Yoga for Men: The Guy’s Guide to Embracing this Ancient Practice

A Q&A with yoga teacher Tommy Rosen
Tommy Rosen is a Los Angeles-based yoga teacher trained in both hatha and Kundalini yoga. In addition to his regular classes and workshops, Tommy teaches yoga for addiction recovery, which utilizes yoga and meditation to help people to move beyond addiction and build fulfilling lives. We caught up with Tommy recently for a Q&A on the topic of yoga for men.
 
Q: Why do most men start yoga?
 
Generally speaking, most men start yoga for one of three reasons:
1.     To have a great body. Men want to be strong. They get enticed by the prospect of having an incredible body. The person who’s coming to yoga for the first time is usually thinking of it as a physical pursuit.
2.     Because they’re in pain and want to get out of it. They’ve heard that yoga can help with back pain, or their doctor or a physical therapist says, “If you can work on your flexibility in your hamstrings, your hamstrings will pull less on your lower spine.”
3.     They are dating a girl who talked them into it or they want to date a girl who practices yoga. Many guys find their way to the mat either seeking a woman or because a woman told him to. I really do believe that.
 
Q: How does yoga benefit men?
 
Most men have muscle but no flexibility, so our relationship with gravity is based more upon brute strength than it is upon grace and elegance and poise. The problem with that is it leads to tightness in the body, which leads to pain. Then at some point, maybe we’re 40 years old and we go on a camping trip for the first time in 15 years, we sit down and all of a sudden we realize, “Wow, my back is tight, my hips are tight. I’m tight. I’m not moving very well.”
 
In addition to helping men become more flexible, yoga removes blockages from the body so that we actually become more joyful. It helps us develop a relationship with the more subtle parts of the self. As we move along in our practice, we feel more connected, more whole and complete as a human.
 
So one of the greatest things yoga has to offer is simply unraveling, emotionally speaking, the archetype of strength and allowing men to tap into real strength. When you have your health, you have a body that moves well and you’re connected to your breathing, usually you are a person who is truly content.
 
Q: How does yoga help supplement a man’s existing workout routine?
 
Any athlete will tell you the key is staying out of injury. I love to go to the gym and get a good workout in, and the more I practice yoga, the less I seem to get injured and the quicker I recover. We need to get the lactic acid out of our muscles and oxygen coming in — that’s what will decrease your recovery time as an athlete. When you stretch your muscles in yoga, blood is able to access all the different parts of the body and tensions are actually squeezed out of the body.
 
Usually muscular pain has to do with a tightness that’s preventing the flow of oxygen. If you can undo a tension pattern, you help oxygen to make it to the deepest tissues of the body. In my Yoga & Recovery classes I always say, “The issues are stuck in your tissues.” You want to stretch and breathe into those tissues so that stuckness that’s there can be moved out and energy, blood and oxygen can flow through the body.
 
Q: What do you say to men who are a little too competitive in yoga class?
 
I find that when somebody brings an ego into yoga one of two things happens: they’re physically overcome by the practice — it really kicks their butt — or they get injured. You can tell by the way they’re walking that they’re not connected to their breath and they’ve got a terrible relationship with gravity. The teachings of yoga and the challenge of the practice of yoga will bring those aberrations to the forefront for them. You can sort of look at how they move and you can tell, “All right, this person is about to have it handed to him” … and not by the teacher, but by the teachings.
 
Q: What do you say to men who are worried they aren't flexible enough for yoga?
 
The only place you can move in your life, the only place you can grow, is from where you are now. If you’re able to accept where you’re at, then you go to your edge and you breathe there. Your breathing is telling the body, “It’s okay.” And the body hears that through your willingness to be where you are and through your ability to bring awareness to where your edge is and not needing to push beyond it from an ego place. It’s the only way the body unlocks. We can’t muscle our way to greater flexibility.
 
I love this saying that my teacher taught me: Flexibility is an invitation-only event. You don’t just get to be flexible. You need to get invited into greater flexibility. And the way you get invited to that party is you show up on your mat and you bring consistency and regularity to the practice.
 
Q: What should guys wear to class?
Deodorant!
 
Q: What should guys NOT wear to class?
Their egos!
 

Try Kundalini yoga with Tommy Rosen at GaiamTV.com. Experience Tommy’s transformative teaching in person at Tadasana, an international festival of yoga and live music, held Earth Day weekend, April 20-22, 2012, in Santa Monica, CA. For more information, visit tadasanafestival.com.

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