In a Time of Broken Masculinity, this is what I want my Male Yoga Clients to Know.
To my male clients:
Before beginning this letter, I feel obligated — given the current state of contemporary gender politics — to first note that this is not a letter of sardonic wit, but is, in fact, a letter of genuine appreciation.
I recently met a brilliant female scholar at the University of Oxford, and through our conversation, we discovered a shared interest in India. My love of India came not through yoga, but through my husband, as it is the country of his birth. As a result, I have visited places most Westerners would never stumble upon — deeply conservative ancestral villages, in which women veil their entire bodies. They are not Muslim, as one might initially suspect; they are, in fact, Hindu.
As is so often the case between Western women who have travelled in India, we began discussing issues of female safety. Fifteen years ago, this scholar lived in New Delhi and travelled solo throughout northern India; I was stunned, as travelling in that region as an unaccompanied female is something I would never do, nor would my husband’s family advise. (It seems that every day now, on page three or four of a Delhi newspaper, there is another story of gang rape.)
The conversation veered toward teaching yoga in the West and questions about the nature of the men who attend my classes. The scholar noted that she still regularly encounters male students who would rather only be taught by men. She assumed that this would also be true within the yoga community — that there would be men unwilling to be taught by a female teacher. And she is probably right.
But I don’t meet these men because they don’t come to my classes.
For weeks, the conversation has pulsed through the synapses of my brain as I engaged with my male clients. Just last month, two middle-aged men, clients who have been with me for years, hugged each other after a practice. They embraced with such warmth that others paused as they rolled up their mats to watch. A few women wiped tears from the corners of their eyes, and one texted me later about the awe of witnessing such a beautiful moment.