Sting. Robert Downey, Jr. Adam Levine. Jason Mraz. Matthew McConaughey.
The mention of these names – all famous men who practice yoga – as reference should have been enough to lure my husband to join the yogic bandwagon.
I’ve been practicing yoga for several years now and experiencing the benefits first hand, so I want my husband to do the practice as well. But after two grudging attendance in yoga class, he called it a day.
“It’s just too static… boring,” my husband said.
He admitted that he also felt intimidated by the more advanced participants in the classes, although they obviously had already practiced yoga far longer than him.
So, he sticks with his routine of swimming and tennis, impervious to the fact that Novak Djokovic and many of the world athletes do yoga as a stand-alone practice or to complement their sports training.
Static, boring, too much focus on stretching, light exercise are among the reasons why many men are reluctant to do yoga. Ironic, since historically in India, where yoga originated, it was practiced predominantly by males.
“Yoga is a good way for health for everyone – women, men, old and young, even children,” said Anita Boentarman, Director and co-founder of annual Namaste Festival.
"We’d like to invite more men to take part in this event because many of them are reluctant to do yoga, thinking of it as light exercise for women. Whereas famous artists like Sting, Robert Downey, Jr and Adam Levine, as well as many world-class athletes are doing yoga regularly because they realize the health and fitness benefit of it.”
This article said there are at least three reasons why men should do yoga. First, it widens range of motion and increases access to more muscle fibers, allowing for more substantial muscle enlargement in any given muscle group.
Second, deep abdominal breathing is a huge part of yoga. It reduces stress level and lowers levels of cortisol, a hormone that forces your body to hold on to belly fat.
Third, it lowers your heart rate and improves breathing volume, providing more oxygen for your body to work as efficiently as possible.
Yoga teacher Pratama Habibie said it was funny how yoga is seen as light exercise because the practice can be rigorous.
“Chaturanga dandasana can be tough to do when doing right,” he said, referring to the four limbed staff pose similar to traditional push-up that is a major component of several yoga classes.
(This reminds me of the story of a former editor, a jock and a Thai boxing enthusiast, who struggled to stay in basic Downward Dog and blurted out expletives during a class.)
Pratama became interested in yoga because it was a convenient exercise to do at home. He then took some classes and was drawn more into it as he deepened the practice.
“Yoga practice is more than a workout. It gives you the opportunity to build a relationship with your body… to be more accepting, in control, and it gives you calmness and a necessary break from all the routines,” he said.
Actor/producer cum yoga teacher Anjasmara Prasetya agreed, saying that not only he felt stronger and more flexible after doing the practice, but he also became more aware of his body and found emotional balance.
“I went to the gym a lot and often found my body and my joints so stiff. I was also in the situation where I found it hard to face everything,” he said.
He taught himself yoga through books, videos and podcast in 2004, and fell for it since.
“I took teachers training to deepen the practice, but then was asked to teach yoga. So here I am,” he said after a recent class in Rumah Yoga, South Jakarta.
Anjasmara said that people should not be intimidated if they feel they are not flexible enough to do yoga.
“Flexibility will come when we practice. Just keep on trying. Try many classes, you’ll find the one that suits you the best,” he said.
Pratama said that based on his experience, more flexible people have the risk to be unsteady and overstretch during practice, so people should not be worried for not being flexible enough.
“Don’t be intimidated by acrobatic postures. Those are parts of yoga, but that’s not the core of it. The point is to be in union with your body. Asanas (poses) are merely tools to be more tuned in with your body,” he said.
Magdalene is a media partner of Namaste Festival, which will take place on Nov. 21-23 at the Sultan Hotel, Jakarta.