November 10, 2010

Big Guy Yoga.

My husband has never been too into yoga.  It’s more my thing.  That is, until recently.

A few months ago he told me that his low back and hips were bothering him and that he wanted me to tell him some yoga he could do.
I did my best to play it cool when he said this.  I nonchalantly asked him some questions to get more clarification, said I’d get to it soon, and sauntered out of the room (and straight into my office, where I promptly dropped everything I was doing to seize this never-before-seen opportunity).

After I taught him the sequence, he started practicing it on his own.  A week or two later, I asked him how he was feeling, and he said “you know, I’m feeling a lot better!  The yoga is helping.”  I’m not sure that I can accurately reflect the tone of incredulity in his voice, but trust me.  He couldn’t believe it.

And neither could I—not that yoga could help him, but rather that I haven’t yet addressed the issue.  So, dude, I’m here to report the good news: guys with a little more to love can totally rock yoga!

Here are some tips for bigger guys who want to practice:

1. Work gradually: men are often tight through the hamstrings, so finding accessible ways to open the back of the legs is key.  Instead of hanging out in forward bend for five minutes (which can feel like an eternity and give you quite a head rush), give Legs Up the Wall a try.  With the support of the floor, you can spend more time (and make it less angst-filled) opening the hamstrings.  The tighter the hamstrings, the further away from the wall your legs can be.

2. Tuck the skin: this is huge (no pun intended).  Nothing has given me nor any other overweight practitioners I know more freedom.  Not sure what I mean by tuck the skin?  Give this a whirl: from seated, bring your left hand to your right knee and your right hand behind you, coming into a gentle twist.  Many men carry extra weight in their abdomen, so if you run into your belly here, place both hands on the right side of the belly and tuck the skin in toward your pelvis. This is a relatively subtle move, but it can give you more space to twist.  This both enhances the delight of the pose and helps prevent you taking the entire twist with your neck.

3. Use support: I can’t recommend props enough for enhancing a practice.  If you are new to yoga, carrying extra weight, or just want an alignment-based practice tailored to your body, experiment with blocks, bolsters, blankets, straps, or whatever you have lying around that can serve the same function (e.g. a stack of books, firm pillows, and/or old ties). You don’t get less out of the practice by using props; in many ways, you can get more because they can help you work to your edge vs. struggling to meet someone else’s. Because nothing is more fun than silently cursing yourself in the corner of class for not being able to put your hand on the ground in Triangle when seemingly everyone else in class is doing it.

4. Try out some resources: There are a number of books and resouces out for men who want to practice yoga.  You can also check out some of the great inclusive yoga videos for people of any size.

5. Check out a class: A number of yoga classes specifically designed for men are popping up across the country. If you can’t find one near you, start with a beginners or gentle class, see what you think, and then try out other classes that seem interesting.

If all else fails, have a laugh:

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