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Copenhagen Business School

Real men do yoga!

man doing yoga

(Private photo: Zarko Zaharov)

Blog |   25. Sep 2020

Zarko Zaharov

How’s that for a title. I bet I got your attention, and hopefully curiosity too.

Curiosity that might see you do something great for yourself. There’s a misconception and prejudice, especially among us guys, about yoga – “It’s a girls’ thing.” That sort of ignorance is very last year, and I want to challenge it.

This blog post describes my newly found affinity with yoga, and why, if you don’t do it already, you should give it a try.

In one of my blogs for Wire, I wrote how I tried yoga but accidently fell asleep in one of the classes, and was politely but firmly asked not to come back. Not very “namaste” from the lady, I guess, but then in her defense, it was pretty rude of me.

However, in *my* defense, I was dying for a nap that day and she did put on some uncannily calming music. Anyway, I digress. My point is that my first attempt at yoga did not go well. My second attempt went equally badly when I realized how not-at-all flexible I am, and all the ladies there giggled at my expense as I tried to (and failed to) do pretty much every single one of the postures.

This was a “From that point on it was personal to me” MJ moment (if you have seen “The last dance”, you’ll know). It was a defining moment – not so much in the spirit of calmness and inner peace inspired by the practice of yoga, as much as it was a mission of vengeance.

I made it my mission to get better at it – and I am currently working hard to eventually go back to that place and flex my ‘flexiness’ to the ladies.

This brings me to today. I’ve been doing it for about 3-4 months now.

What’s my experience so far?

Yoga is a strange thing. It creeps under your skin without you realizing it. For the first month, I hated it. Not because “I’m doing a girls’ thing” – I don’t have those kinds of complexes. And not because anyone is giggling at me failing at it – I do it alone, in the safe space of my own home or garden. But just because, it is SO. DAMN. HARD.

Wow, I am about as flexible as my 82-year-old grandma”

Yes, I never thought I would say that either. It looks so easy when my girlfriend does it. But don’t be fooled, gentlemen. The static positions, which, more often than not, are positions you don’t find natural at first, make your body tremble like a badly tuned diesel locomotive.

You are frantically counting the seconds for the agony to end. And it seems like it never ends. Then there is the lack of flexibility that the average person probably suffers from today.

We sit at our desks for hours on end. We go for a walk, a run or even a good workout session with weights etc., but that doesn’t really result in any joint flexibility training and muscle or tendon stretching, which takes a lot of specialized effort and movements.

So just because you do the overhead shoulder press well, in no way does that mean you have flexible shoulders. Ask me how I know. When it comes to yoga, it’s a reality check of “Wow, I am about as flexible as my 82-year-old grandma”.

man doing yoga
(Private photo: Zarko Zaharov)

This results in the lack of ability to do most of the postures and why I found it so frustrating to start with. But here’s the good part. Yoga, unlike the rest of my training, is not about “Push yourself” and “One more rep!”.

It’s about listening to your body and going to the line where it still feels comfortable, but you also feel a little stretch. If you go beyond that, you’re sort of – doing it wrong. This. This very part was hard for me to accept I guess, with all the sports I’ve ever done, where the coach would holler at me if I didn’t go all out.

So it takes an adjustment of mind I guess, before you can do an adjustment of the body. Once you understand that, you run into another obstacle that will get on your boyish, often impatient nerves. You feel like it’s going too slow. You finish a 30-40-minute session, and you kind of feel like you’ve barely done any work. You almost feel like it’s a waste of time.

Other than that, you find yourself in some positions that – how should I put this delicately – you are not used to as a heterosexual male. So, there is also that. You’d better be sure about your sexuality before you go in this direction.

But then, after a month or so, that’s where it happens. You see the “light”. Your body starts to get used to the postures, the movements, the static holds, and the general routine, and you start improving vastly. It all gets a little easier, and now you can start to ‘push yourself’, still respecting the game of yoga as I mentioned before, which is not about going to the point where it hurts.

It’s not about “no pain, no gain”. In fact, I can at this point describe yoga as just “no pain and a lot of gain”. What do I mean by that?

But yoga, like some sort of weird genie in a bottle that specializes in imbeciles like me who wreck their body in their youth and complain when they’re old, just came and fixed all that

For perspective, I box a few times a week, which does leave you with all sorts of fun pain. I ride my motorbike a lot, which makes the body tense, especially your neck and shoulders, from holding on to the handles, and fighting the 100+ km/h wind. I do a lot of weight training and heavy lifting. All of this leaves my body battered at the end of the week.

I have had backaches, both lower back section, and soreness in the upper back/shoulder area. I have felt heavy and slow. My knees would mess with me from time to time. But yoga, like some sort of weird genie in a bottle that specializes in imbeciles like me who wreck their body in their youth and complain when they’re old, just came and fixed all that.

I feel lighter on my toes. I have better posture. I am way more flexible than I was when I began. I have a stronger core. Some chiropractor is probably going to laugh at this next un-medical statement, but I feel like my spine is stronger – as in, I am less prone to pain in my lower back joints, and less prone to getting some nerve tangled up while lifting something.

I even sleep better. It might be a psychological effect of yoga, which at times borders on meditation, leaving your mind clear(er) and empty enough for you to relax and eventually help you sleep. Or it might be a physiological explanation of better nerve firings, and blood flow and oxidation of my whole body.

I am not informed enough to tell, but whatever it is, I am happy. Sleep is very important – especially if you are a chronic insomniac like me.

So to conclude, I have felt a number of improvements in surprisingly different areas, ranging from posture, core strength, general strength of muscles I do not usually train, a more flexible and quick-to-fire feeling of lightness, improved blood flow to otherwise always cold feet and hands, sleep quality, to ultimately – a happier version of me.

man doing yoga

(Private photo: Zarko Zaharov)

Will I stop with all the other sports and activities I do and just do yoga now? No! Absolutely not. I must admit, I still do not get the same sense of satisfaction from it that I do from a good and heavy workout session, or hard boxing sparring. But I feel like yoga is knitting it all together.

It provides me with a more efficient body and movement ability, which I can utilize in the other sports and my daily life. It makes me better. It makes me healthier.

Do I really know what I am doing? Not really. I still have lots to learn. None of the postures I do are anywhere close to perfect, and there is a bunch I am not capable of even attempting at this point. But I am at the foot of a mountain, and I am excited to climb it.

How do I start?

Well the obvious answer would be to find a yoga studio near you and sign up. But what worked very well for me is just getting a yoga mat and searching on YouTube for “yoga routines” – YouTube is great when it comes to that.

Namaste, you sexy people

There are many, you guessed it, women, who do an amazing job of explaining the routines, postures, movements, what you should feel and what you shouldn’t. Some of the videos are shorter, some are longer (30-40 minutes). They also range in difficulty, just add the word “beginner” or “intermediate” to the “yoga routine” search.

Most are kind of follow-along sessions, which also works great for me personally and makes 40 minutes feel like 20. Other than that, it is obviously free of charge and a comfortable, private way to practice something you are probably going to suck at initially.

But eventually you will get better at it and start reaping all the benefits, and it will be all green grass and pretty ladies at your door. And you can thank this motorbike blogger on the internet for it. Isn’t it strange how the world works today?

If just one person decides to try it because of this post, I would be successful in my quest and very happy. Namaste, you sexy people.

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