May 22, 2013

Don’t Drag Him to Yoga—Let Him Be a Man. ~ Shasta Townsend

Women ask me all the time how they can convince their husbands to come to yoga.

I get it. We want to share our love for yoga with those we love. We want to spend time together and connect in a meaningful way. We may also want our husband to get it together and stop his jerky ways. We know that yoga makes us happier. We want him to be happier too. We know yoga helps us to worry less and celebrate more: we want him to do the same.  We know yoga is great for our physical health, mental well being…even our sex life.

Whatever the reason for wanting our husband to get his ass on the mat: he has to want it first.

Otherwise he sees all this as just another way you nag at him. My husband works in construction, can scale a fish, lives for red meat, drinks beer daily and he practices yoga.  In fact, we own a studio together and often co-teach at our retreats. So this is not a men should not do yoga article. This is: let your man decide he wants to do yoga article.

Yes, real men do practice yoga. But real women let them find it in their own way.

Here’s how:

1.  Stop making him wrong.

Contrary to current cultural belief; men are sensitive.  They don’t like feeling wrong or less-than in anyway. They also carry the burdensome archetype of being the provider.  For some men this means providing for your happiness as well as material means.  If he loves you, he does want to please you (though he may not say it or even know how to do it).  You can be sure, however, that every time he feels he is not living up to your standards of behavior he shuts down or gets defensive. Which means you lose him a little bit more.

One way to encourage your husband to join you on the mat is to just let it all be.  Stop telling him he should stop smoking, lose ten pounds, not eat hamburgers or watch less football.  He sees this as criticism and we tend to not want to spend time with those who criticize us.  We can certainly help our partner refine themselves by lovingly encouraging great behavior (see #3 below). However, the more we focus on what is not going well the more we get it.

I used to harp at my husband to stop smoking.  Then I realized that this just made him want to smoke more and hide it. And it made me the nagging wife.  So I stopped mentioning it and let it all be.   When he turned 40, he realized that he was losing some wind power. He started feeling shortness of breath on canoe trips and longer walks so he stopped smoking on his own. I loved him regardless. I think this gave him the freedom to choose for himself knowing I was not standing in criticism.

2Honor what he loves.

We often expect our partner to love the things we love, but we will not consider joining them in what they love.  I am not about to go turkey hunting or play 36 holes of golf…But I am willing to meet my husband in the middle.

Before I was married I defined myself as a city girl who did not like the woods, water or the wild.  My husband is passionate about all three.   We were sort of the odd couple—me in my red lipstick, leather jacket and high heels—him in camouflage and work boots. It worked because we decided to be open.

I was willing to open myself to his world.  Now our weekend canoe trips to the back woods of Ontario are one of the highlights of my life and an important time together.  If I had not been willing to honor his passion and chose stay confined in my narrow view of myself, I would have missed the beauty of the natural world—and of my husband.

He said to me recently, “Thank you for always letting me be me. I have never been with a woman who was not trying to change me or one that could fish better than me. ” It was a powerful reminder that we all want to be truly seen, accepted and loved.

3.  Encourage thriving.

I am not sure how I feel about the term, man-scaping (though it is funny).  I am not trying to make my husband into someone he is not; though I am here to reflect who he is truly.  Partnership is about helping each other thrive. This means reflecting what is wonderful about them and what is just story or pattern. However, this has to be done with love, not judgment.   I know it is annoying when he loses his cool and yells at the kids (but telling your husband he is an asshole may not get the response you are seeking).

Recently my husband and I had a discussion about his temper.  Rather than tell him what I jerk I thought he was when he was being unkind, I reflected that I saw him as this amazing, loving and generous person whose actions of anger did not reflect his truth. I also made it clear that it was unacceptable behavior to have a tantrum, though I totally accepted him and his feelings. I think this gave him space to reflect on who he was and who he wanted to be in the world.  I think it gave him an image of himself to live up to that was powerful rather than condemning.   “I want to be the man you see me as,” he told me.

When we honor our husbands they want to connect with us.  They feel more at home in themselves: happier, healthier, desirable and loved. Is this not what we received from yoga and why we want them so desperately to get on the mat?

Perhaps we are practicing yoga together after all.


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Assistant Ed: Dusty Ranft/Ed: Kate Bartolotta


{Picture: yoga-beautiful.tumblr.com via Elyssa on Pinterest}

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