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Allow me to introduce myself to you: I am that lone guy in your yoga class, trying to get in touch with his inner self while trying to maintain some semblance of masculinity in the yoga world. On behalf of the brave males who find themselves woefully under-represented in classes all over the city, I am stepping forward to reveal the true experiences of Man Yoga.
The first thing that comes to mind is the appeal of being the only guy in a class full of fit women in tight outfits. This also creates a lot of pressure to get these insane poses right. I figure that if I have to represent my gender, then I can’t fool around. When the teacher says, “reach for your toes,” I think, “so what if I have the flexibility of a two-by-four? I’m touching those toes even if it means that my hamstrings burst out of the back of my legs and shoot across the studio like rubber bands.”
As admirable as my efforts are to demonstrate the prowess of my gender, working that hard brings up challenge number two. I sweat. I don’t manifest an inner glow. I don’t shine with the light of exertion. I sweat! A lot! More than once, teachers have moved toward my mat, clearly on their way to offer a well-intended, hands-on alignment. As they approach and notice the salty tidal zone that surrounds my mat, they suddenly swerve away to offer their ministrations to another less liquefied student. And as class winds down, I find myself floating through savasana on a salty pond of my own creation, contemplating how much more fun it would be if I had an inflatable raft with an ice chest full of margaritas floating beside me.
And then there are those hip openers. My entire being cringes when I hear that magic phrase — Let’s explore our hips. The last time my hips went on an exploration was in fifth grade during the mandatory ballroom dancing classes at my elementary school. Since then they have stayed firmly locked and appropriate. To ask them to explore now after years of working out, playing weekend warrior sports, and lying on the sofa watching CSI creates a deep misunderstanding between my body and myself. Pigeons may be able to get in these poses, but not me.
Anyone know what guys wear to yoga class? Anything we want. It’s not that we want to look bad. It’s just that “comfort first” is the mantra we were all born with. If the armpits don’t reek, the shirt goes on. If the sweats don’t reveal anything that will get us arrested, we’re out the door. And the yoga world doesn’t encourage us to be any different. Most yoga studios have racks and shelves overflowing with colorful women’s yogawear fit for a Paris runway. But if you look really carefully in the corner, by the sale rack, on the bottom shelf, you might find one guys’ shirt in the ubiquitous “it’s got to fit someone” XXL. The shirt is almost always in navy blue and has the poorly imprinted name of the yoga studio in fading, peeling letters across the chest.
So now that the plight of the lone man in class has been revealed in all its gruesome horror, I think it’s time we guys got a little credit for our perseverance. So I’m calling on all you yoga cowards out there. Get off of the sofa, throw on those sweats, and dare to cross that mysterious threshold at your nearest studio. Join me in letting the world know that men can do yoga too!