Yoga for Everyone

Yoga Myth Busters : “Real Men Don’t Do Yoga”

If you’re a guy who won’t go near a yoga studio because you think it’s full of flexible, fit, slim, young women, that’s completely understandable. (Although I have male friends who would see that sentence as immediate motivation to rush to yoga quicker than you could say Om).

For thousands of years, yoga was taught and practiced mostly by men, in India. When it became popular in the West as a fitness craze for women in the 70s and 80s, it somehow also acquired a stigma of being a woman’s thing—of no use to men. You know, like macramé.

How ridiculous and how untrue! For decades, women have enjoyed the many yoga benefits of flexibility, strength, balance and peace of mind; while men continue to suffer from lower back pain, tight hamstrings, immobile hips and the endless stream of thoughts of a stressed-out, busy mind.

businessmen-yogaWhether it’s to supplement or replace a sweaty gym workout, or you’d just like to be able to pick up your grandchild without herniating a disc, you too can join the growing number of men in the US benefiting from yoga.

Gym dudes will see improved flexibility and increased muscular endurance from the long holds in yoga poses. Golfers will enjoy an easier swing, from more limber spine and hips.

Businessmen will discover improved concentration and focus, perhaps setting an intention for their work week with more clarity, after experiencing how using intention during yoga creates awareness and discipline.

With manic schedules and stressful responsibilities, that one hour or so of yoga may be the only time for some men to decompress, slow down, and breathe.

And don’t worry if you can only do 10 percent of what an ultra-bendy female next to you is doing. Choose instead to do 100 percent of what your body can do. That is more than enough. The general female tendency of more flexible hips makes way for the overall male tendency of more strength, so there will be poses most men can access more easily than most women—if that matters to you. You’ll know you’re really “doing yoga” when you don’t give two hoots about that kind of competition anyway, because you’re too busy enjoying how good you feel during and after yoga.

Almost convinced? Here’s a nudge that may motivate you … yoga improves your sex life. Yes, read that again. An NCBI study (pubmed/20646186) reveals yoga as “an effective method of improving all domains of sexual functions in men.”

Athletes, film stars, singers and business execs have turned to yoga; as a powerful anti-ageing tool for building stamina, improving concentration, and reducing anxiety and depression. LeBron James, Tom Brady, Sting, Adam Levine, Russell Simmons, Robert Downey, Jr., Matthew McConaughey, Colin Farrell and many more. That’s quite a diverse group of yoga guys.

There’s a yoga mat waiting for all men; it’s simply a matter of finding a yoga space where you feel comfortable. Do some research, perhaps try a class led by a male teacher, or go with a friend—male or female. It won’t be long before Warrior and Plank Pose become a casual part of your health and fitness conversation.

Namaste.

[as published in Today’s Yoga Magazine]

Asana, Yoga for Everyone

Yoga Myth Busters : “I’m Not Flexible Enough To Do Yoga”

If I had received a secret yoga power for every time I’ve heard that statement, I’d be enlightened by now. As yoga teachers, we shake our heads in frustration when we hear it, because that’s as illogical as saying I’m too dirty to take a shower. It’s precisely because you’re inflexible that you need yoga.

yoga-cartoon-too-stiff-to-do-yogaCan’t touch your toes? Perfect! You’re an ideal candidate for yoga. If anything, you could benefit even more from yoga than the naturally flexible yogis, whose bones and joints genetically slot into place with minimal effort. Your stiffness means you’ll really feel the positive effects as your body starts to experience relief from being tight.

Ultra-bendy yogis can also easily injure themselves through hyperextending their joints, or going too deeply into a pose. Lucky you, Mr or Ms Creaky Joints—the more inflexible you are, the quicker and louder your inner alarm will ring when you’re reaching your limits, and so you’ll stop (if your ego is in check) and avoid injury.

Yoga isn’t about an end goal that culminates in a glamorous photo of an impossible pretzel pose, anyway. If we did manage to tuck one foot behind the head, does that make us a better person? Of course not.

What does make us feel better is releasing tension in the body, easing the mind from the busyness of the day, and taking long, relaxing breaths.

Ready to take your rigid limbs to the mat, then? Good. Some tips along the way:

  1. Patience. Cultivate buckets of it. Without patience, you may force yourself too far into a pose, and cause injury.
  2. Experiment and find a yoga class where you fit in, with an experienced and encouraging teacher who understands your body type.
  3. Don’t give up after one or two classes. I’m naturally inflexible and I promise you, with regular practice, it does get easier—to the point that it can become seductively addictive, because you feel so good during and after yoga.
  4. Explore. Be curious, instead of judgmental, about the physical mechanics of your body and how and when it feels challenged. What happens if you relax a bit in the poses, instead of trying so hard? Are you holding your breath instead of breathing with ease?
  5. Warm up before yoga, especially if the weather is cold. Try a short walk, or arrive ten minutes early to do some simple stretches.
  6. Avoid comparing and competing—with yourself as well as with others. It doesn’t matter what’s happening on the mat next to you. As long as you’re in the zone of safe alignment, measured breathing, and no pain, you will benefit from your practice.

gumby-yogaGo for it! Get your stiff and inflexible bod over to a yoga studio, recognize and smile at the other kindred spirits who can also hardly touch their knees, let alone their toes, and ease into some stretches that will make your muscles, joints and soul sigh with gratitude.

Namaste.

[as published in Today’s Yoga Magazine]