Where it all began for me
I originally had no interest in going to yoga classes. I was in a few sports teams at school, but otherwise I was a pretty sedentary gaming teenager. Maybe that’s why I took to meditation quite happily; the idea of sitting for extended periods of time wasn’t much of a leap from what I was already doing. A few years practice went by and I started to get a good understanding of meditation to the point I felt it necessary to become a meditation teacher.
Before signing on to a meditation teacher training I went along to a taster day. I found myself in a little room with 9 women all of whom were a good few decades older than me. In walked a lady who was in her 80’s, she sat down and the lesson began. Suddenly I find that before the class could focus on meditation, we would have to ‘do some yoga’ meaning the physical movements you would find in any yoga class. (The physical practice of Yoga is called Asana practice.)
Instantly I thought I had made a big mistake. Asana practice had always been portrayed to me as this sort of ‘mothers meeting’, just an excuse for older women to get together and move about a little and pat each other on the back for having done their ‘stretching’ for the week. I found myself staring into the mirror in front of me, looking at myself deep in the eyes thinking ‘muppet’. The day would finish and nobody would ever know what I had done: the secret would stay with me to the grave.
Challenging my preconceptions
Next thing I know, the teacher bent over and touched her toes. She completely folded in half! I had never seen anything like it until then. Her legs were straight, and she was hugging her legs as if they were her best friends that she hadn’t seen for a while. I stood for a moment in shock. Until that moment I had assumed the elderly were these delicate and fragile beings who might bust a hip just by sneezing.
I leant forwards reaching for my toes to find that I couldn’t even extend beyond my knees. My young and cocky ego took a full sucker-punch right in the chops. I was being shown up by someone older than my own Nan!
The rest of the class continued in the same way, not that any of the postures were too complex but I still managed to look like the Tin Man playing Twister for the first time. After our Asana session, we finally sat back down to go into a meditation and I found myself sitting easier than I had ever sat before. I felt incredible. All my muscles were softer and happier.
I needed to know more. My assumptions had had a walking stick thrown through them and my young male ego had been burst by a pair of knitting needles. By the end of that class, I decided that when I was in my 80’s I would be able to hug my shins!
Finding the right path
It took me a few months to work up the courage to I attend my first Asana class. Eventually I found a male teacher who would become my Guru and change my life completely. That was just over 3 years ago.
Classes I attended originally were predominantly female with the occasional male showing their faces, usually because their partner had dragged them along. However I have seen a shift in just a few years, where more men understand the benefits of Asana practice. As someone who now attends a class regardless of the gender of a teacher, I have often found I am the only male in the room, yet with my own classes, although still predominantly female, there are always a handful of guys.
These men have consisted of a variety of skateboarders, surfers, martial arts practitioners, climbers, cyclists, bodybuilders etc. the list goes on, and each of them have come to me after a few classes stating that their practice of Asana has improved their performance in whatever other practices that they do. Yet the majority that come to Asana classes do so due to having sustained injury, with Yoga recommended as a way of healing and repairing.
Regular practice of Asanas keeps the body flexible, strong and mobile, helping to prevent injuries and improve the body’s ability to sustain damage. I would much prefer to take action to avoid injury, rather than take action to repair injury. Now I am not saying that Asana practice will make you invincible, but my Guru (who started yoga in his 40’s) has just had his 70th birthday, can still chill out in a headstand and has just gone surfing for the first time in his life. He is showing no signs of slowing down. I plan to show my grandkids how it’s all done until I am at least 100.
What about you?