Four Men Talk Yoga: Why They Practice & How Yoga Changed Their Lives

The Men

  Beau Phillis, age 50. Gas & Oil Mineral Buyer. Favorite Yoga Pose: Warrior II

Beau Phillis, age 50. Gas & Oil Mineral Buyer. Favorite Yoga Pose: Warrior II

 
  Shawn Murray, age 44. Caseworker. Favorite Yoga Pose: Pigeon.

Shawn Murray, age 44. Caseworker. Favorite Yoga Pose: Pigeon.

 
  Chuck Durso, age 53. High School Teacher. Favorite Yoga Pose: Tree.

Chuck Durso, age 53. High School Teacher. Favorite Yoga Pose: Tree.

 
  Joe Barantovich, age 65. Retired Teacher & Football Coach. Favorite Yoga Pose: Fish.

Joe Barantovich, age 65. Retired Teacher & Football Coach. Favorite Yoga Pose: Fish.

 

What types of yoga classes do you attend most often?

BP: Warm Flow and Yin

SM: Kundalini. Hot Vinyasa. Hatha

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CD: Hot Power Yoga and Bikram

JB: Mostly yin, vinyasa and an occasional Ashtanga. I've tried Bikram - not really a fan.

What would you tell other men about yoga?

BP: Just try it!  It’s harder yet more rewarding than most people would think.

SM: Having joint problems, weight lifting has been difficult, but yoga helps me to build full-body strength and flexibility.

CD: That it is true exercise, can be much more difficult than some may think and is exhilarating.

JB: Yoga is a great way to practice anti-aging. Balance and flexibility are needed as we age. Also, it's a great way to treat and prevent injuries from other types of workouts like running and lifting. 

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How do others respond when you say that you do yoga?

BP: Most are shocked.  I guess I don’t look like a yogi?!?  They usually want to learn more about it… where I practice, what classes are available, what I think of it, is it hard, are the classes full, will they know anyone else there, etc.

SM: It’s become so popular over the last few years, I get less negative reaction. However, when I first began, it was definitely more stigmatized.

CD: Usually raised eyebrows and a "hmmm." :)

JB: Mostly positive. Even those who don't practice seem to understand the importance of staying active. 

What is your favorite thing about the practice?

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BP: It’s my time for me.  My mat helps me escape the troubles of my world and focus on me.  It’s just that simple.

SM: The blissful feeling afterward.

CD: That it is a constant challenge, it is individual and I can be content with wherever I currently am in my practice, even while I am striving to improve.

JB:  The peaceful feeling that you get after a good class. The enhancement to my other workouts that I realize I'm getting as i practice. It minimizes the soreness from lifting and running.

Why did you start doing yoga?

BP: An old friend suggested I give it a try.  So glad I did! 

SM: I was working with a holistic bodywork healer - and was recommended that yoga would be a perfect balance to the results I was trying to achieve.

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CD: To maintain some flexibility as I got older.

JB: When my wife became a yoga instructor she made me go to her community classes so she would be assured of having one friendly face in class.

Describe your first yoga class experience.  

BP: At first it was very awkward and intimidating.  I was the only guy in the class.  50-year-old guy in a room with a bunch of experienced yoga women?!?  Why did I sign up for this again?  I had no idea what I was doing.  Where should I unroll my mat?  What if I take someone else’s spot?  Do I need a bolster? Block? Why the hell is the heater on?  Is this a female-only class?  What if I can’t do this?  What if I fall over?  Can I just leave now?  Ugh… 

So, I took a spot in the back.  Once class started everything else just didn’t matter.  It was my mat and me.  Well, my mat, me, the wall I kept using to keep myself from falling, the person next to me that I bumped into a couple times, and still that damn heater.

SM: I almost didn’t go back.  

CD: Total fish out of water! I had no idea what I was doing, what went where, or why I thought this was a good idea! But as the class went on, I began to focus on what I was trying to do, and I realized that this was for me, both mentally and physically. I had a great instructor, and she helped me forget about whether I was doing it well and just focus on trying to get it right, and just live in the moment. By the end of the hour, I was hooked!

JB: I really can't speak to my first class...I don't really remember too much. My first realization that yoga was beneficial is another matter - after i started doing  yoga when my wife became an instructor I ran a half marathon and didn't have the usual soreness I've always experienced after runs of that length. The only thing that changed was my doing yoga...so I made the connection between the two.

What is your favorite yoga pose?

BP: Svasana. It forces me to relax and let everything in my mind disappear. And Warrior II.

SM: Pigeon. It helps with the issues I have in my hips

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CD: Tree.

JB: Svasana! Second favorite...Fish. I took a SUP class in Costa Rica, and we did Fish pose on the board. As I looked behind me I saw the ocean, an island, blue skies with the brightest white clouds. When i do that pose, I always close my eyes and see that scene in my mind's eye.

How has yoga enhanced your life off the mat?

BP: It’s made me a calmer person. I’ve made new friends, and the improved balance and flexibility has helped my golf game.

SM: I have been able to maintain an overall healthy and active lifestyle despite health concerns and joint issues - it has been a wonderful management tool.

CD:  I can be laid-back at times, but as someone who has competed in sports my entire life, I tend to be very intense in a competitive situation. Yoga has assisted in my ability to focus, to block out distractions and to remain calm in a stressful situation. 

JB: Besides the already mentioned physical and spiritual benefits, yoga has increased the circle of people I truly like and count as friends. It allows me to meet new people wherever I travel. It opens up new possibilities to life.

Do you have any encouraging words for other men who may be interested in practicing but might hold misconceptions that yoga is too easy, that you have to be flexible or that only women do yoga?  

BP: I think for most men it’s an intimidation factor. They don’t want to be shown up by a bunch of women if they can’t do it. I can’t encourage you enough to just try it. You don’t have to be flexible - you’ll gain flexibility. Yoga is much harder than you think, and it’s certainly not just for women. 

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SM: Do what you can and don’t worry about what others think.  You will find that yoga works for almost everyone.

CD: Yeah, you're over-thinking it! It's not easy, which is good, but if you can't bend into a pretzel, so what? You do what you can do. More and more men are discovering yoga, so the odds are, you won't be alone, but if you are, so what? The women in the class won't care, they are focused on their practice, not you! And yes, you might feel a little awkward the first time. That goes away, and it goes away pretty quickly. Come join us!

JB: Yoga is definitely not easy...I've gotten my ass kicked by more females than I care to mention! Although you can start with easy classes, yoga is supposed to be non-competitive, although that's maybe the most difficult thing for most guys to try and change. You do what you can, how you can. A good instructor, which LPS has a plethora of, will always stress modifications that can be utilized to accommodate any inability (lack of flexibility) to do a pose.  

 

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