For 10 years I have been teaching teen boys yoga and always felt the need to go in full guns creating fun and funky classes, full of arm balances and fun. I have shared my insights about this in my trainings, where I share what works and what doesn’t with each gender, age and social group.
We were going through a typical class with girls of around 15 years old, a nurturing, kind, touchy feely kind of class with lots of fun peppered through as well and the question came up – “could we teach this class to boys?”
I reflected and told them :
7 years ago I started a boys only football team yoga class in Primary school, teaching them self massage, massage of each other, yoga nidra, partner yoga. It became a nurturing, kind environment, where verbal and physical sharing was at the heart of the experience. They carried on this weekly class from the age of 7 to 11, when they left school. It is interesting to note that it was a private, closed class.
It is obvious to them that I would offer a nurturing class (still boisterous and crazy of course!).
Now they are 13 and they are all at different schools with new friends and when asked, they revealed that they really missed the massage, the touch, the sharing but they weren’t sure whether their new friends would be up for it.
Many educators feel that young men need other men as mentors. I think this is right. However, I would like to empower women in this role, particularly older women, to step in and nurture and be the goddess, the strong mother figure who allows the man to be soft, as she herself embraces her wholeness as a strong and powerful woman. Lets leave behind this binary attitude towards gender!
So many things came up during these discussions, one could call it research, with these young men – they really don’t feel they have an arena for discussion of feelings, and they feel judged and manipulated by the observer, ie the teacher. Several of the young men used the term sexist in relation to how they were being seen and treated by staff.
So, let’s be totally aware of our own meta narrative when we go into a class. As an observer, we are projecting expectations, which the group shapes to.
With boys, I sense a longing to come alive in gentleness.
Of course, this needs to be approached very… gently!
In my experience as long as you have fun as your highest goal, then anything can occur, but this open, inquisitive and nurturing attitude of yours can engender miracles on the mat.
When, as teachers, we can let go of our fears, pre-conceptions and reservations and drop into the heart and reside there, we can open tenderness in our men to a great degree and allow them to explore a whole life of feeling truly alive.