Another gorgeous day! No really, what is it about a beautiful Sunday morning that just makes everything seem like it actually will be OK. This particular Sunday I am still floating high from doing a very successful yoga photo shoot the day before – as soon as the pictures are ready I will publish them right here on the blog. I teach Vinyasa Yoga Sunday mornings at Equinox (Columbus Circle, Sundays 9am-shameless plug). Sunday is a special day and morning is a special time to teach. It is the day people often use to restore, to reflect, to piece together whatever good, bad, ugly or in between that may have transpired the week before – and move forward towards a new week. It is an honor to be part of that process. Today’s class was all regulars. Not a single person I had not had in class before. Imagine! It feels rewarding to build and foster a community of like minded people who come together to transform themselves on some level, as I mentioned, whether it be to release stress from the previous week or to build energy for what may be to come…no matter, really. The end result is the same. Ahhh….that after-yoga bliss we all love and crave time and again.
As is often my ritual, I stand at the door as students exit, saying my hellos or goodbyes, kind of a yoga flirting if you will. Its often a chance to get someones name, tell someone how well they did their this-or-that pose, or ask them how such-and-such a joint/injury/muscle ache is going this week. Today I had the pleasure to speak with one of my regular male students, lets call him Tom (not real name). Tom is active, muscular, and loves yoga. Tom loves yoga as in he is early to class, he has his own mat, he prefers a certain spot in the room, he is dedicated and works hard. Tom is also your typical male, in that many poses are a challenge for him. For Tom, this is not a hindrance. He actively works towards the flexibility he seeks, and enthusiastically approaches his practice with the intention to make progress, unlock tight fibers, transform and transcend. The main body of his commentary today was him telling me that previous to really committing to yoga, he resisted it. He resisted because, well, of course, it is hard! Not only can yoga be hard, but it is a process that benefits from consistency, and for almost all of us, sincere humility, compassion for ourselves and patience. It is entirely true that in a vinyasa yoga yclass you may be asked to do things that seem completely and totally impossible, at which point your inner monologue might resemble this… put what where??? And breathe? At the same time????? now? or in my next life?
We all know deep down somewhere that the process of transformation is possible – we see it all the time in the media. Sometimes we are witness to the sad downward spiral of a young celebrity. Sometimes it is the feel-good story of someone down on their luck who is given another chance and paves a new path for themselves. Sometimes we witness the transformation of an entire group, nation or culture of people. As Tom and I talked further, he mentioned that it was his yoga practice that enabled him to excel at all the other things he loves doing . We talked about biking, running, swimming, lifting weights. Everything gets easier if muscles have balance and full range of motion, if the respiratory system is able to bring oxygen to working muscles that much more efficiently, if the brain can stay focused on the breath, and work through discomfort and fear while staying grounded and calm…that’s yoga! True, that’s asana practice and there is much more to yoga than just the poses we practice in the studio. But if that’s where we start, if through the physical practice of yoga we can build and pave a new way for us to deepen our experience of other things we already enjoy, well what could be better than that?
Humility, compassion and patience can seem like tremendous obstacles – most likely because we have not yet taken the time to consider or expose ourselves to what awaits us in return. On a purely practical standpoint, we receive benefits to each of the many systems of the body – respiratory, lymphatic, skeletal, muscular, nervous, endocrine and digestive. We connect our brain to our muscles, we calm the sympathetic fight-or-flight response, we learn something new as we gain body awareness we can use towards our other athletic endeavors. That is a process that is so amazing is has no price, and no obstacle stands a chance. As I write this post, I am thinking about all the male yoga clients I have -quite a few actually. They are unique and different in their own way of course – how they are similar is how grateful they are and how each one of them tells me more often than not how yoga has had a positive impact on their lives. They especially appreciate being able to recover from or progress in the various athletic pursuits they enjoy.
If you are a man reading this, think about transformation and how it is just there waiting for you. All you have to do is be open to it. You will be happy you did.
“It is the truth we ourselves speak rather than the treatment we receive that heals us.” (O. Hobart Mowrer 1966)