Jenny, owner of Breathing Space Yoga Studio, invited me to be a student during the filming of an ASN Breakfast TV special on featuring her introduction of Hot Yoga. The interviewer was one of the shows hosts, an out of shape fellow named Cyril. It’s not unkind to call him out of shape because he admits it and uses the fact in his assignment to try out and report back to viewers how he is progressing with his various fitness goals.
They taped 6 interview clips and Jenny eased him into various classic yoga asanas. One of the last moves we did was to sit in lotus position in preparation for breathing. He was struggling a bit trying to position his feet with souls facing up in full lotus. I reassured him from the back row that guys don’t really do that position because we don’t have the hips. He seemed relieved. Of course that’s universally not true as the great masters make pretzels out of every limb but I venture to claim that the average guy has to work it a bit more in some poses. So I caught myself genderizing yoga and wondering if there is in fact a different experience for men.
This question started me reflecting on why I started yoga as a 40 year old man. My motivation was driven first and foremost by the fact that I couldn’t touch my toes and I had shoulder and back troubles as a result of that stiffness. Sun salutations are for me with this goal in sight. I started off with interdisciplinary yoga but was soon drawn to astanga. I certainly like the cardiovascular aspect of the heart pumping full flow yoga but I also wonder, if I were honest, how much I secretly liked that astanga is also called power yoga because the name is something most dudes understand and respect.
As I got further into the discipline I learned how yoga, which in Sanskrit means yoke, is really about the union of body, mind and spirit especially through the breath This is not normal conversation between most guys. “Hey how is your BMS balance today?” For most guys heavy breathing is a different kind of exercise all together. I meant snow shoveling.
But seriously, men aren’t exactly renowned for being leaders with their own health. This lack of awareness is a major problem in our lives. Like it or not we are notorious for not listening to our body’s wisdom. Men die sooner and have more stress related diseases (read preventable). So something here is missing. Why the heck aren’t more guys stretching it out and yoking the whole show into the common cause of wellness? I don’t have a fast answer.
The only thing I can do is to tell how great it has been for me personally. How the deep breath helps me speak better as a professional motivational speaker. How the cardio workout is gentle yet relentless. How I feel more supple and relaxed and I likely even sleep better at night. How my balance and focus have improved. How my energy has improved and likely my ability to hold peaceful space when all things around are a bit crazy.
This is only one guy’s story about how he discovered an amazing, rich, deep and revitalizing holistic exercise. Maybe that’s the best we can all do. So go tell it from the mountain that you do yoga and listen up, this is how it helps me. What if everybody did this with 3 male friends, husband, brother, etc. Let’s see what we can do to invite a guy to at least try out a class.
If the approach of enrolling with personal witness and a long list awesome health benefits does not work I might go as far as to mention, with my single friends at least, that, especially at Breathing Space Yoga Studio, yoga is also a great way to meet some wonderful, fun and health conscious women. That certainly sounds like a guy way to advertise, but if it enrolls more men into the wonderful secrets of yoga then what the heck. I know they’ll thank me in the long run when they master the full “pretzel lotusdoltasana” and live better and longer because of it.
— Peter Davison is local motivational speaker working on his back bends.
Breathing Space Yoga Studio