you twist your limbs into all sorts of weird shapes, strengthen your muscles, and increase your balance.
But, to me, more importantly, yoga brings you in touch with your body. More aware of your thoughts. Better able to acknowledge and work with your emotions.
We all can benefit from that.