There has been many times in my life when I wished that I was a dude. There has been even more times I wished that I was gay. That I would fall in love with women. Unfortunately I seem to be the most heterosexual person in the universe.
I've had to be afraid of men my whole life. In high school I was afraid walking past certain male species in the corridors while wearing my goth getup and black lipstick. Would I catch nasty comments or not? Would I be called ugly witch whore or not? Walking down dark streets at night, or traveling alone, there is often fear. I could be raped. I could be robbed.
When I had a gun pointed right at my heart on one balmy Manhattan night, almost twenty years ago, it was a man who held that gun
There's definitely something very toxic in the way that masculinity has been envisioned and embodied. It is changing. But way too slowly. Maybe that's why so many men are confused and insecure about their place in this world?
That said, I've also had and continue to have, many amazing dudes in my life! Starting with my dad. He's never been a macho man. Growing up he cooked for us and cleaned the house. I've always had really close smart, funny and loyal dude friends. And I have a sweet, nurturing boyfriend.
And, despite not having many dudes coming to class (or retreats) with me, the ones that do are pretty fucking rad!
Here's another one! We chatted over a beer in a Prenzlauer Berg dive bar (I know, seems to be an oxymoron but isn't).
Christian Schrader, 32
Lives in Berlin but grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico
Booze-pusher and bike courier
When and how did you start practicing yoga?
I don’t remember a specific year, but my sister has this holistic center, and maybe I started about eight years ago, or a bit more. My sister was like; hey come by, bring a friend, and I thought I could do this, especially because it was for free. And I remember there always being this older dude there, in every class, practicing. And after some time I realized I was getting strong in a different way than I was getting from kite boarding, which I was also doing in Mexico. It’s not about being super-strong, but you build strength in a different way.
What are some of the benefits you have enjoyed through practicing?
When you are constant, when you go at least twice a week, you really feel your body and mind more integrated, but if you just do a pop-up yoga session it gives me a huge clarity on my current life situation. If I’m stuck in something, it opens new ways of nailing this thing that’s stuck, so for me it’s always an un-blocker of little problems I might have, and this has nothing to do with the physicality of it, it’s more about the mindset. Yoga also gives me a general sense of well-being, which is cool.
What struggles related to the yoga practice have you managed to overcome?
Because I bike a lot, there are some asanas that are really tough, like those targeting the inner groins, but now it’s not like I try to avoid them when they come up in class, but I surrender to the fact that I will have a big drop of sweat trying them out. And then there are some asanas that I have conquered, if I can put it that way. But there are others asanas that I think I need another eight years to get.
Crow is always fun to do. It’s kind of an inversion but not quite. You wrap yourself into a little package and if you have that core thing to shoot back you can loop it back into the flow. It’s a common one so it usually comes and I’m happy to have it.
What’s this one where you have your legs folded and stacked?
It's called double-pigeon or fire log. Agnistambhasana.
Because of the outer hip. From bike riding. Uh, that’s a big drop of sweat. This counter-stretch of a muscle I work daily.
Why do you think so few men practice yoga?
I think that whoever started this huge trend, this huge business that yoga now is in the west at least, somehow geared it more towards women, and linked it to pilates and wellness, and now it’s maybe seen as something for girls. I think something like Tai Chi is more visualised as a practice for men.
You often can’t help noticing that you are one of very few, or the only, man in a room full of ladies. I think with you it’s happened maybe two or three times that I was the only man in the room. I don’t feel uncomfortable to be honest, but it’s a very different thing than if it would be completely mixed or the other way around, a room full of almost only guys. It will be interesting to see how it develops though. My ex-roommate, I put him on the path of yoga and he got really into it. I think there is openness to this practice. And the poses are actually quite difficult strength-wise. So it’s not not manly. And because it’s an industry now, there’s a spot for everyone.