20 Nov 3 Sweaty Confessions From a Hot Yoga Man
Shoes don’t make the man, habits do.
True masculinity has nothing to do with smooth calfskin, stacked heels and double buckle closure. It has everything to do with our daily practice of living in alignment with our cherished principles.
Yoga has been transformative for my masculinity in many unexpected ways. Excerpted from my new book, 365 Daily Meditations for On and Off the Mat: A Year in Hot Yoga, here are three sweaty confessions that might inspire your own journey:
- Learn to love your reflection.
Yoga is a place that allows us to accept ourselves, even as we get terrible glimpses of ourselves. Take spine twisting pose (ardha matsyendrasana to you Sanskrit experts). It’s the only posture that twists the back from top to bottom. Which feels amazing, as spine twisting increases circulation to all the spinal nerves, relieves lower back pain and helps calm the nervous system.
The only problem is, during this posture, you have to stare at yourself in the mirror from quite possibly the most unflattering angle known to man. Which can include, but isn’t limited to:
A lovely stomach paunch drooping over the waistband, patches of neck hair sticking out, fat rolls forming into little neck sausages, even early onset man boobs flailing in the wind. Not exactly a confidence booster during swimsuit season.
Maybe that’s just me. But although these flaws are highly exaggerated by the twisting of the body, it’s still a painful thing to confront in the mirror. It’s like looking at the most unattractive version of yourself. And yet, that’s the beauty of the practice. Yoga challenges us to see parts of ourselves we have not accepted fully. That we have not made peace with.
Maybe that’s why the mirrors are there. To teach us forgiveness, even from the most unflattering angles. Don’t avert your eyes.
- Change your expectation of success.
Popular culture, mainstream media and even ancient mythology have historically portrayed male attractiveness, health and power through the lens of having strong, muscular, bulging arms. They are the universal symbols of physical prowess and desirability.
But although strong arms were certainly evolutionarily advantageous for millions of years, today, they’re not the only indicator of strength.
My yoga instructor loves to remind us that our arms are merely accessories. The purpose of our practice is learning to rely on the muscles in our upper back, hips, chest, legs, shoulders and core to support us, not just our bronzed biceps.
To that point, I once practiced yoga next to a professional body builder. The guy was a monster. His arms looked like legs. But halfway through class, he collapsed into a pile of tears and pain due to a severe lower back injury, and had to be carried off to the hospital. So much for arms being the universal symbol of health.
Each of us has our own assumptions, biases, misconceptions and expectations for what we think success looks like. But just because something appears attractive in the mirror, on the balance sheet, in the marketplace or on the screen, doesn’t guarantee its worth.
- Invite your inner strength to move through you.
The men in my family are prone to vasovagal reaction, which is a sudden drop in heart rate and blood pressure, often in reaction to a stressful trigger like blood, needles, graphic stories and occasionally zombie movies.
It’s an awful feeling. Dizziness, nausea and even fainting are a just few of the delightful symptoms. It’s been a struggle of mine since adolescence.
What’s fascinating is, yoga has helped me better handle this reaction. The practice has trained me to use my breath to get to a place of safety on a moment’s notice. As my instructors say, wherever it hurts, send your breath there.
Nowadays, whether I’m giving blood, having painful dental work done, listening to a gross story or sitting in the hospital to visit a sick loved one, simply being able to breathe helps me gain control over that reaction. A deep breath invites inner strength to move through me. And on a good day, it feels like I can handle anything. Yoga taught me to get to a place of safety on a moment’s notice. Take that, male genetics.
Get your copy now of 365 Daily Meditations for On and Off the Mat: A Year in Hot Yoga!