*enjoy this letter from one of our male students sharing his perspective on why he does yoga.
When I use the term Men Like Me (MLM) I am referring to the competitive, ego-based, selfish, sarcastic, success-at–any-cost driven male that I once was. The results of that MLM kind of lifestyle are high blood pressure, anger, neurosis, panic disorders, phobias, sickness and a general lack of authenticity. I had reached a point in my 30+ years teaching career where everything began to bother me. I would enter school and not talk to the staff. I would teach and go home. That was very unlike me in school. No Child Left Behind ruined education, as I knew it, newly hired, fresh out of college teachers refused to listen to anything veteran teachers had to say, administrators worried about being sued by parents and hid in their offices. My students were the only positive keeping me coming back each day. I was irritable, quick to be angry and my sarcasm was at its highest level. In May of 1999, just two months before school would end, my nervous system paid me back for my actions and presented me with the Shingles virus. Four months of pain, a closed- shut left eye, an itchy rash over the top left side of my head, and I never returned to complete the school year. I lay in bed taking pain medication and praying that my eye would open. In August the eye did finally open, my health returned and I went back to start the new school year. I had been wrapped tight as a drum and I exploded and thankfully I healed. I decided that I needed something to control my personality, because I didn’t want that to ever happen to me again. I registered for Transcendental Meditation classes with a local instructor. My quest for a lifestyle change began at that point. I now meditate twice a day and it helped me get through my final six years of teaching. After a trial run at staying away from school by way of a sabbatical, I retired, took my pension and moved on with my life. First order of business was to find an exercise program that would unite the physical and mental aspects of my life. I needed a partner for my meditation practice. The perfect match was Yoga!
Why Yoga? Why select an activity that is so far from our comfort zone? Precisely what we MLM need to do. If you enroll, like a recovering addict, you have honestly made the individual decision to change. No fakes needed in this program for change. I know that if you take a few classes you will fall in love with the new you. Your competitive spirit will still be there, but tempered down considerably. You will adopt what I call compassionate competitiveness. A style that gives you the benefits of competing coupled with integrity. Your ego will be understood and placed under control. Your blood pressure will fall and you won’t fly off the handle so quickly. When I’m asked by a new male yoga student about what I get out of yoga I give them this answer, “My reaction time to things that happen to me is slower and I became a nicer person.” Yoga philosophy will become your new mind game.
Here are some tips from my experience. Tip #1: Go online and check out some local studios and then visit the studio you select a few days before your first class. Get a feel for the space and the routine and sit and talk with the instructor about the appropriate class to take. Visit several in your area before you decide on one. Tip #2: Do not go to your first Yoga class with a friend. Go alone and experience the sensations all by yourself. Nobody will judge you and you won’t have to worry about anyone seeing you in weird positions. So - called friends will only ruin the class for you. Remember that you are attempting to separate yourself from your old habits. Wanting to voice your first Om with your giggling “friend” on the mat next to you may be a losing proposition. Tip #3: The most difficult, but when conquered the most satisfying part of Yoga for a MLM is to swallow your ego during the class. Our male ego is always the largest obstacle to change. You want an ego busting moment right off the bat? Try sitting in your first crossed legged position, knees up by your ears, hands in prayer, spine straight, eyes closed with Sanskrit chants being sung around you. Add to that a wooden block, blanket under your butt, a strap and you are the only male in the room. Although you will doubt your decision at this point, by the end of your first Savasana (final resting pose), you will seemingly float out the door and when you arrive home you will explain to your wife how differently you feel. You won’t be able to describe it completely, but you will feel something good. It is such a relief to finally let go of your ego and be your true self. Tip #4: Keep going to classes and make time out of your busy schedule. I used the excuse for years that I didn’t have time with my teaching and coaching, but I’m sure I did. If you have to make private appointments and pay the extra money then do it, but keep attending class. Tip #5: Don’t let your old friends discourage you. They will ridicule you every chance they get. Their jokes and questions about Yoga will be thrown at you constantly. My favorite line was, “Have you started to drink your own urine yet?” Defend yourself just like you would at any other moment of ridicule. If their taunts bother you, then you really are developing a love for the mat. Remind yourself that you are doing something that your friends won’t attempt. Changing your life isn’t going to be easy. Some MLM won’t be able to let go and will succumb to the peer pressure from friends and their own mind. Those of you who continue will see your life will begin to change.
The time spent on the mat will eventually translate to how you act in the real world. You will find little things beginning to happen that you never would have done before your Yoga practice. A driver of the car in front of you may be going too slowly and instead of honking your horn in disgust, you may patiently wait and breathe. You may see an over weight lady walking down the street and instead of telling your latest fat joke you may just breathe. When your boss gets on your nerves at work instead of your blood pressure raising maybe you will breathe. Remember that your reactivity to situations will decrease. How about eating a turkey burger instead of that beef patty? I haven’t reached the vegetarian life-style yet and maybe never will. I know I’m taking all of the fun out of your life. This is what Men Like Me live for. We thrive on those moments when we can boost our ego at the expense of others. What a relief it will be to stop the pattern of your life and reverse the direction. A new male consciousness growing in your mind and body every day. The process may be a long one. We can’t reverse years of old habits in a few days, but the key here is that you are trying. The feeling surpasses anything that your ego has convinced you to do up to this point in your life. Take that step back and look at the whole picture. See where you stand in relation to everything that goes on around you. You really do need to show yourself how authentic you can become.