After years of conducting interviews as an undergrad and Masters student, yesterday I was given the great privilege to be on the other side of the interview process. A good friend and fellow Yogini called me the other day to discuss what I my perspectives were on the themes of masculinity and femininity.
These are two themes that have danced and taunted me my entire life. Due to my own personality being a strong and external force of rage against injustice and thirsty curiosity I have been labeled things that I myself did not identify with but that the world at large felt the need to stick upon me to make sense of the contradiction I posed to current social constructs. For I was a woman but many times a confrontational and hell raising human.
I was labeled a FemiNazi, a Bitch, a Lesbo (which is a fine label…but I´m not), stubborn, sinfull, odd, weird, rebellious or just simply, crazy.
This became even more confusing when I actually started dating. As a strong woman I found that I both repelled and attracted equally strong men but somehow I found myself in a pattern of ending up in relationships with men who were broken in some way shape or form. Was it me trying to fix them? I would argue no, it wasn´t that at all. In fact, I was repulsed by the idea of someone trying to change me, and policed my own behavior to make sure I didn´t do it to another.
In retrospect, I would argue that when I encountered a man with a broken spirit he had the humility to hold my own tender heart with kindness and tenderness. In the arms of that broken spirit, I found the reprieve that my femininity longed to fall into and surrender to, but simply could not in a world where human kindness and tears are considered weak and an invitation to be taken advantage of.
But even in the sweet reprieve of a lovers arms, I had to live in a world that forced me to protect a very big, very sensitive and empathetic heart. Unfortunately, these men with the broken spirits as kind as they were, could not offer me the sustainable strength I needed to truly surrender and allow the feminine aspects of myself come out and play.
So I moved on. I even stopped feeling for a while. I became numb. Then life knocked me on the head, or rather, on my back, and I was brought into the world of Yoga.
I began to feel again. It hurt, but I was alive, and through various trials I found I had a strength within me that I thought only existed in those Oscar winning super cheesy Hollywood movies. I survived and even thrived.
The masculine aspects of my personality truly shined. I started my own business and I figured out how to live on my own in a foreign country with a foreign tongue. But the feminine aspects were waiting, as they always had been, silently observing the moment when they would have their time to shine.
And as I spoke with my friend I began to realize justhow valuable those feminine traits are that had been so degraded and undervalued in my past. I thought about my practice and about my students. In a simple touch so much comfort can be given and meanings conveyed, a gentle bit of simple instruction can change a pose from painful to liberating, a smile and heartfelt energy creates a safe space for all those who wish to practice and feel the relief that Yoga truly can bring. This does not mean that my classes are soft and easy. I know they are not. They are intense and meticulous but these masculine aspects of perfection and militant direction find their compliment and balance with human touch, laughter, connection, guidance and positive encouragement.
I do believe that the world is severely lacking in a balance of masculine and feminine energy. The masculine traits of order and competition are far more valued than the chaotic energy of feminine creation. The feminine is a wonderful and fantastic energy that every one of us holds within us. It does not make men or women weak. Mother Nature is a woman and no one can destroy her. Try as this masculine hegemony might, in the end, she will win.
As a human race, we would be wise to start paying more attention to the subtle cues our feminine energy is seeking to tell us. The whole world would be a much better place if both men and women exercised more kindness and empathy. I know there are many who look at their partner like he or she is crazy when water works start for no reason, but instead of telling them to calm down, yelling at them or convincing them to think logically…instead, offer to be the strength they need and provide a safe space so that the human being in front of you can feel safe to experience the subtle and beautiful side of their feminine being.
Observe and allow yourself to also stand in awe at the feminine energy that quickly ebbs and flows between ecstasy and melancholia. Allow them to flow and start to observe how quickly that chaos calms and transforms into a warmth of love and appreciation that will be directed directly as you, the sacred space holder of the feminine. Allow that warmth to fill you from head to toe and to overflow to the human being in front of you, next to you, inside of you.
Love is innately a feminine characteristic trait. Protection is masculine. Both must exist in unison not just between persons, but within individuals as well. Paying attention and appreciating the flow and movement of these two energies, one can begin to truly understand the translation of Yoga: To be Yoked.
In other words, the practice of Yoga is yoking the masculine and feminine energies into One.