The Male Principle in Yoga

28/11/2012 17:43

  A word about the guys: Out of the 39 trainees, only 5 are men. Which is not unusual in the yoga world. Men that have never done yoga, usually think it's something for softies. I have to say that however, most men that I have met in yoga are usually very masculine. That doesn't necessarily mean that they act or look very macho. What I mean is, it's easy for the male principle to manifest in them, more so than the feminine.


Hatha Yoga, often translated as the yoga of force, easily brings out masculine qualities in all of us. Physically it is about strength, about integrating the core and creating heat, about actively setting muscles and bones into proper alignment. Mentally and energetically it is about focus, about drawing in, about understanding and about the clear analytical mind. All qualities associated with the masculine principle.


Often, as I watch men get deeper into the practice, I also see this principle manifest more and more. They like to ride on the wave of their strength, to challenge themselves with what is already their predominant quality – strength and integration as opposed to organic, expansive energy. Even as I look back on how my own practice has evolved over the last few years, I have to admit, it has become more masculine. I have become stronger in my core, I do arm balances and inversions, which I would never have imagined. For me, the male principle has created balance, because I started out too loose and organic, with insufficient integration of my core. But lately I sometimes feel like my body is hard, although it still looks feminine and soft. Still the sensation is sometimes like the layer underneath has grown rigid and rigorous.


The literal meaning of Ha-Tha is actually Sun-Moon, meaning that this yoga is a search for the balance between lunar and solar, between feminine and masculine principle. I once had a great explanation from Stephen why in yoga we seek to balance things first. (Hence all these rounds of Nadi Shodana). With our practices of Pranayama and Asana, we create a lot of energy. This energy will be fed into whatever is. If an extreme prevails, it will be reinforced. So, the masculine principle will almost get out of hand – even for us women, who tend to have to be very masculine because of the way society, the corporate world or even our mind has conditioned us. The wise and healthy thing is to balance the energy in your practice and in your life. In other words resist the temptation of always just feeding our extreme, which is usually what we prefer.


It makes me smile when one of my guy friends here tells me about his intention to perform Dhauti Kriya (sticking a rubber tube down your esophagus and squirting out water through it) in order to open up the heart chakra. I laugh mostly at myself, because I originally had had the same idea. But suddenly I realize that we often end up wanting to use the male principle of action, of doing. We like to think we can make things happen even when they cannot be forced. A lot of openings and milestones in yoga come to their full expression through the feminine principle: through non doing and letting go. Or as the Anusaris would say, by opening to grace. Which is something you just cannot make or do. Just like Stephen says about Samadhi: You can set up for it and do all the preparatory work. You can set the table for your guest and send out an invitation. After that you can only patiently wait for it to happen.


It is one of the most difficult things for us to do in yoga: this feminine aspect, this non doing. The softening into what is. We are so trained to the idea of: if you work hard, you will see results, if you do that, then this. In my experience, that's not the way it works. Real shifts happen when you let go, when you are willing to give up. Not that the male principle is wrong. It creates the important foundation for transformation to happen. The setting of the table. But when you have that, then I believe, you need to get out of the way, and let a more subconscious, intuitive wisdom take over for you.