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The Sportsmanship of Yoga

Ok guys, chances are your mom, girlfriend or wife has harassed you, at least once, to go to a yoga class with her, or a doctor has suggested you go to yoga to recover from an injury or to reduce stress. Chances are also pretty good that you IMMEDIATELY dismiss this idea while thinking to yourself: “Nope, not going to happen, not me, that’s not my jam. I’m a man! This is ‘Merica, men don’t practice yoga in ‘Merica.”  Hollywood has done a decent job of convincing us that yoga classes are this incense burning sanctuary, full of granola eating, Subaru driving, dreadlock wearing hippies who don’t shower and cry about their feelings while trying to twist their body into ungodly positions. Or, we’ve seen these awkward settings where a group is forced to take a yoga class as a team building activity and craziness ensues. So, I understand your apprehension.

I can, however, assure you that’s not at all what a yoga class is like…at all. ok, ok, yes, you can meet some really “interesting” characters in and around a yoga studio, but once you start practicing, you learn to accept these people as much as you accept your boys you crack cold ones and turn wrenches with on Saturdays. I’ve taken yoga classes in a handful of studios across the country and can confirm that I’ve never once been offered granola by a stinky hippy. What I have been offered, though, is a place to relax, let go and stretch my mind and body.

Yoga teaches you to let go of the bullshit that we carry around with us day in and day out. It teaches you that what is important is the here and now. You learn to accept that what has happened has happened: there’s no going back to change it. You learn that the future still hasn’t happened and that you can’t control what is going to happen. You learn that the only thing you can control is your response to what is happening right here, right now. But before you learn all that stuff you learn the poses, the physical stuff.

You learn that yoga is good for your spine (so help me God, you will hear so much about your spine while in a yoga class!) and your core. You learn that yoga lengthens your muscles and makes you look cut. Ok, and really every day is “leg day” in a yoga class. I’m talking to you Mr. I lifted for 3 hours today in my tank top and jeans and never did a single squat, leg press or leg curl. Stop skipping leg day! Sorry, I digress.  Standing poses promote balance and leg strength and a really nice bubble butt. Ladies, can I get an Amen for every man with nice legs and a bubble butt? Amen sisters!

You’re still not convinced to go to a class with your girl?  Damn, ya’ll are stubborn! How about the fact that yoga is starting to permeate the sports world to the point that some of your favorite athletes are rolling out mats on a daily basis?  Will that work?  Shaquille O’Neil has been practicing since 2009. How about the GOAT, King James himself?  LeBron James picked up yoga during his first go around with Cleveland and has been practicing since then. What’s that? Only pussies practice yoga? Tell that to Connor McGregor. I double dog dare ya!  He claims to practice yoga every day. Read what he has to say on the mental aspects of any fight, it’s all the stuff you’ll learn in a yoga class. Floyd Mayweather even picked up a yoga practice to train for his fight against McGregor. Football players like Vernon Davis attribute their focus on the field and balance off the field to their yoga practice and Mike Adams attributes his 70lb weight loss to diet, hard work and yoga.

Yoga is slowly creeping into any sport you can name. Why you ask? Because it fuses the mind and body. The body is capable of so much, but our minds hold us back. Yoga teaches athletes to silence that voice telling them they can’t go harder, stronger, faster. It teaches athletes about themselves. Yoga forces you to look at your own life, to assess where you are and decide if that’s where you want to stay. Yoga gives the practitioner a chance to say, “I’m not where I want to be right now, but I have the ability to get there.” Yoga students learn how to relax, let go and accept whatever challenges their opponents throw at them. And, they are grateful for the challenges and their opponents because it gives them an opportunity to either rise to the occasion or to learn a lesson from the defeat.  Yoga is essentially teaching sportsmanship without all the ass slapping, hand shaking and jersey/kit swapping that goes on during and after a game. Physically, it keeps bodies agile, balanced, flexible, stable, and strong which reduces the chance for injury. Through frequent practice athletes learn to physically endure by turning their focus towards their breath and tuning out everything else. The next time you’re doing anything physically intense, that induces heavy breathing (wink, wink) see what happens if you simply slow down your breath. Notice how much longer whatever you were doing (wink, wink) lasts.

So, come on, yoga shouldn’t be this big taboo thing that challenges your virility. If you find the type of class that’s right for you it can be an intense workout. Ashtanga, Baptiste, Power, and Vinyasa classes will hand you your ass.  Kundalini yoga isn’t as aggressive but it’s a powerful practice that will leave you feeling revitalized. There are a lot of diverse types of yoga out there, I promise one of them is right for you. But, don’t take my word for it, go try for yourself.  I mean if all the cool athletes are doing it, shouldn’t you be doing it too?


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