Monday, September 26, 2011

Yoga, Gender and Balance. Where my Boys at?

Gender Development and Equality is a main focus in many Peace Corps countries and Albania is no different. Although technology and cyber infrastructure have brought Albania into the modern world, strict gender roles still exist...think pre-women's lib style stuff. I can get into this more in a another post. However, our GAD (Gender and Development) Committee asked me to write an article for their September newsletter.... Yoga and Gender? Hey guys...when is the last time you struck a downward dog pose? Here in... please enjoy the newfound benefits Yoga brings to life in Albania!

September is National Yoga Awareness Month! (D’oh! If you were as unaware as I was…mark your 2012 Calendar now!) For the newbies: Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline, originating in ancient India, whose goal is the attainment of a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility. (Thank you Wikipedia!)

Historically, yoga was developed by and for male bodies, and often draws on the language of male experience. Think WARRIOR poses. And yet you’ll typically find that less than 20% of participants in the U.S. are men. So as we work on developing gender equality here in Albania, let us not forget that our own gender balance is often as shaky as a first-timer attempting Tree Pose. (what’s that I hear? Crickets? Well…my attempt at a yogi joke. Whatever.)

So….I could drone on and on about yoga’s benefits – flexibility, balance, strength – and how they are not uniquely masculine or feminine, but rather human. About how poses and meditation bring a clarity of mind and spirit that cultivates an empowered self, yatta yatta.
But, I doubt this same tired message will do much to change the opinions of those “yet enlightened.” And truthfully, to reap the benefits of yoga takes time and we all know that most men are far too impatient for that! (Yes, I am keenly aware of the sweeping generalization.) So rather, allow me to offer some more immediate or practical reasons that you may find yoga valuable:

• Yogi Squat pose will improve your Turkish toilet experiences.

• Several studies suggest yoga improves sexual performance…I’m just sayin’….Pse Jo?

• Yoga poses and stretching can help eliminate/minimize aches and pains often blamed on the typical Albanian Divan turned Crevat(fancy style futon).

• Breathe of Fire is a natural way to warm yourself from the inside-out on those blustery Dimer days. Are you listening Bajram Curri(a chilly northern town)?

• Too much fasule(a popular bean dish)? Plow pose provides a natural and comfortable exit strategy for your most gassy aftermath.

I’ll leave you to consider these points…and just maybe, we’ll improve that 20% male participation statistic se bashke. Regardless of gender, yoga is a personal journey and I hope to see you along the way. Namaste*.

*My instructor’s translation: From the place I know to be divine within me, I bow to honor the place I know to be divine within you. Sa bukur, huh? (Beautiful, huh?)

Peace, Love and Downward Dogs

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