I am a 6-foot-tall black male. I could stand to lose some extra pounds to put it nicely.
I like football and basketball. When I work out, it’s with weights or I force myself to run.
Growing up I had no exposure to any yoga. Once, an actor from a soap opera said he stays fit by doing yoga (not that I ever watched soaps). He was very fit, so the thought to someday check yoga out did cross my mind.
It wasn’t until many years later that I would step foot into a yoga studio. My girlfriend, Monica, had gotten into it and urged me to try it.
I know the stereotype.
Women do yoga.
It’s a bunch of stretching and twisting yourself into different pretzel shapes.
And even though I learned yoga was brought to the West from India by a lineage of male teachers I still thought it was just stretching.
I remember telling Monica:
“This is going to be nothing. I got this… I won’t even break a sweat!”
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I was in the back of the room so as not to be noticed. My mat was soaked and I had trouble not only keeping up with the poses, but also keeping my breath.
I didn’t really care if I was flexible or not, but I realized that I really needed to work on balance.
After a yoga class you go into a pose called Savasana. Sometimes it’s referred to as “resting pose.” This very quiet and still moment was surprisingly nice. I could have fallen asleep.
I felt really good after that class but I was not expecting my muscles to be so sore for the next few days.
Really, I felt like I worked out harder than when I lift weights.
There are a lot of things in yoga that take time to build the strength for.
Monica started teaching yoga at Just B Yoga in Lansing. I started going to her lunchtime classes with my new found respect for yoga. The first class I went to she put me in the front of the room. I was so nervous that people would see me.
But as the class went on I began to focus more on the moves and less on what other people thought of me. I realized that everyone was so focused on their own postures that they didn’t care what I looked like. Also, you are often reminded to listen to your body and take a break if you need one. You are encouraged to move at your own pace.
The more I went to yoga, the more I gained confidence, strength and flexibility. This has really improved my basketball game. I used to feel old after playing.
There are many athletes that do yoga including our most recent Superbowl teams. I never thought I would say it but it’s actually pretty amazing stuff!
If you’re looking for more info on yoga for athletes, just Google it, or try reading “Real Men Do Yoga” by John Capouya.
I started with more slow paced and gentle instruction and as I gained confidence I started going into more advanced classes. My favorite more challenging class is hip hop power hour with Belinda, owner of the Just B Yoga Studio.
I could go on and on about how my first experience in that class went but that would be a whole new blog.
I will just continue to encourage people to take a chance on yoga. You have no idea what you are missing.
1) Bring a towel. You will sweat. I bring one for my face, one for my mat.
2) Bring water. You will get thirsty or need a distraction.
3) Don’t worry that your pose looks way different than others
Try at least 3 classes before you call it quits (I’m sure you won’t though).
(Oh and bring your lady. She will leave feeling great and more yoga means more happiness. Really!!!)