I just got back from my Mennonite YAS class. YAS class consists of a half hour of spin followed by a half hour of yoga. Mennonite All those long blue dresses would get caught up in the wheels of the bikes, wouldn’t they? I can hear you asking yourselves this important question. But the white caps would be good sweat absorbers during the half hour spin followed by half an hour of yoga, right?

I like to rest my bible up on the handlebars next to my water bottle for quick text checks during those particularly challenging hills and sprints.

But no, dial it back, my friend. My reference is merely an observation of the gender sorting that seems to take place every Saturday morning in my downtown YAS class. Our fearless instructor, Stephanie, is great. We find our bikes- most of us creatures of habit-I head directly for the bike under the fan, left side, front row, near the open doors for as much air as I can muster. It’s funny, because I am definitely not a front row kind of gal in the exercise realm. Academically, I would always position myself toward the front of the room, so as to better hear and be less distracted from the shenanigans in the back, the row upon row of hormonally charged note-passers were a distraction in my day. Now the notes are passed virtually and as a lecturer, I know that the better or at least more attentive students are sitting closer to the front of the room.

But where group exercise goes, I have always been a back row kind of gal.

Not so with spin, probably because I usually attend a 7:15 spin class where there are about two or three of us, so I know a retreat to the back is futile. The instructor will find me, so I might as well take advantage of the fan.  What happens in this YAS class each week is that the women clump on the left side of the room, and the men configure themselves on the right side in a straight line across the mirror, like horses at the starting gate, leaping at the reins, their individual lanes ahead, poised to break out and win the race. I prefer to think that the women’s collective on the left side is, by proximity, driving our team on to victory over the men. I’m not competitive, by any means, as my son can tell you.

Mind you, this is never mentioned or commented on. But it has happened the last three weeks. About ten  to twelve students, all arrayed the same way.

Cut to the yoga room. This is even more obvious. The practice is that you place your mat in the room ahead of time and get whatever toys you need to put by your mat to survive the session; my pile includes sixteen blocks, two straps, and a one touch EMT button that will summon the fire fighters should I fall over during the Warrier 3 and break a hip. I am a stage manager, so I get there early; generally, there is no one  in the room when I go to put my mat down, i,e., there are no influencing factors as to where in the gender stream I will end up.

And yet, at the end of the yoga class today, I turned my head and observed that our mats were neatly arrayed in two rows, women in the back, men in the front. Weird, right? It has made me so curious. What is at play here?

I know why I choose the back right corner of the yoga space to unfurl my mat. I want to be as unnoticeable as I can when I topple over or lay on my back in the amended pigeon pose (who made up these names?). Perhaps the young women in the class enjoy watching the broad sweaty backs of their male counterparts, but as far as I can tell, most of the men arrive as couples amongst themselves, so it may not be hopeful longing that positions the women there. Could it be that we really are adopting the historical directives of our foremothers? In religious gatherings, women cede front position to the men? Or, Is everyone in the yoga class as skills weak as me? No, again, casual observance shows good form in both the men and women’s practice.

I am flummoxed by the trend, but don’t see myself breaking my habits. I like the bike I like, I like the mat position I like. But the imp in me wonders what would happen if I took a position in the front row of the right side. Or said, in a loud voice as people were setting up their bikes, “Hey has anyone else noticed how we have self-sorted into men and women in these classes? What’s up with that?”

For now, I am content to allow the Mennonite spin experience keep happening unimpeded. If you have any ideas, or have observed this happening in your classes, let me know! There must be grant money out there for research. Maybe we could get funding from the Axe, or Secret deodorant companies. Just a thought on this quiet segregated Saturday.

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