By Richard Ellis, O + A Adventure Correspondent
The yoga teacher is pacing the front of the room while I breathe like Darth Vader and wonder if my pits stink like a Wookie. I’m there because few things boost athletic performance, mental health, and injury resistance like yoga. However, it can be an intimidating environment for men.
There are a couple of reasons why:
a) Yoga favors flexibility and a high strength-to- weight ratio. Great for women, rough on men
b) There’s always one dude wearing eyeball-searing, nut-hugger shorts, and he sits in front
c) Half the things the teacher says don’t make any sense
a) and b) are out of our control, but c) we can do something about.
This a man’s guide to shit your yoga teachers will say.
Why am I qualified to write this?
Three years ago, I moved from Chicago to Park City, Utah so I could make questionable decisions on snowboards and mountain bikes. By chance, I moved next door to a renowned yoga studio. Going there three to four days per week has made me a better outdoor athlete and happier person.
In the beginning though, I was confused (and judgmental). The directions drove me insane. I felt that yoga lingo just didn’t connect with my just-make- damn-sense- male mind. So, I started translating the jargon into my own words. Whether you’re new, or the dude wearing nut- hugger shorts, I think you’ll find my translations handy:
1. “Ground through your feet”
Clench your butt muscles. That creates tension between your feet and the ground. As a Belarussian Karate man once told me with a thick accent and thin grammar, “Pretend like you have quarter between cheeks, and don’t let fall.”
2. “Pour your heart”
Lead the motion with your chest. If you think about moving chest first, you move from the hips instead of crunching your lower back.
3. “Draw your awareness to the present moment”
Notice the physical sensations in your body. The temptation at yoga is to let your head wander. Where am I watching the Blackhawks after this? Is the ground beef in my freezer still safe? Did I answer that email from the client? Forget it all. When you notice the breath, muscles tension, skin, sounds, etc., you can’t wander.
4. “Engage your pelvic floor”
Imagine that you’re peeing all over the mat, and then stop the flow of urine. Hold it in. Congrats, you just did your first Kegel.
5. “Begin ujjayi (ooo-jai- eee) breathing”
Try to sound like Darth Vader while breathing through your nose. I really wasn’t kidding.
6. Anything with the word “energy”
Pretend like there’s electricity or fire coming out of your hands and feet. I hear the word “energy,” and I want to roll my eyes. People tell me they feel “good energy” from blah blah blah, and I think they’re making it up. Turns out that’s the key! If you play along, and imagine “energy,” you do better yoga. Don’t ask me why. It just works. If you grew up on conventional sports and outdoor activities, yoga vocab is an acquired taste. Rather than let it ruin the experience, translate it for yourself. People might have to smell your pits, but they don’t have to know what you’re actually thinking.