enlightenMENt through Yoga

Posted: July 23, 2013 in Flexibility Training, Health & Wellness, Special Modalities
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

“Practice, and all is coming”

– Sri K. Pattabhi Jois

I have so many clients, especially male clients,  that come to in search of the best way to stay pain free and the simple response is to stretch more. The usual response that I get is “I don’t like to stretch, it’s boring” or “I don’t know how to do it right.” There is an easy solution to this, Yoga. I don’t practice nearly as much as I should, however; I am a huge advocate of utilizing the technique to optimize flexibility and health. To help explain the many benefits of Yoga and how it can positively effect an man’s health, I will put the following entry in the hands of Ken Immer. Ken is one of my clients and friends who hosts weekly yoga sessions catered to men specifically.

Men &Yoga

By: Ken Immerken1

 

I have been teaching yoga for over 10 years, and to this day, it surprises me that more men are not practicing yoga. When new men show up for their first class with me, I always ask them how they feel after my class, and the answer 99% of the time is “It’s not what I thought it was… at all.” This response can sometimes be a surprise because I may have actually talked to the guy before hand and convinced him to come check it out. Clearly, the invitation was understood and taken, but the message about what a yoga class IS often was not. The guys always say that “It was a lot harder than I expected” or “That was an amazing workout.” or “I can’t believe how relaxed I feel.” These are the messages that I want to convey: yes, it is a tough workout, you will sweat, and yes, you will feel relaxed and rejuvenated after practicing. All yoga classes, however, are not created equal when it comes to the first two, and that’s where some of the confusion comes in, but every class will always give you the last one. Which is one of the biggest reason to do it. We all could use a little less stress. The difference with the first two is your own current fitness level and attitude, and there is a yoga for everyone out there.

 yogaken
Most men believe that yoga is something soft and feminine, and it can be. But a key attribute of yoga practice is balance, so along with a feminine side, there is a stronger, harder, masculine side. Yoga was originally designed BY men FOR men’s bodies. We have a natural tendency to be stronger, and many yoga practices develop and rely on this strength, but are often omitted from yoga classes that are mostly attended by women. So, yeah, what you may have heard is sometimes true, but not always, and it depends on the style of yoga and the individual teacher. Sounds confusing, right? Well how do you get to the right class? The answer is just going to your first class and giving it a try.  However, at first it’s important to understand a little about a yoga practice. It’s a lot like any other exercise or sport. When you first start lifting weights, you don’t just go right for the 400 lb. bench press. A good trainer will first use lighter weights to help you learn good form first, and then start to add more weight gradually once you have the fundamentals. Yoga is the same. Your first beginner’s class, for most, will not be the hardest workout of your life, although if you are starting very out of shape, it will likely take some wind out of you and make you sweat, but a seasoned athlete will likely not consider it incredibly challenging. This is completely normal. Your first class is simply learning form and function. Getting used to being barefoot (did they tell you we don’t wear shoes in class?), understanding the format of the class (which often begins with a meditative ‘centering’ and some basic breathing practices, and ends with a complete, on-your-back-with-eyes-closed resting period called “corpse pose” or “savasana” (that’s the technical term, but we won’t get into that here.). Your second class, you might actually start to hear some of the more subtle cues that a good instructor will give instead of just trying to figure out how to get your foot up to the top of the mat, or sit still for as long as the teacher might ask you to. The fact is, it’s an alien world for your first several classes, but believe me when I tell you that it’s worth the investment, and if you give it the chance, you actually start to get the benefits from day 1. So what are these benefits, you ask? Greater flexibility, greater lung capacity, better balance, a truly stronger core that you can feel all the way out to your arms, and of course, there is the benefits of increased sex drive and performance, just to name a few. Once you learn some basic fundamentals, a whole new world of body awareness seems to blossom in front of your eyes. Muscles that you never knew you had start to get stronger, and at the same time, your flexibility will INCREASE, which is quite the opposite that happens with dedicated weight training. Your body becomes more efficient because the breathing exercises help to draw more oxygen into your bloodstream and your breathing becomes deeper. All of these benefits add up to a more relaxed and vital you! This is why the practice is so amazing: it will improve your overall performance in all physical areas of your life. You will sleep better, you will feel better, you will have better balance, and you will feel stronger at the core of your being. And best of all, you can advance at your own rate, attending more and more challenging classes as you feel ready.
 yogaman1
Some men do well using nothing but yoga as an exercise, others will find that regular yoga practice (even only once per week) will benefit all other exercise routines and sports. So if you’re interested in achieving top performance and seeing breakthrough results in your life, yoga is the key. So the elusive, “right class for you” becomes the $64k question. How do I find a studio/teacher that is right for me? You have to ask around! Call the local studios and ask them about how their style of yoga might be for you. One of the fundamental teachings of yoga is that everyone is an individual, and there is no “one right way” to practice. This is why there are so many styles and types of yoga. Living in Charleston, we have an amazing array of styles, teachers, and methods to choose from so it may take some looking and experimenting, but remember, each class is delivering on that long list of benefits, even when you don’t feel like the particular class was “for you”. So it’s never a waste of time. There is an incredible online resource www.yogaformen.comand it’s brother facebook page that I would recommend you check out if you are ready to start exploring the yoga path. It can help you sort through the variety, and actually connect you with other men who are seeking and who have found their yoga practice. There are currently two specific “Men’s only” yoga classes in North Charleston that are offered weekly on Mondays and Thursdays, which can be great for guys who might be apprehensive to a room full of super-flexible women. Every studio in town also has a “beginner’s series” that they will offer at least monthly, and there are always at least a FEW guys in each beginner series, so you won’t be the only one.
The biggest piece of advice I can ever give a man who is giving yoga a try is to do it for at LEAST 6 weeks (1 or 2 times per week) before your make any decisions about its results. It can take this long just to get acclimated because it is so different from anything you have ever done. The reason you are considering it is because you are still looking to increase performance, right? Or maybe it’s because you simply need a form of exercise that is less dangerous and impactful than your current choice. Whatever the reason, yoga IS different, and it can be for you. All you have to do is be open minded to the possibility that it is for you.
Yoga4Menyogaman2
Thursdays, 6:30pm – 7:45pm
Armory Park
5000 Lackawana Blvd.
North Charleston, SC 29405
$5-10 (donation class)
Men’s Yoga
Mondays, 6:30pm – 7:30pm
Barefoot Yoga Studio
1050 E. Montague Ave.
North Charleston, SC 29405
$15 drop in, ($12 with membership)
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Comments
  1. jrmindful says:

    Yoga for men is taking in many forms. Here in DC it’s taken root as Hot Yoga, Naked Men Yoga and even yoga for bears.

    Interestingly enough, it’s history shows a lasting influence of British army calesthenics while the subcontinent was under empirial rule: http://www.amazon.com/Yoga-Body-Origins-Posture-Practice/dp/0195395344/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top. “Yoga Body Origins” details much of that history for men uneasy or uncertain about the practices or styles.

  2. jrmindful says:

    Reblogged this on HeArt+Mindfulness and commented:
    Men’s Yoga: body + mind + spirit. Reconnect with your physical abilities and sense of balance.

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