11 Jun Yoga Takes a Brave Man
Getting men to identify with yoga has long been a challenge in this country. It doesn’t matter that yoga, since its beginnings in India thousands of years ago, has mainly been taught and studied by men.
Sure enough, the first thing many men notice on entering a yoga studio, is that for the most part they’re in foreign territory. And fundamentally men and women seek out Yoga for different reasons; in my experience, men walk into class needing a challenge, whereas women often come to the mat seeking refuge.
Overcoming Groins and Grey Matter
Men, it seems, are naturally tight. Boys and girls may be born equally limber, with an ability to comfortably put their feet behind their heads. But by adolescence, boys generally lose flexibility faster than girls, and as boys become men, the differences in flexibility tend to grow. Researchers have noted this gap, although they can’t specifically link it to differences in hormones, musculature, or connective tissue.
Whatever is to blame, the typical man’s pursuits and lifestyle, from sitting at a desk all day to gym work, put little importance on improving your range of movement, or flexibility.
Stretching takes a back seat in a male’s life as early as secondary school. And if you observe how most men stretch before soccer — by pushing on each other and bouncing, it’s difficult to imagine how anyone can emerge from that with a positive view of flexibility!
Today my one on one clients are religious about their one-day-a-week (sometimes x 2) private sessions. Several have attributed their daily vitality to the practices that I have crafted for them.
Elasticity helps men who are determined to play sport at weekends, be it golf, or tennis, or even preparing for the iron men competition.
Even if a guy turns a physical corner and starts adapting to yoga’s demands, he may still miss out on many of the practice’s benefits. Yoga’s internal rewards—everything from better focus to less stress—are the hardest for men to realize.
This problem, too, begins with men’s wiring. Men’s brains have a high capacity to process emotions like fear and aggression. Put an average, aggressive-feeling man on the mat, add thoughts about hostile takeovers, and you get someone who isn’t looking to quiet his mind but to let go of pent-up energy. That’s easy in traditional recreational sports, with their scores, times, and rivalries. However men in Downward Dog may still be looking for something, or someone, to beat. For men, physical activity—nonsexual physical activity—has always been closely associated with competition.
In my experience with time and training, men’s brains can get past such competitive urges, and the proof lies in the men who have found enormous benefits from tapping into yoga’s more emotional offerings.
Stress and Yoga
Yoga can also teach a guy who’s overwhelmed by his many responsibilities that the best way to get things done is by being present—focusing on one thing at a time.
That’s where the freedom comes in. You can let go, and you realize that the bigger game you’re playing in life isn’t about competitiveness.
Life is about awareness, equanimity, and keeping one’s ego in check—after all, the world is a bigger place than any one…man.
WORKSHOP ‘INTERMITTENT FASTING + KRIYA FOR SELF CARE’
@Yotopia 23 June, 13 MERCER STREET, LONDON, WC2H 9QJ
For more tips on how to live a healthier lifestyle, check out my new book, which is available on Amazon, and all leading bookstores, including Waterstones and Borders.
‘Mind Body Cleanse’ by Chris James (Penguin Vermilion, £14.99). Available from here: https://www.chrisjamesmindbody.com/product/mind-body-cleanse-by-chris-james/https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mind-Body-Cleanse-Plan-Re-Energise/dp/1785040804
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