Masculinity and modern society are two forces that seem to be in direct conflict with one another. Since childhood, boys are coaxed into the idea that their personal value lies in traits such as toughness, resilience, stoicism, and an overall rejection of emotion, especially any that may be regarded as feminine.
While this is not always the case, western culture certainly adheres to most of the traditional male gender roles listed above, and normally it’s to the detriment of both men’s and women’s health.
The rise of toxic masculinity
We live in a time of constant flux. Cultures, societies, and even morals are changing so rapidly that it’s hard to keep up. What was deemed fair and acceptable just ten or twenty years ago is now frowned upon and called misogyny, gaslighting, or mansplaining.
Times are tough for the modern man, as they now must skirt the line between their innate masculinity and pushing it too far, and succumbing to toxic masculinity. For some men, this feels like an attack on their manhood and what it means to be a man in this day in age. Now more than ever, rates of male suicide, anxiety, and depression are through the rough, and it’s easy to see why.
However, there are solutions to the issue, and it’s one that we as a society and a culture must address. One of the best ways to combat the consequences that men feel as a result of toxic masculinity is to embrace their manhood in a healthy way. To open their emotions and remain receptive to the world and others, without shutting “feminine” emotions away, yoga can help teach these principles.
There’s far more complexity to a man than the mere yearning for violence, sex, status, and aggression.
Healing Toxic Masculinity Through Yoga
Yoga is a pre-Vedic Indian tradition. Over the last few decades, it has quickly become a global sensation, with millions of people practicing yoga to help soothe their minds, bodies, and souls. From the outside looking in, yoga may look like a simple practice where one holds themself in a variety of semi-difficult poses for a prolonged period of time. However, it is far more than that.
The benefits of yoga stretch far and wide and include the following:
● Core strength and posture
● Weight reduction
● Improved energy
● Increased self-esteem
There are many different types of yoga to choose from such as vinyasa, kundalini, and Bikram, to name a few. A friendly word of warning, Bikram yoga is done in a hot room (heated to 105 °F with a humidity of 40%). You’re going to get sweaty, so you’d definitely benefit from getting one of these headbands for yoga before you start.
With that said, let’s take a closer look at how yoga can help ease the ill effects men experience as a result of toxic masculinity.
Becoming more open & learning to relax and accept emotion
Yoga is all about living in the present moment, listening to and focusing on your body, and having acceptance over what you feel without drawing judgment. In a lot of ways, yoga is a form of mediation, and once practiced enough; you can enter into it with a more objective mindset.
Men can definitely benefit from dropping their bravado and becoming more in tune with their bodies and emotions. Taking some quiet time to work on ‘you’ is never a bad thing, and learning how to relax is one of the most important skills one can develop, especially in this modern world.
Aiding anxiety and depression
As we touched upon earlier, anxiety, stress, and depression are three of the fastest rising mental health issues in men. In the western world, males die by suicide at around three to four times more than females, which is a shocking statistic. In the UK, suicide is still the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45!
A great way to combat this is enroll in a yoga course and give your body a way to eliminate these negative emotions. In fact, the Harvard Mental Health Letter states yoga can reduce the impact of stress and help with anxiety and depression by combining both meditative techniques and physical movement. This helps keep people in the present moment through a flow of controlled and focused movements that can help relieve depression symptoms and clear their minds.
Fostering healthy masculinity
It’s important to remember, a rejection of toxic masculinity is not a rejection of manhood itself. That’s the fine line that men must walk in this day in age—finding their way and their purpose through their manhood without letting it define them, at least not fully.
Yoga can help teach values such as strength, receptiveness to others, respect for yourself, and a willingness to empathize with one another. All of these traits are found when we learn to slow down and be more mindful of ourselves and understand our connection to the world and each other.
Our daily habits, thoughts, and concerns can make us feel separate from the world and one another, possibly more so than ever before. Modern life, especially in the western world, drives us into our isolated lives, constantly over-analyzing the past and worrying about the future. Yoga can teach us to live in the present moment, free of the burdens of worry, and hopefully find some much-needed rest bite from the many stresses and pressures of the modern world.