I would be dishonest if I said that my initial appeal to yoga was not the fast-paced ashtanga inspired vinyasa practice. At 19, a high energy teen with a mission to lose some weight I would get annoyed when we would dedicate 5 minutes to Savasana, the final rest pose. My earliest memory of yoga was my inability to lay still in corpse pose. I would find myself peeking with one eye open and hoping the class would just end already. I had gotten my workout and I didn’t understand why we needed to “relax”. But, I kept going back. Throughout the last decade, my yoga practice has shifted and evolved. Savasana and meditation are now my favorite. I would leave those gym classes watching men lifting heavy weights and wish that they would join me in class one day and see how difficult it was. In fact, I would dare male friends to take a class with me every chance I’d get. That challenge of connecting body, mind and breath was what made me return day after day, but almost always alone as my fellows, especially in the early 2000s didn’t dare enter a yoga room.
Yoga businesses are now targeting more men and have done a great job in bringing more of us into studio classes. I no longer find that I am the only boy in class (not that I minded). One in every 5 mat usually belongs to a bro and that makes my heart smile. But, truth be told, there is a trend towards faster paced, sweaty yoga classes that men are attracted to. Truth be told, that is a great improvement.
Having a personal practice of about 14 years, it wasn’t until recently that I found beauty in slowing down. Even though I would schedule in a restorative class every two weeks, mostly practicing level 2/3 vinyasa and self-led Ashtanga classes, I realized it was not enough. When I completed my teacher training and left for Nepal to do a one-month silent meditation, I learned to love the art of stillness. To focus on my breath and move internally, brought my mind to levels of calmness, which I had never experienced before. Returning to the U.S., of course I continue to learn from fantastic vinyasa teachers, but my personal practice has shifted. There are more restorative classes in my life and Iyengar is now my main physical asana practice.
Evolutionarily speaking, men have been labeled as “hunter” rather than “gatherer”. Combined with heavy socialization and strong expectations to be active, self-preserving, action-oriented, strong and reliable, here are some reasons why you might actually want to consider slowing down and go against those labels for your own well-being.
- Being active is not always a good idea. Slowing down one’s breath “stimulates the opposing parasympathetic reaction — the one that calms us down”. Yoga practitioners have used pranayama, which literally means control of the life force, as a tool for affecting both the mind and body for thousands of years. Try it. You will feel relaxed, more compassionate and just living with less stress and anxiety. Who doesn’t want that?
- Yin is the stable, unmoving, hidden aspect of things; yang is the changing, moving, revealing aspect. Most boys (aware of my generalization) rather not deal with the deeper, emotional nature of our mind. Slowing down with a Yin practice can help us tap into areas of physical and mental discomfort, while holding poses for at least several minutes and stretching the connective tissue around a joint. More importantly, it will help you prepare for seated meditation.
- A slow, chilled out or alignment based class will help you learn asanas, the physical postures in a more scaffolded manner. A studio teacher can move a class of 50 through upbeat music from warrior two, to reverse warrior, half moon, back to chaturanga and into down dog. However, sacrifices need to be made with how much alignment one can offer in such vinyasa classes. Slowing down and “sitting deep” into your asana will help you flow in a safer, more intelligent manner the next time you want to cover your mat with a puddle of sweat (and more power to you).
An excellent companion to a traditional Broga® class, CHILL takes a distinctively mellow approach to sun salutation-inspired flows and accessible postures geared towards releasing tension in key areas of the body to improve mobility. Allowing time to ease into and explore the postures, this low-pressure class is designed to bring enjoyment to the act of stretching to students of any level while sharing valuable tools for using the breath, mindfulness, and simple meditation both on and off the mat.
And if you are in the Medford, MA area check out the first ever Broga® CHILL with creator and cofounder Robert Sidoti on May 20th. Let us know how it goes.
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