More Men Trying Yoga: How to Find Your Perfect First Class

A guest post by Silica Larkin, RYT-500:

Articles in Men’s Fitness and Men’s Health, the Washington Post, New York Times, and others are touting the benefits of yoga for guys, and nationwide the number of men attending yoga classes is climbing. Better focus, better performance in other sports, better sleep and better romantic life are some of the many benefits reported by men who practice yoga. Add to that the fact that the physical postures that we think of as yoga were developed and practiced almost exclusively by men until very recently, and it seems only natural that more and more guys are rolling out their mats to get started reaping the physical and mental benWarrior 1 Male Yoga Poseefits of this ancient practice. Yoga is a non-percussive weight bearing exercise that emphasises mental clarity, fuller, smoother breathing, and full-body awareness. The equipment needed is minimal, it can be practiced indoors or outdoors, at home, at a gym or studio, or while travelling. It has helped many thousands of people find more energy, reduce medication, reduce pain, and report better quality of life.

Some of the reasons commonly given by men not to try yoga (or not to return) are that they will be ‘the only guy in class,’ ‘that they ‘are not flexible,’ that ‘it doesn’t seem very manly’ and concern that the the teacher will be too “mushy-gushy or spiritual.’ Luckily, the numer of men in yoga classes has been rising steadily over the last ten years. Many of the ‘big names’ of the yoga world are men, and more and more classes are being taught by male teachers, which may help make yoga feel more accessible to guys. It is true that, statistically, men tend to be less flexible than women. Ironically, this means that, generally speaking, men also have a lot more to gain than women, but starting out can be tough. Luckily, yoga’s popularity means that there is a larger spectrum of yoga to choose from, including all-male classes in some of the larger citites. If you don’t have any all-guy classes in your area, you may choose to begin with a class with the words “power” “vigorous” or “athletes” in the title or description to find a class that plays to your strength: strength. If you are rehabbing a bad back or other injury, even an old one, look for words like “gentle” “yin” “for every body” or “restorative.” Because men tend to be more stiff, they often benefit more from classes that move slowly and hold poses longer, giving the connective tissue sheathing around muscles time to ease into the posture and reducing the temptation to force yourself into poses using strength and leverage, which can lead to injury.

As with starting any other new physical endeavor, willingness combined with some self-respect for your body’s natural boundaries will go a long way toward making your new activity work for you. Most yoga asana (poses) strive to bring the musculature into a healthy balance of strength and flexibility. Men and women alike are often surprised at how effective yoga can be at building strength, especially in our weaker areas. Yoga can truly be a panacea and the perfect cross-training regime. Like anything else, though, it is posible to injure yourself doing yoga, and it’s definitely one arena where a ‘no pain, no gain’ attitude is more of a liability than an asset. It’s important to know that any kind of sharp, shooting, burning, tearing, or other ‘risky pain’ sensation is a clear signal to back off–“pushing through” sensations like these will not help and could seriously hurt you. Questionable sensations in at-risk areas such as the knees, neck, low back, or anywhere you have been injured should also be taken very seriously. In cases like these, the most long-term benefit comes from modifying or taking an alternate pose that eliminates or greatly reduces the risky sensation. For these reasons, Yoga Teachers that have more experience working with men, athletes, the elderly or other populations and teachers who regularly offer and encourage modifications may be worth seeking out. The teacher bios on yoga studio websites can give you a better idea if the class will be a good fit. Look for terms like “rehabilitative” or “yoga therapy” and a focus on students as unique individuals.

Yoga is (mostly) a non-competitive sport, and long-term rewards come from a long-term perspective–dedication to a regular practice will yeild results over time. As the number of men trying yoga to improve their game, ease chronic pain, sleep better, create better overal health and vitality and other reasons increases, this beneficial exercise will only become more ‘normal’ for guys of all ages, activity levels and backgrounds.

 

It’s time to do for you…

Hey Super-mom, Super-wife, Super-friend, Super-boss… it’s time to do for you.

We grew up watching our moms and grandmothers sacrifice for their family. Maybe grandma never bought herself a new dress or mom never sat down long enough to enjoy a meal as she busied herself in preparing, serving and cleaning.

It’s hereditary… that selfless devotion to others. Being the last one at the office every night, being the first name on every sign-up sheet that passes by. Everyone knows you are reliable and that “No” isn’t in your vocabulary. Or is it? stressed cook

How quickly do you cancel appointments with yourself when others request your time?  Yeah, that’s what I thought. Why is that? Why is agreeing to volunteer in Junior’s classroom every time (there are 30 other moms, you know) etched in pen, yet your daily run is written in pencil, ready to be erased without hesitation?

Seriously, why is that?  Have you thought about it? That exhaustion you feel is the well running dry. In order to maintain your Super status, it is necessary to replenish your resources in a way that is right for you. No one can tell you that a run or a yoga class or a manicure is the way to achieve that. You need to devote time towards getting to know you, in order to know how to replenish your unique resources.

Sometimes we lose touch with who we are and what we truly need. Sometimes we lose that for a very long time. When the inclination is to reach out for more, buy more, have more, do more, give more, stop and ask yourself if that is truly what your mind and body need. That’s right… ask what yourself YOU need. Or even better, what you WANT. The truth is that it is easier to maintain the Super façade than to invest the time in reconnecting with your true self; the self that can only be replenished by a commitment of time and energy from you. When you look at it that way, Super is often the easy way out.

We go for years, often decades, being whom we feel is best for everyone around us. Exhibiting the qualities that we think will make us a better friend, spouse, parent or child. We work hard at this image, never thinking to take into account the needs and desires of our own core being.

Why is the thought of connecting with one’s self so frightening? Making you a priority can feel selfish. After all, that’s not how we were raised. How will it look when you have chosen to address your own needs, to care for yourself? These are all thoughts that need quiet contemplation to resolve. I challenge you to question the works “I don’t have time to …” the next time they spring to your lips. Do you really mean “I don’t choose to…”?  Isn’t that a more honest perspective? Because, how and where and with whom you spend your time are your choices. So, the next time you hear yourself profess a lack of time, let it be a reminder to examine how you allocate your time.

The truth is, it is often easier to wear the façade of Super than to invest the time into self-study, self-love, and self-care. It is easier to say no to yourself than to others. But to truly be the Super that you strive to be, it requires a balance that includes self-awareness and self-care. It requires scheduling that art lesson, counseling session or mediation class in order to replenish the resources, because they aren’t limitless. And it requires recording them in pen, not pencil.

Being Super only lasts for so long before the well runs dry. Dedicating time to finding stillness, creating space and reconnecting with yourself will replenish your resources and, perhaps, refocus your priorities. You came to this world with one self to care for, one self you cannot separate from. It probably wasn’t with the intent to neglect it.

A little about me…

A little about me….

My intention is to offer a comfortable space in which people of all sizes, shapes, ages and fitness levels can comfortably explore the many facets of yoga. Many of us see limitati966940_590358294337201_1367121537_o ons in ourselves and whether they are real or perceived, physical or psychological, these limitations get in the way of pursuing our interests. If yoga is your interest, the classes at IYT are designed to help you work past any limiting thoughts or conditions to develop a yoga practice that is right for your mind and body. With a wide range of classes and the option for private lessons, we will work together to determine the ideal starting point for you. 

I know what it’s like to feel awkward on a yoga mat, but still feel inspired to explore the potential that yoga holds.  My path towards yoga began as an overweight woman recovering from surgery in search of a low-impact form of exercise that my body could handle. What I found in yoga was a new perspective on life. My developing yoga practice changed the way I saw my body, changed my relationship with food and helped me develop physical strength. As my practice continued, my depression and anxiety melted away, my eating habits changed, my body began to change and I developed a sense of confidence and self-acceptance that had never existed before. Supportive yoga teachers were an important part of that process. 

I have pursued basic and advanced training as a yoga therapist (RYT-200 in 2012 and RYT-500 in October 2013) in order to safely guide my yoga clients on their own journey. I have participated in yoga therapy workshops led by experts in this field.  I am certified in Curvy Yoga, which is all about yoga for curvy bodies. I am certified to teach swing (aerial) yoga, which can have wonderful therapeutic effects. I believe that this thorough training is a necessity in order to be the best teacher that I can be for students that choose to work with me. 

My goal is to provide a safe place in which others can explore all that yoga has to offer. It is my privilege to share my knowledge with every student I meet, as I teach them ways that they may apply it to their lives, as they see fit. I see myself as one stepping stone on every student’s greater path. 

Namaste ~
Linda

What is Aerial Yoga at Integrative Yoga Therapy?

What is Aerial Yoga?

In aerial yoga classes, we use a large fabric swing that hangs from the ceiling to support the weight of the body. The swing may provide either full or partial support of your body weight, depending on the yoga pose and how the swing is being utilized. Like traditional yoga classes, there are many modifications that make the poses accessible to a variety of students. These modifications may be based on experience level, balance, shape and fitness level.

An aerial yoga class can be high-flying with lots of inversions, low-flying with lots of support, Yin based or completely restorative. The yoga swing provides tremendous versatility. Check the class descriptions or schedule a private yoga swing session to explore how aerial yoga can benefit you.

 Aerial yoga is:774751_10151666689132907_1196986911_o

  • A lot of FUN!
  • A great tool to achieve proper postural alignment
  • Designed to build strength and flexibility
  • A new way to explore specific yoga poses
  • A fun way to experience inverted yoga poses

At Integrative Yoga Therapy, we use Omni-Gym™ yoga swings that are padded for comfort. They have multiple handholds and padded foot stirrups. The swings are adaptable for students of all heights.

Who can do Aerial Yoga?

Almost anyone can do it! You do not need any prior experience in either yoga or aerials to come to class. Some aerial poses may be challenging and will take practice. Aerial yoga will increase your strength, as well as your body awareness. The swing hardware has a weight limit of 250 lbs.

There is an age minimum of 17 years old for group aerial yoga classes at IYT. Students under 17 years of age are required to start with private lessons. All students under 18 years of age require parental consent.

Many aerial yoga classes include inverted poses. People with the following medical conditions should avoid these poses:

  • High or low blood pressure1004653_554275737970260_45841881_n
  • Glaucoma
  • Pregnancy
  • Neck Injuries
  • Heart Conditions of any kind
  • Epilepsy
  • Eye Problems
  • Not sure about other conditions? Please check with you doctor first.

 Why do Aerial Yoga?

Fun: 
You will be exploring a new dimension! Be ready to feel like a kid on the playground again. Aerial yoga is invigorating and tends to put a big smile on your face!

Flight:
  Be ready to soar… lift your spirits, your heart rate, your confidence!

Fitness
: An Aerial Yoga class combines the strength training, discipline, control and grace of both aerials and yoga making you feel stronger, lighter and more balanced.

Flexibility
: Yoga poses supported by a yoga swing can give you a more intense stretch than traditional yoga poses on their own.

Benefits of Aerial Yoga

  • Explore inversions and backbends without neck or spinal compressionIMG_0160
  • Improve body awareness
  • Develop a strong core
  • Develop upper body strength
  • Stretch deeper while relieving strain in the lower back
  • Increase your spatial awareness
  • Bring more oxygen to your brain with subtle inversions
  • Proper body alignment
  • Therapeutic private sessions for injuries and other medical conditions

Why Aerial Yoga at the Integrative Yoga Therapy studio? 

  • Small class size – no more than 5 aerial students at one time! This allows for the personal attention you count on in all IYT classes
  • One instructor who is a yoga therapist trained in safely teaching yoga in the Omni-Gym™ yoga swing
  • Convenient location, great pricing and lots of free parking!

What should I bring to Aerial Yoga?

  • A yoga mat, if you have one
  • Yoga pants that come down to at least the knee
  • Water bottle
  • Minimal makeup, perfume, deodorant… they transfer onto the swings
  • Hair tie for long hair
  • A good sense of humor
  • A desire for a fun, new approach to yoga!

Check our class schedule here.   

What Exactly is Integrative Yoga Therapy?

Integrative Yoga Therapy is a holistic approach to self-care and healthcare in which the components of yoga are applied in ways that benefit specific physical or mental health conditions, as well as overall well-being.

Studies show yoga therapy to be complementary to our modern healthcare system. Yoga therapy has demonstrated successful results in the treatment of depression and anxiety, fibromyalgia, COPD and back pain when integrated into a treatment plan. Yoga can play an important role in disease management and in an illness/injury recovery plan.

Yoga is a recommended component of any comprehensive wellness plan. Yogis tend to be healthier, more flexible, youthful and balanced then their non-yoga practicing counterparts.  This is due to the calming effects that yoga has on the central nervous system, the skeletomuscular benefits of the physical poses and the peacefulness yoga can bring to the mind.

At Integrative Yoga Therapy in Easley, SC, Linda Patterson is a therapeutic yoga instructor offering private yoga sessions and small group classes. Linda is registered with the Yoga Alliance and is a member of the International Association of Yoga Therapists. Linda is also certified in Curvy Yoga because she is passionate about using yoga to improve self-esteem and body image issues.

Every group class offered at Integrative Yoga Therapy is accessible to all students, regardless of size, fitness level or age. Linda’s group classes offer many options to each pose, which allows each student to customize their own practice within a safe and supportive environment.

Private yoga sessions involve assessment and goal-setting as it relates to specific health conditions or other intentions of the student. Private yoga sessions also include assistance in creating a home practice to gain the greatest benefit from the yoga sessions.

IYT’s class schedule can be found @ www.lindapattersonyoga.com. Feel free to contact Linda @ 864-444-5523 with any questions or to schedule an appointment.

Do I need to be flexible to “do yoga”?

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Oh, my… where to start? 

Let’s start with “doing yoga”. Yoga is a way of being – not an act of doing. Yoga is a path of self-study. A yogic lifestyle strives for peace and forgiveness and it begins within ourselves. No “doing” involved.

The poses that we use in yoga are tools to connect with ourself, to gain awareness of our physical, spiritual and mental bodies, to deepen our knowledge and sense of self. Because changing the world around us must always begin from within.

The distance between one’s fingertips and toes does not reflect a level of enlightenment. It is not a means to measure the connection that we have achieved between the breath and the body.  Yoga is more about breathing and less about flexibility, although, over time, a lovely benefit to yoga is often greater flexibility.

So, we commit to a yoga practice to learn more about ourselves and to improve our relations with the world around us. The side effects of sticking to a regular yoga practice include better muscle tone and strength, greater flexibility, a calmer mind, better balance and stability, an improved relationship with physical pain, and the desire to make healthier choices.

No flexibility required.