Updated: Jun 25, 2019
In anticipation of a new Men’s Yoga class launching on Saturday, I thought it was about time I made one more formal appeal to the men in our community and to lay out some of the reasons why Yoga gives you strength that you could have never imagined if you are approaching it as some sort of ‘pansy, flexibility sport’ for girls. I assure you it is not (!) and for the many guys that have now tried and actively practice Yoga, they may tell you it is a lot harder than you may think and a lot more rewarding than you may expect.
So for the skeptical gentlemen out there who think Yoga isn’t for them, but haven’t yet tried it, here’s a few things you might want to consider first.
Long before the Lululemon ladies movement dominated the mats of elegant studios across the globe, Yoga was traditionally a practice only carried out by men (but thankfully women haven’t been denied Yoga since then). The practice of Yoga is recorded as going back to 500 BC where it was originally designed by men, for men. As Yoga migrated from India to Western culture, the adaptation of the practice was taken up by women more than men, to lead us to the current gender make up we experience in a Yoga class today, which comprises a large majority of women. According to a 2012 Yoga in America study by Yoga Journal, only 17.8 percent of the 20.4 million practitioners in the U.S. were men. So here’s some of the main reasons men could realign with Yoga and share in it (with the girls) as a tool of self inquiry and development or as a modality of exercise and wellness:
Many of us want to run faster, go farther, lift heavier and flourish more in our careers and creative projects. If you have ambitious workout goals, Yoga can be a great way to build the strength that can improve your overall health and performance across all activities. In addition to igniting muscles rarely activated in a typical gym routine, Yoga comes with many perks: increased flexibility, motor ability and motion range, strengthening of the core, improved balance, and a wider access to valuable stretches. You may also improve your emotional intelligence and capacity to want to work harder in the relationships that serve you most in your life. All of these things can be profound transformations or simply be nice additions to your regular workout and can help synergize your muscle groups to serve your overall body better and help balance your existing routine. In short Yoga makes you significantly more resourceful.
Yoga is not about competing and comparing with others or checking out other practitioners. It is more to do with self-love as a means to let go and love others. It is refreshing that flashing bigger muscles or grunting to bench-press won’t be useful or serve you in Yoga as one of the end goals is to rewire your mind and control of your emotions and senses through the perfection and experiences learned by moving through the body with breath awareness. It is a personal experience of self-inquiry involving embracing uncomfortable postures, experiencing clenching of the jaw and shortness of breath and facing doses of humility and limitation, especially when you are new and out of your comfort zone. Most people find this out when they come to their first downward dog, wondering “How the hell are these people holding this for so long!” Rest assured, by experiencing in both a negative and positive way, new physical and mental options will emerge for your amour of learning. Tightness will seem unconquerable at times, but pressing on with the spirit of a humble learner will reward you greatly and for those that practice, all does come. My guides in the Himalayas taught me on day one that for One to learn Yoga, you must be prepared to empty an entire ocean with a single blade of grass.
Yogis in the Himalayan Mountains are arguably the most mentally fit humans on Earth. At 15,000 feet above sea level and below zero temperatures, these Tibetan monks spend years in indomitable conditions that, in normal circumstances, would kill them. But it doesn’t. Instead, these remarkable Yogis meditate for hours on end without even letting out so much as a shiver. The powers of meditation can literally be seen in brain scans, where the left prefrontal cortex can be seen lighting up and over time, resulting in a thickening of the cortex. The balancing of the Parasympathetic and Sympathetic nervous system and teachings of Yin principles and surrender to restore and generate power are often breakthrough discoveries for the conditioned man that knows only the masculine way.If the thought of chanting or Om-ing puts you off, trust that it doesn’t have to be all about that. It is simply a sound vibration for you to feel and other objects and tools of meditation are available.
Make it what you want, but know that the sheer act of moving through a vinyasa Yoga flow or holding asana and/or moving in sync with the breath is meditative. Once you have met calm in the storm of your uncomfortable sensations, you can always return to your place of power and newfound comfort, carrying it over to any other sport, obstacle, or area of your life. The secret that most teachers will guard to avoid circumvention of the process of Yoga is that Yoga is for the mind. Much of the literature and teachings are about wiring new neurological pathways in the mysterious brain, awakening hidden endocrine systems that regulate the bodies energy/emotions and essentially hacking your brain and the go-to conditioned responses we are all plagued with, giving you access to opposite choices, emotional composure and smart action that can break addiction and make your life more effortless. If the myths of Bruce Lee’s one-inch punch intrigue you, then know that the practices of Chinese Acupuncture, Chinese Martial Arts, Yoga and Qi Gong hold the secrets to how to achieve power in the body, when the process of Yoga is complete and the practitioner moves on to higher planes of learning to do with meditation. To start your indoor training with me this weekend or any Saturday at Yoga Flourish, 12pm in Huntingdale.
Om Shanti Shanti Article by William F Forde, 20th June 2019