Yoga has been nothing short of life changing for me, some of which has been physical, some mental. I feel ten years younger than I look, and handle stress (of which I now have ten times more) far better than I ever have. As I glanced around the room at a recent yoga class, however, I did not see myself (except in the mirror). I saw women of all ages and a handful of men in their 50s and 60s. No strapping young bucks, and no younger dads like me. This is par for the course. Why?
As I ponder this question, it hits me like a ton of bricks. There are two primary reasons for the lack of dude in the space between these four walls:
1. Most men have a misconception about what yoga entails, and elect more “rigorous” activities
2. Women are generally “better” than men at yoga, which makes many men uncomfortable
WHY MEN SHOULD RECONSIDER
So what does yoga entail, and why should men be interested? Most people think that yoga is sitting on a mat and chanting. Maybe that sounds great, but I don’t think that will win men over. And yes, there are forms of yoga that are super chill and full of chant. There are also forms of yoga that are incredibly physical and challenging, which is the format that most men have access to if they belong to a gym, and what I find most interesting and beneficial. Anything that has “Power” or “Vinyasa” or “Flow” in its name will incorporate strength (planks, push ups, core work), flexibility, mental focus and relaxation techniques. Oh yeah, your heart will also pound throughout and you’ll probably learn to stand on your head (easier than it looks, good bar or play room trick). Yoga Journal defines Power yoga as “a fitness-based vinyasa practice. An offshoot of Ashtanga Yoga, it has many of the same qualities and benefits, including building internal heat, increased stamina, strength, and flexibility, as well as stress reduction.” If you follow the link, you’ll notice how few men you see. Yoga class is definitely not a pirate ship!
Slurp down your yoga burrito and all of this can be yours.
Yoga is a like a burrito; you get everything you need in one tightly wrapped package. It just so happens that this burrito won’t make you fat or give you food poisoning, what it will give you is a complete set of tools to handle anything that comes your way with work or family. When was the last time you picked your child up and they flailed, putting your body into an awkward position? Every day. How about a scenario at work or home that made your blood boil, and you had no outlet other than screaming or slamming your fist or sending an angry text? Probably just before you read this. Yoga teaches you how to breath, yes breath. When you were freaking out as a tot, and your mom told you to “take a deep breath”, she was onto something. Believe it or not, yoga teaches you how to breath more effectively. Slurp down your yoga burrito and all of this can be yours. As a bonus feature, you’ll be able to do your more manly activities with less frequent injury, far later into life. You may even get better at them, as your chronic back or shoulder or hamstring injury magically disappears. Old people shut down because they get stiff and weak. Yoga is the antidote. Onto my second point…
WOMEN DO IT WELL
Women are generally “better” than men at yoga, which I’m contending makes men feel uncomfortable and perhaps even less masculine. I know this because I am a man, and have experienced these uncomfortable feelings. I put “better” into quotations because I once told a male instructor, who was indeed sick at yoga, that I was incredibly impressed with his level of skill. He quickly responded that we are not “good” or “bad” at yoga, but “simply at different points in our journey”. I rolled my eyes in my mind. It’s ok to both do yoga and maintain an acceptable level of manly skepticism. Regardless of the journey you are on, from my non-scientific assessment women are simply designed better for the combinations of power, flexibility and balance required to take most yoga poses to their limit. Deal with it. I have been practicing yoga for 15+ years, yet I see women with far less experience than I pulling off some crazy shiznit (for lack of a better term). Every pose in yoga has levels of progression. For example, the first step might simply be touching your toes. Three steps beyond could include touching your toes…with your face. Is it frustrating to see a young gal killing a pose that feels like it’s killing me? Sure, but not really. You get the same benefits regardless of where you are in the pose, and if you step back it is amazing to see what stretchy pants are capable of enduring. That, and if you stick with yoga long enough you’ll find a few poses at which you are naturally “good”, as in farther along on your journey. Silently gloat as stretchy pants falls over. It’s ok.
SIGN ME UP!
Interest peaked, dudes? What’s the best way to get started? I would suggest gym yoga as a good transition into the “sport”. Going directly to a studio might move a bit too quickly for a beginner. Additionally, you can try Power yoga in the comfort of your own home. It’s even more portable than running – all you need is a floor. YouTube is full of creepy yoga videos, but there are some good ones sprinkled in there. I’m a big fan of anything from Donna at the Yoga Vine. This video is one of my all time favorites, and in 30 minutes will leave you feeling like a million bucks.
If I haven’t made my case for men of all ages to give yoga a try (again, specifically Power varietals), yoga also happens to be a great activity to do with your wife or significant other. She’ll be better than you, and you’ll both get healthier in the process. How is that not a recipe for a happy relationship?