Yoga for Men? You Bet!

Yoga for Men? You Bet!

Health: Yoga for Men: The Downward Doggie Approach to Dealing With Divorce

Much has changed in yoga since Swami Vivekananda introduced the practice to America in the late nineteenth century. Whileit remains a form of spiritual practice in India, it has evolved into a form of physical exercise in the West. Today, approximately 16.5 million Americans spend nearly $3 billion a year on yoga classes and products. And though the term yoga” may conjure images of spandex-clad women, the exercise practice is beneficial to both genders.

First, yoga is a great way to meet women. The women in the class will respect you stretching yourself. They will feel you share core values,” said Debbie Mandel, MA, stress-management specialist and author of
“Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul.”In addition, yoga will teach you how to breathe and relax. The postures are centering and process-oriented, said Mandel. Before you go out there and hunt quarry, you have to be at peace with you.”

The benefits of yoga include: helping to build muscle, lose weight, increase flexibility, prevent sports injuries and even decrease stress ““ all potentially helpful to guys picking up the pieces after a tough marriage.Says Christina Walker, a yoga instructor, who also has been practicing it for 35 years, I think it’s a great idea. Men can reap all the benefits as women can from yoga — the basic benefits of feeling better and spirit and wellness.”

Yoga also puts men in touch with their feminine side, she adds. I know men aren’t crazy about that, But we’re not talking about hopping the fence here,” explains Walker. Yoga is a practice that makes us more aware of ourselves in general, and that is a great balance and benefit for a man who has to deal with his emotions after a divorce.”

Walker also notes that yoga can help men having anxiety attacks and depression, which are all too common in stressful situations,” she says.

The data backs her up. A 2005 study by researchers at
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine found that practicing yoga on a regular basis helped stop middle-age spread in normal-weight people, and advanced weight loss in overweight subjects ““- especially men.

Regular practice (or practicing at least 30 minutes once a week for four or more years) in overweight men and women led to a 5-pound loss in 10 years, as opposed to a 14-pound gain in non-practicing subjects.

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The study’s lead author, Alan R. Kristal, Dr. PH, contributed the weight loss to a higher self-awareness among men. For self-conscious tough guys who want maintain or lose weight through yoga, study co-author and yoga teacher Denise Benitez, owner of
Seattle Yoga Arts, offered the following suggestions:

1. Practice in a room without mirrors (and without people), and pay attention to your internal experience.

2.Learn to feel sensations subtly, so that you become deeply involved in small movements.

3.Challenge, but don’t overwhelm yourself when performing poses. Practice maintaining an accepting mental state.

4. Rest when you feel overworked, especially if you haven’t worked out in a while (yoga sessions are more physically demanding than you think).

5. Pay attention to what you are saying to yourself as you practice; make an effort to appreciate your own efforts.

6. Attend class routinely, arrive early and socialize before class begins. Don’t be shy around women ““ chat them up and take advantage of their expertise.

7. Buy your own yoga mat and bring it to class.

8. Realize qualities like patience, discipline, wisdom, kindness and gratitude will arise from your practice.

9. Find a teacher who is used to working with guys and who offers a balance of gentleness and firmness.

10. Recognize that simply attending class is a statement of courage, self-care and positive momentum.

Think you’re too inflexible or self-conscious to give it a try? Think again. According to Beth Shaw, president of
YogaFit Training Systems, men more unbendable and insecure have likely stepped foot on a yoga mat. Guys are naturals for yoga. If anything, they can benefit even more than women can,” she says. She points out that pro football, baseball, and soccer players have used yoga to enhance their game. Since word has spread that Dan Marino, Eddie George and Chris Carter practice yoga, it probably won’t matter that you do, too.There are many different types of yoga to choose from: Pick the class that best matches your personality and fitness level. Typically, a
Hatha or Vinyasa class will suit beginners. Find a class in your researching the Internet or newspaper.If you belong to a gym, check to see if they offer a beginner class.Adds Walker, Pick up a DVD or book on the basics of yoga and try that out on your own first. Something like The Idiots Guide to Yoga”. The ones who are better prepared are the ones who come back to my classes.”

Once you sign up, wear comfortable, breathable clothing to class. If you don’t own a yoga mat, make sure you are able to rent one at the studio. Place your mat facing the front of the room and slightly apart from your neighbor, as you’ll both need room to stretch. It’s OK to tell the instructor that it’s your first time taking a yoga class or to ask for help.

Know what you are getting into. Breathing exercises will likely be followed by warm-up poses, vigorous poses, stretches and a final relaxation. Remember, it is inappropriate to wear shoes or socks or drink water during class.

Above all, don’t compare yourself to others. Chances are, it is not your neighbor’s first time in class, so they may know more poses or execute better form. Don’t get discouraged. Yoga isn’t about competition. In time, you will be able to perform as well.

If, after the first class, you feel embarrassed, don’t give up. Your mind and emotions will thank you. Can men meet women at yoga? Sure ““ 95 percent of the people at my classes are women,” says Walker. So the odds are with you guys. I’d say go for it.”

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