Thursday, April 21, 2011

It's Raining Men!

Today in my 6:30am hot vinyasa class, I looked around and was astounded by what I saw - men. Lots and lots of men. My yoga center has always had more guys in a class than any other place I have been to, but never before had I noticed them outnumbering the females. We were in the small room that fits maybe 15-20 people, and I counted only 4 girls in the packed room, including myself. Huh.

So why was this such a surprise to me? I certainly don't think yoga is just for girls. But I do believe others feel that way, which is why I was so pleasantly surprised. I think there is a big misconception that yoga isn't truly a "workout". Most people in my life think it is just stretching - like something you do before or after a "real" workout. And since guys like to lift the weight of a small gorilla over their heads, that image just doesn't mesh with a graceful Pigeon Pose. This morning I was so grateful to see this stigma changing. 

In reality, yoga is whatever you make of it. It is probably the only form of exercise that truly every person can do. Not only can everyone do it, but they can alter it to a level challenging enough for them - wherever they are at. When you begin yoga, it is pretty "easy" at first. This isn't because yoga in itself is easy, but because people new to yoga don't yet know what to do with it. It is like giving an accountant a set of paintbrushes and a canvas. At first, it is easy to just slap some paint on the canvas and say you painted. But only once they start challenging themselves to create a masterpiece can they see how much more practice and skill they need to really do something great with these tools they have been given. 

In yoga, it is the same. At first, you move into each pose and say you did yoga. This might be the case for weeks or months or even years. But at some point, your mind stops thinking about what color you should paint your toenails and instead you can actually feel the heart pumping blood to different areas of the body. You start to recognize something inside yourself - that point where you resist and where you surrender. You start to differentiate between your mind resisting and your body resisting. You begin to understand the concept of "your edge" that the teacher keeps talking about. Maybe one time you notice your body stop at a certain point. You inhale to expand then exhale even deeper into the pose and feel a new sensation, something you have never felt before. When you release, a euphoria comes over you as the blood rushes into the space you just created.  You learn to use the poses to make your body stronger. You learn to use the poses to make your mind stronger.

The problem is, so many people give up while still in that "toenail paint color" phase of yoga. At that point, it IS basically stretching - which is where I think everyone gets that notion from. Until you engage the mind in yoga, it is no different than doing a few runner-stretches before getting onto the treadmill. Since guys usually need to feel it deep in their muscles - as with weight lifting - and they don't get to that point in their first few classes of yoga, they discount it as not a "good workout."

It is obvious by the amount of guys in this morning class that my yoga center has found the "secret sauce" to make people give yoga a chance to move beyond just stretching. I am so grateful to be learning how to teach from a place that has figured out a way to bust through that misconception. Their teachers have broken down that learning curve with a mix of flows, wisdom and music to expedite the process of engaging the mind. It is because of amazing teachers like the ones I am learning under, that yoga is becoming mainstream again and more and more people are benefiting from it. I am so excited to become a part of this community and to possibly, in the future, help someone cross over from thinking of yoga as "stretching" to realizing what an intense mind and body workout it really can be. 



  1. Jenn,

    I just found your blog. Great job!!! I also practice at the CFY and was one of the many guys in the class this morning. I do find it interesting that the 630 class tends to have more men in it then some others I have been too. I have been practicing for 6 years and people are suprised that I do Yoga (Being 6'6") and they say the same things that you said. I tell them to come to 1 Vinyasa class and then let me know if you think it is just stretching and breathing. Good luck with your journey!!

    Jason Glime

  2. I too was representing dude-kind in that terrific class this morning (Jason--I am the dingbat who was trying to get into ur car afterwards). We have a really special community where we practice and really amazing teachers and practitioners. It makes for a transcendent experience as long as you surrender to it and are kind to your body. It happens to be a terrific "work out," yes, but that is not the main reason I keep coming back.

    Jenn--don't know if we have met in person or not yet, but I have really enjoyed your blog. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and wisdom!!



  3. Jason,
    Thanks for your comment!!! I did exactly what you stated - got my boyfriend to come to one of Jonny's hot vinyasa classes a few weeks ago. He was sweating like a dog and couldn't walk for a few days :) He hasn't made a single comment about my "stretching classes" since :)

    See you in class!

  4. Rez,
    Thank you so much for your kind words! My blog has been my therapy and to have someone else read it and enjoy it is such a blessing!

    I know we don't go there for just the physical work out, but I have found that is the part I need to play up to get people to try it out. If I launch right into mind control and gazeless gazes they tend to stay far away :) That's why I chose that angle. I want people to give it more than just a 2 or 3 class chance.

    Thanks again for the comment! See you in class!