Yoga and Emotions

We often come to yoga for the body; low back pain anyone? Or we want to maintain our range of motion, “I can’t tie my shoes!” However, there are other benefits to yoga such as emotional regulation and stress reduction. So while participants in the Rotterdam Study report that meditation and yoga helped them cope with stress, science attempts to answer why this is so. And here is what they discovered:

“Participants who reported practicing meditation and yoga also tended to have smaller right amygdala and left hippocampal volume compared to those not practicing — and right amygdala volume tended to decrease over time among practitioners.”

So what does this prove in regards to yoga?

Well, “research suggests the right amygdala controls fear and aversion to unpleasant stimuli.” In yoga, we first learn the power of calming the body through breathing (pranayama). And then we contort or hold an uncomfortable posture (asana). In both we observe sensation and we build the capacity to choose how to respond and whether to react, or not, to emotions and stress.

So if your motivation is the body, we’ve got you covered. Dealing with an emotional issue? That works too. Yoga isn’t talk therapy, but through the process, we’re able to participate in our lives better.

Men’s Yoga, Mondays 5:30pm to 6:30pm
Chair Yoga for Men, Wednesdays 7am to 8am

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Blaming the patriarchy for… everything.

There are a handful of Yoga blogs I read when I get the time.   J. Brown’s is one of them.  He’s pretty open about the path he’s on and  I’ve appreciated his matter of fact inquiry of Yoga through the masculine lens.  His recent post on patriarchy, hierarchy and culture seems to steer into a realm that is less centered and, frankly, takes too much on.

There were two things that jumped out at me, the vignette regarding his daughter listening to a Taylor Swift song and a comment about Men’s Yoga. This post is a response to Brogis Need to Recognize.

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taylor-swiftJ. Brown, I don’t know what Taylor Swift song your daughter was listening to.  I’m not a fan of Swift’s more recent albums and image, but her early country-pop songs are pro-girl, without demonizing boys or femininity.  I had no problem with my daughter listening to songs like Fifteen, Love Story or Picture to Burn.  The point I’d like to make is that some of this stuff is innate.

Have you ever heard old hippies talk about how they kept the TV out of the house, would not buy their boys cap guns, etc., only to watch them pick up a stick, aim it at their playmate and go “bang!”?  I haven’t had cable since my daughter was born, the Barbie doll she was given quietly disappeared and she didn’t get any of the teen or preteen glam magazines; but suddenly when she turned 14 she got a hair straightener, started wearing makeup and cutting her jeans into Daisy Duke shorts.

My ex commented recently how our kid has a friend who is pretty competitive and judgmental looks-wise.  After she brought this to my attention, sure enough, the next time that friend was over I observed her scan my daughter head-to-toe with a flat judgmental expression before her face brightened with a paste on smile and she made a superficial compliment.

My ex doesn’t wear makeup, much to our daughter’s chagrin, and neither of us pay much attention to fashion.  Now, you can blame some of her newfound superficiality on culture.  But as a man, I’m going to refute that this has anything to do with “the patriarchy” and everything to do with how women are wired.

You read Amanda Green’s awesome blog, don’t you?  She had a great post recently where she owned this feminine behavior more completely than I’ve seen before.  In gearing up to meet a girlfriend that she had a disagreement with:

Instead of my comfy worn-in jeans and fluorescent sparkly green belt, I chose the tight dark denim jeans and a belt of tooled leather. And instead of my super soft sweatshirt from the music festival that is my Sunday uniform, I wore my sergeant pepper jacket. I wore cowboy boots to make me taller and I put on bracelets and mascara. It felt shitty and necessary all at the same time.

Neither the patriarchy or men are to blame for this.  So I suggest you stop taking it on.

Finally, J Brown:  There is a lot of conversation in the yoga world these days about the “yoga body” and the empowerment of women through yoga. And then there is a backlash of “Broga” classes being marketed where men can be men and do their yoga without having all those empowered women around.

I think you’re totally wrong on this.  I’ll frame my argument like this: we have Title IX, written largely to ensure that girls have the opportunity to play sports, which is great.  But notice how there isn’t a public outcry trying to get boys into say ballet or drama.  Mind you, I’m not suggesting that our culture is failing our boys because of this.

Rather here we have yoga, where in its modern presentation is quite female centric, and when men start to carve out a niche where they can explore it, it’s criticized?  It’s laughable to suggest that Broga or Men’s Yoga classes are a backlash to empowered women.

men-in-treeI teach men’s classes for a variety of reasons.  Mostly because the presentation is overtly feminine in so many classes that I want to step outside that arena to provide a safe space for guys to experience this practice.  Did I just use the term “safe space”?  Yes I did and I use it tongue-in-cheek.  I’m not blaming anyone, and I really don’t want female instructors to change their presentation but a lot of how Yoga is taught just doesn’t work for me.

The choice of poses often aren’t that attainable or interesting for many men, the flowery metaphors women frequently use just miss, and the form-fitting clothes are a distraction (I’ll admit it, if no one else will).   More importantly, I feel that men need to build their emotional and spiritual capacities from within the masculine, and not depend on the women in their lives for all their emotional needs; from expression to simple acknowledgement to identifying what’s going on.

These reasons have nothing to do with being uncomfortable with empowered women, and everything to do with empowering men to be comfortable in their own skin.

Everybody’s a Critic (of Yoga)

In the last month or so, I’ve run across three separate articles dressed up as criticism of western presentations of yoga.  The trouble is, they come across being more narcissistic and envious of the “culture” they are supposedly now boycotting, and end up sounding resentful of fame and success rather than offering true criticism.

So here, with a grain of salt, I’m criticizing the critics.

better bunsOne article focused on the sensationalistic, commenting on the launching of a Yoga porn site, and Yoga for Better Buns to make his point of capitalism infringing upon this spiritual practice.  But then this very same poster is blogging at the HuffingtonPost.com and he is also an author of two books on Mindfulness and Meditation, both with a handy link to the Amazon Store right after his article.  And, by the way, he’s written many other articles in such a style.  If you didn’t already know, bloggers at the Huffington Post don’t get paid for their articles.  They do it for exposure.  Can he be any more of a shill?

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