The Manly Man’s Guide to Yoga

Posted: July 29, 2011 in Yoga
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Well, I’ve gone and dug myself in deep now.  Yup, I’ve firmly ensconced myself in the dynamic and largely female world of Yoga by enrolling for an unlimited membership for the next three months at the local yoga studio.  This will see me well into the winter months when I will start getting back into the gym routine more for the next round of preseason conditioning.  But, until then, it’s all Planks and Pranayama, baby.

Thing is, the yoga studio (Ashram) is nothing like a gym so, automatically, we dudes are immediately at a bit of a loss – it’s just not our natural environment.  While most people who spend time in an ashram are extremely dedicated and sincere, there still remains a goodly number who, in their attempt to have “an experience,”  miss the point completely in my opinion; guys – even more so.  Seduced by the Western notion of cause and effect, they somehow think that spiritual attainment is related to the way they act – as if karma were some kind of transcultural Santa Claus looking for good little boys and girls to bring his shiny red fire trucks to.  Not surprisingly, the spirit of the law is all too often traded for the letter – a letter that, no matter how many stamps are put on it, is continually returned for insufficient postage, hence, your typical sensitive ‘girly man’ stereotype of guys who do yoga.  Surrender is replaced by submission; patience by hesitation; and humility by timidity.  Alas, in the name of finding themselves, our karma-seeking brothers and sisters have tended to lose the very thing that makes them truly human – their individuality.  Now where I can’t speak for any other guys out there, I’m not about to turn my back on my imminent ‘Manness’  to don sparkly leotard, rename myself ‘Moonbeam’ and begin listening to New Age  albums any time soon.  But where I respect everyone else’s personal freedom and their ‘right to roar’ and all that, I’m not there for spiritual enlightenment or to find ‘God’, per se, nor do I want to lose touch with my ‘inner hairy male’  either.  I’m there to develop a strong, manly core.  Period!

But, in the meantime, I still have to blend in…

To accomplish all this, there is a whole mélange of factors and misconceptions that the average bro – like myself – has to consider and be cognizant of while visiting and practicing in any yoga ashram.  These are a bit different than your ordinary commonly accepted Rules of Etiquette that I posted a way back; these are detailed learning opportunities in order to allow you, the Dude, to peacefully coexist in this largely female-centric environment successfully.  It doesn’t have to feel all woo-woo like you’re sitting through a Director’s Cut screening of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’  with Maya Angelou.

1.   For starters, an ashram does not have that familiar gym smell; that, oh, so infamous and instantly recognizable bouquet of sweaty sports socks and ass.  It’s true, most gyms smell like a bucket of assholes but that’s to be expected really.  We guys are pretty used to that, aren’t we?  But ashrams are different in that they usually smell, well, nice.  Not to say that there isn’t much sweating going on, but the odor of it doesn’t immediately slap you in the face when you walk in the door either.  Maybe it’s the residue of burnt incense or the combination of the different types of fruity perfumed sprays and body lotions from the other practitioners in the room, whatever, but it’s definitely much more pleasant than the normal sweaty ass stench.  I hope I’m not giving too much of my feminine side away here but, personally, I’d rather smell a sweet floral scented potpourri than whatever it was the beefy dude beside me ate for dinner last night and is now leaking through his pours.  Call me crazy.  I attribute this particular fragrant phenomenon to the fact that the majority of practitioners at any yoga ashram are of the female persuasion.  Sure, there are other dudes there besides myself, but we are definitely in the minority and, hence, subject to conform to the popular perspective, of which, smelling ‘nice’ weighs quite heavily.  This doesn’t present any unique challenges to our yoga practice, of course, but it is something that we guys may not be necessarily accustomed to.  So, remember, while you don’t have to bath yourself in cologne before you go to your yoga class, definitely don’t go smelling like a homeless persons underpants thinking you’re just going to blend in.  Don’t worry, there’s lots of time to get your stink on later.

2.  Another initial realization you may experience is that you may not going be able to instantly locate a safe place to change when you arrive at the ashram.  There is no Men’s locker room or shower area at my ashram and the line-up of girls outside the only bathroom/changing room is typically pretty long.  No real surprise there, right?  I walk to and from my studio and therefore need to bring a change of clothes with me so I don’t look like the ‘Belle of the Ball’  in my compression shorts and neon-green yoga matt slung over my shoulder as I pass through my neighborhood.  So I will usually go with all my yoga gear already on under my street clothes so it’s just a matter of taking them off in the lobby (or parking lot) and getting to business.  Then I can just throw them on again to go home like it never happened at all.  No reason to give yourself away to all your uber-masculine friends just yet.

3.  Furthermore, what you wear while doing your practice is entirely up to you, however, I suggest you put a little care into what you decide to don yourself in.  Some guys are lucky in that they can go bare-chested given that they have the upper body of a Greek god, but I am not so lucky.  Staring into this fleshy frame would be like coming across the scene of a grizzly highway accident.  Not ideal when you’re trying to ‘find your center’  if you know what I mean.  So what might be viewed as acceptable in a gym won’t necessarily fly in the pretty environs of a yoga ashram.  Any holes you may have will become glaringly obvious when you put yourself in any number of awkward positions.  Eww!  The girls certainly make the effort to look nice as they usually do, so I suggest considering doing the same.  Now, I agree that most men are not going to begin wearing giant palazzo pants made of 100% extra-organic sustainable cotton that has probably been put through the digestive track of an ayurvedically certified elephant and bleached in by purely positive vibes, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to begin sporting stained t-shirts with such brutish slogans as ‘Official Breast Inspector’,  or ‘Free Mustache Rides’ …they’re not going to win you the same guffaws you’d get in the locker room with the boys.  Personally, I have started wearing my tri top as it’s comfortable, practical, breathable and wicks away the sweat while not immediately giving away all my embarrassing bodily indiscretions.  After two or three sessions, you’ll see what other guys are wearing and then decide for yourself what’s most comfy while maintaining your masculinity.

4.  Part and parcel with this notion of going prepared and dressed appropriately, is the widely accepted rule of thumb that you will be expected to walk around barefoot, having left your shoes, sandals, boots, whatever, in the lobby area.  Don’t ask me why, but the serious yogi types generally get a little excited if you mistakenly step past a certain point in their ashram with your footwear still on.  Nothing will make you feel centered out as the ‘stupid man in the room’  than being called out in front of a group of women for having stepped beyond the point of no return in your Birkenstocks.  It’s the yoga equivalent of being caught peeing in somebody’s rose garden.  This has only happened to me ONCE  so, now, the first thing I do before anything else is to take my shoes off and stash them away safely.  Likewise, I also take a bit more care in looking after my feet.  Now, I’m not going for regular pedicures or painting my toes pretty colors or anything, but I am making a conscious effort to trim back those black nails as well as dig out all the dried cheese from between my toes.  Hey, I spend a lot of time on my feet sweating in either a pair of runners or cycling cleats…what do you expect?

5.  Another cautionary note regards the ever-popular and timeless battle of the sexes:  toilet seat up or toilet seat down?  Yes, yes, I know, I know…you’re a guy and this practice seems rather insignificant to us but, hey, when you’re the sole Male representative in ‘Ladytown’ – it’s best to conform to the masses lest you be run out of the ashram on a rail.  It is important to note, that any careless ‘splash backs’ will be immediately pinned on you since you’re the only person likely to be peeing standing up.  I approach going to the bathroom at my yoga studio in the same way I might take a dump at my grandmothers – very carefully; everything is tidied up, discarded and/or neatly repositioned for the next person as if I was never there.  Perry Mason himself wouldn’t be able to detect my presence after I’ve left.  Consider this an easy way to earn yourself the trust and respect of all your female yoga counterparts, so for the love of all things good and holy: PUT THE TOILET SEAT DOWN, JACKASS!

6.  While I’m on the topic of boorish behavior, remember that it’s suggested that you not eat for at least 1-2 hours before your yoga session.  This cardinal rule is primarily for the benefit of others, rather than yourself.  Understanding that we’re dudes and we think that farts are pretty funny, girls, however, do not share this same perspective and I can assure you, any sudden air éclairs will inevitably result in the girls around you wishing you to be reborn as a gerbil in the next life.  Plug it up, bucko, and leave it for the boys in the weight room.

7.  Lastly, and this should go without saying, but, DO NOT STARE!  Chances are that you’re there to get a good workout, develop your balance and flexibility and, perhaps, establish yourself a little mental clarity throughout, but definitely do NOT to check out the buns on all the young yoga hunnies in front of you.  It’s only a matter of time before you’re spotted checking out ‘The Not-So-Promised Land’  so to speak, and if that happens, well, let’s just say that you’re bound to be met with a certain degree of repulsion afterwards.  It’s tough; I know…I’ve been there.  But now I take the extra precaution of sitting towards the front of the room so I don’t accidentally fall victim to ogling the crotch of the hottie doing her downward dog  inches from my face.  Better that than the constant temptation of two dozen spandex-clad beauties bending and twisting provocatively in front of me.

All in all, just because you have a wee-wee don’t think that you can’t participate in and join a yoga studio – you can.  More and more guys are doing it all the time.  By taking these simple seven precautionary measures into effect, you will definitely enhance your comfort level from the get go and lend yourself to having a happy, healthy and productive yoga experience.

  1. heather jones says:

    Interesting. You lost me at comparing Yoga By Sarah to an “ashram”. Because an ashram it is not even close to. Wow. bummer you have that misconception.
    But – kudos to you for your dedication to your yoga practice. Best of luck with all that.

  2. Still got lots top learn I guess. What is the difference? I’m curious now.

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