“everyman’S” First Yoga Class

You're open-minded and even through the idea of sitting with your legs crossed or hoisting yourself into a position with your feet in the air is not appealing, you go to a yoga class. The first impression is not a good one. Too many lithe bodies, and mostly women, in the class, all effortlessly rolling forward to touch their heads to their knees. Their hands fall in line and appear comfortably glued to the ground. They are graceful doves making the movement look simple.

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It's not simple, and the three men in the class struggle to inch their arms toward the top of their kneecaps. The instructor mumbles something about breathing into the pose and relaxing. Everyone is breathing and stretching. Not you; you're sweating and stiff. Thankfully, the class closes with something called yoga nidra, or deep relaxation the entire class collapses on their backs like a corpse. After class, the woman next to you informs you that you snored through the entire deep relaxation. Wasn't that the purpose? You ask. Nix yoga!

Unfortunately, this type of scenario is too often a man's first encounter with yoga. The lesson to be learned is simple: Don't despair. As any yogi will tell you, it will take time. And the old sports adage rings true here as well: Practice makes perfect.

Regular guys do yoga too. Given the misconceptions that many have about yoga, it isn't surprising that you might be skeptical. But real men do practice yoga and meditation, including athletes, coaches, rock singers, and doctors.

The analogy of hatha shouldn't make you nervous. Just talking about uniting energies and the balancing of the feminine and masculine contained in oneself may be a new concept to the linear way of thinking. While the outcome of a yoga practice is the numerous physical and mental benefits discussed throughout this blog, yoga also allows the outer rejuvenation to affect your inner core. It's a window, if you want to open it, to your inner landscape.

Sleep and stress reduction do not do the same things for you as meditation and deep relaxation. Sleep is very nice and necessary, but it has nothing to do with stress reduction or yoga. Practicing yoga or meditation has been documented to improve circulation, respiration, digestion, the cardiac system and blood pressure, and a constellation of other positive benefits.

Yoga is not a sport. Yoga is not a sport; it should never be practiced as such. Yoga will, however, stretch and lengthen muscles and loosen your joints.

If you're an athlete, yoga may seem strange for several reasons there is no team, no winner and loser, no shaking hands or patting on the back. Being noncompetitive is not easy for men to accept it goes against the grain of the entire social structure for many men, from sports to the workplace. You may have been told that if you don't compete you won't get ahead. Yoga is not about getting ahead. Instead, it deposits fertile seeds for growing a healthy body and mind and inner personal development, whether you work on Wall Street or take care of the kids at home.

Many good athletes lack flexibility and range of motion in their bodies. Lifting weights, for example, does not require flexibility, nor does tossing the ball around in the front yard with your kids. As the body ages, so does its mechanisms the shoulders may slump from too much time sitting, the spine loses its freedom of movement, and leg muscles tighten up. Yoga helps the tendons, muscles, and ligaments to retain elasticity. Another benefit.

WHAT MATTERS, WHAT DOESN'T

What Matters.

That men can attain a sense of well-being from yoga.

That you try different types of yoga classes to experience what style best suits you.

That yoga, like a sport, requires practice and perseverance.

That you give yourself permission and time to practice yoga if you want to.

What Doesn't.

Being flexible or able to touch your toes.

Being athletic.

Already playing a sport yoga is not a sport. Nor does it preclude your playing of sports.

That most men you know don't participate in yoga or show the least bit of interest.

That your first yoga class was a snore.

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