Yoga for men: Stretching the limits
Contorted on ladders, bent in trenches, stretched over desks, hunched over computers; this is how most working men - carpenters, landscapers, lawyers, electricians - spend their days. It is ironic to think that these contortionists would be intimidated by yoga. But in fact, few men are willing to dive into the yoga practice to heal their ailing bodies.
"Every guy walks around and knows they have to stretch. But they aren't going to do it on their own," says Susan Sanford, who teaches Yoga for Life: Men at Vineyard Complementary Medicine (VCM) on Tuesday evenings at 5:30.
Photo by Ralph Stewart
"Guys see yogis standing on their heads and twisted up in pretzels and think, 'I'm not going to do that.'" Ms. Sanford continues, "The omming and chanting is a little too eclectic for the average dude."
Robert Sidoti, who also teaches a yoga class geared toward men, echoes Ms. Sanford's explanation for why men typically avoid yoga: "Guys aren't going to go to yoga classes because there are going to be a lot of women in there who can put their foot behind their head and they're in the back struggling, or they picture it super hippy-dippy; all these dudes in ponytails."
Mr. Sidoti has worked as a personal trainer and also as a landscaper and carpenter. He has seen many of his workmates suffering with bad backs and injured knees. "I'm thinking these guys can benefit from a little bit of yoga," he says, fully aware of the stigma men have concerning the discipline.
Mr. Sidoti sought a way to fuse his passion for yoga with physical fitness to create something for the regular guy. "At the end of the day," Mr. Sidoti says, "I want guys to feel good."
In his class, which he calls "Broga," a fusion of the slang bro and yoga, Mr. Sidoti combines traditional yoga postures such as Sun Salutation and Downward Dog, with pushups and squats set to a soundtrack of Radiohead, Bob Dylan, and Jeff Buckley.
One Broga practitioner, a carpenter, who asked to remain anonymous because of teasing on the job site, said, "It made me see how out of shape I am. I'm in my 40s; I have another 20 years that I'm going to be building houses. I realized I better get my (expletive) together."
It is not just physical labor that stresses men's bodies; the responsibilities of work and family - shouldering the load, so to speak - generate tremendous tension.