October 16, 2013

How I Made My First Yoga Class (as a Male) Less-Absolutely Terrifying. ~ Neilson Spencer

Taking my first yoga class—and being male—was one of the most intimidating things I’ve ever done.

I only had a basic understanding of yoga, and to be honest, didn’t even know what an asana was. But, that didn’t stop me from diving head first into yoga at home. I started  doing yoga in my living room to DVDs I’d copped at Target for around $10-$15 each. Rodney Yee’s Yoga Burn, and CorePower Yoga’s Calorie Blast Yoga  would become my new workout buddies (and new best friends) over the next couple weeks.

The goal of this article is to help others (especially men) alleviate the stress and apprehension they might feel when taking their first yoga class at a proper studio. Watching yoga DVDs and practicing them for a few weeks before attending my first class was insanely beneficial. Not only in beginning to familiarize myself with yoga, but also in calming my nerves and helping me to be more confident.

I did do a few things correctly. I got a mat, towel, spread my gear out in front of the television and hit play—which was about all I did right. What I wished I’d have done—before straining my neck to look up at the television between every single pose—was watch the DVD the entire way through without participating in the workout. Some might think this would be a huge waste of time better-spent exercising, but it helps in familiarizing yourself with the asanas used in yoga.

Yoga DVDs are an awesome investment for a beginning yogi, especially for men. They allow future yogis to become familiar with the asanas in the comfortable setting of one’s own home, where they are free to practice, make mistakes and have horrible posture. I think men would be much more comfortable—and less turned off—by how daunting yoga can be in the beginning if they were familiarized with the practice beforehand.

Education is crucial to an enhanced life, and If men want to get the most out of their free week at a studio, they need to prepare themselves for what’s ahead.

So many times in class I felt myself wanting to reach out to the dude across the room who’s doing Warrior II all kinds of messed up and backwards (opposite legs bent and extended, usually facing the wrong direction). I see them struggling immensely, but I can’t walk over and try to help them out during class.

By the time class is done and savasana is over, the other guy has left and is probably sitting in his car thinking, “I’m never going back again. I had no idea what the hell I was doing, and looked absolutely ridiculous.”

It’s ok, I thought the exact same thing in my first week.

Just writing down how daunting a first class can be takes me back to that nervous, apprehensive feeling in my stomach.

Are there lots of girls in yoga classes? Yes. As a male, we’re usually only one of four per class (a bit higher in advanced classes).

Are all the other yogi’s fit? Yes. Everyone is toned, sexy as hell and can stretch and hold poses in ways I’d never thought possible—or they’re well on their way.

Can you reach the same level as them? Yes. Each of us has our own practice, and while I may not be able to do the splits, there are other battles I win with each class.

One day after class, a teacher I had for only the second or third time, commented on how much better my alignment and postures were getting, and said that I must have been doing yoga for a while now. Hearing that compliment was the greatest feeling I’ve had so far on my yogic journey. She didn’t know that I had only been doing yoga for 10 weeks—four to six times a week. That compliment felt just as good as doing the splits, until the day I’m able to actually pull off the splits—whether it’s two years from now, or five (and I will do them one day).

Yoga is intimidating, but the more you immerse yourself in it, learn about it and attend class, the better you’ll become—whether you’re male or female, beginner or advanced.

I never thought I would be able to touch my toes before I started, now I can’t wait until I can forward fold and touch my forehead to my knees. Just by showing up to class, focusing on my breathing and being mindful of my alignment—I’ve come farther than I ever thought possible when I watched my first Rodney Yee DVD.

He said I would get long and lean with practice, and you know what? He was absolutely right.

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Assistant Ed: Daniel Garcia/Ed: Sara Crolick

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Neilson Spencer