It is fatal to be a man or woman pure and simple: one must be a woman manly, or a man womanly. -Virginia Woolf
What does it mean to be a woman manly or a man womanly? To me, it means embodying masculine or feminine qualities without going “over the top” with these qualities. For instance, the masculine qualities of strength, stability, assertiveness and courage can easily tip into forcefulness, rigidity, aggression and arrogance, respectively. How do we keep them from tipping? Add a little feminine.
Both men and women possess masculine and feminine qualities. Saying that strength is a masculine quality does not mean women are without strength. Saying that receptivity is a feminine quality does not mean men are incapable of receiving. Any one of us can possess any amount of these qualities. It is up to each one of us to recognize our tipping point. When does my strength become forcefulness? When does my assertiveness transform into aggression? Have I moved so far into softness that I have sacrificed my strength? Am I so focused on productivity that I have forgotten how to receive?
Your yoga mat is the perfect place to explore these questions and to actually feel the “answer” in your body. This month, we are focused on embodying masculine qualities. In other words, we get to enjoy feeling strong without forgetting about softness. We get to be bold and courageous without forgetting about caution and humility. We get to sweat and move and use our muscles and still allow ourselves time to rest.
Here are a few great poses to use to practice the embodied masculine:
1) Half Handstand: Arm balances are fun, they build upper body strength and they help us feel powerful and confident. They also help us recognize when we’re simply “muscling” through something rather than taking time to breathe and align ourselves. I do half handstand in this video if you’re not sure what it is.
2) Warrior II: Hold it for a while, breathe smoothly and soften where you can so that you don’t become rigid
3) Plank: Notice if your shoulder blades are flat on your back or if you’re rounding or collapsing your upper back. If you’re rounding, soften your heart towards the floor and reach your breast bone forward. If you’re collapsing, give a good push into the floor until the space between your shoulder blades fills out.
For movement-based workshops on exploring masculinity, check out School for the Embodied Masculine. Discover a way of moving that is “powerful, confident, sexy and compassionate.”
Be a man womanly or a woman manly. Keep your softness. Know your strength.
Got another great practice for embodying the masculine? Please share in the comments.
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