By Don Steensma
When you mention yoga to most guys they think of women from the 1970s in purple leotards and pink leg warmers doing some passive form of stretching. Or maybe they think about some far-out guy chanting. Those images probably do not appeal to most guys. When I mention that I teach yoga to male acquaintances, many give me a funny look and shrug. They don’t know the yoga secret.
Yoga has an enormous breadth of diversity. Restorative yoga is at one end of the spectrum. Restorative yoga is very peaceful and the biggest problem may be not falling asleep. At the other end of the yoga spectrum is Power Yoga. The biggest problem in Power yoga is keeping your heart rate below a level that could be fatal for you. It’s an aerobic work out that would appeal to many guys if they only knew about it. No matter what your level of strength or flexibility is, there is a form of yoga appropriate to you. There is yoga for people in wheelchairs and yoga for athletes. No matter where you are in perfecting any pose you can further perfect it with practice. It is a process that never ends. You’re on a path.
Are you so stressed that relaxing doesn’t seem possible? Yoga teaches you how to relax. Twisting yourself into a pretzel shape is really not the main goal of yoga. The poses are designed to make you work your muscles, which make you breathe harder. Learning to control your breath then leads to controlling your mind. Controlling your mind leads to less stress. When confronted by a stressful situation you will be able to calm your mind and more easily see the solution.
Most American yoga is referred to as Hatha yoga. It consists of a series of several hundred different poses (called asana) and a dozen types of controlled breathing (called pranayama). Most Hatha classes also introduce some meditation in class. Other forms of yoga go beyond these basic activities to include moral and ethical guidelines.
Within the Hatha group there are hundreds of different types of yoga. Iyengar yoga classes use lots of props in an effort to get into the pose perfectly. Ashtanga yoga, (Power yoga) or a Flow class is very different. You will see lots of movement, breathing and sweating. Shivanada yoga is very precise and you are encouraged to follow along in a very exact manner. Bikrim yoga is done in a very hot room. They are all Hatha yoga, but also all different. You need to find the class that’s right for you.
Many guys will say, “I am just too stiff to do yoga”. The truth is that they are stiff because they are not stretching. It’s the natural state of the aging body. The yoga secret is that yoga can make you stronger, more flexible, calmer and can slow the aging process.
This article was published in The Hueneme Pilot newspaper September 18, 2008 – Dr. Don Steensma has practiced optometry in the City of Port Hueneme for 33 years. His office is located at 465 W. Channel Islands Blvd in Port Hueneme. For more information call 486-3585 or go on-line to https://www.visioneyedoctor.com.