Real men do yoga, but they don't do it very well.
I don’t have any solid facts to back up what I am about to say — I seldom do — but the largest growth industry in Winter Park these days is quite obviously this: yoga studios.
Yoga studios in strip malls, yoga studios in cozy lofts, yoga studios in converted office space once occupied by out-of-luck realtor/developers. Stroll past the pavilion in Central Park most any day and you’ll spot people committing acts of public yoga, which for many is perhaps just a little too much sharing.
Full disclosure: In an effort to prolong my life, advance good health and deceive my body into thinking it remains invulnerable to the ravages of age, I have for some years now been a devotee of yoga.
So I am delighted that at last count there were no fewer than four yoga studios within walking distance of my house, which I consider maximum saturation since there are only about five times that many bars.
Yoga, for the uninitiated, is an ancient exercise regimen that originated in India as a way to achieve balance, flexibility and a sense of wellbeing long before big pharmaceutical companies figured out how to do the same thing even faster.
Yoga takes its name from the Sanskrit words “yo,” meaning “to bounce or stretch,” and “ga,” meaning “muscle,” and is generally translated as: “Wow, I had no idea I could strain myself in such a way that my entire body hurts when I simply blink my eyes.”
The popularity of yoga in the United States in recent years is generally attributed to the fact that it helps participants unwind from stress and remove themselves from the crunch of time, with most classes lasting from 60 minutes to an hour, whichever comes first.
There are many types of yoga, including Hatha, Vinyasa, Iyengar, Eeyore, Bilbo and Kardashian (also known as “hot yoga”), but they all share common philosophical ground, which is usually about $15 an hour, or $12 per on a monthly plan.
Yoga classes consist of a sequence of maneuvers known as “poses” that, practiced with regularity and dedication, help make practitioners more flexible. Some of the more basic poses and their specific benefits are:
• Warrior One, in which the student strikes a fierce pose with legs spread slightly more than shoulder width apart and gaze focused on both hands clasped overhead (increased circulation, gran mal seizures).
• Warrior Two, in which the student strikes an even fiercer pose by squatting lower and bringing both arms perpendicular to the body (complete disorientation, shoulder separation.)
• Warrior Three, in which the student strikes a totally ridiculous pose by tilting as far forward as possible with all weight on the front leg (face-plant on floor, broken nose.)
• Downward Facing Dog, an elegant and highly beneficial posture in which the student hikes one leg and sniffs other students indiscriminately.
Despite the fact that yoga was originally developed by men who wore baggy underwear in public and called themselves yogis, most contemporary yoga classes in the U.S. are led and attended by women in skintight underwear, many of whom look quite fetching and are the primary reason why old guys like me sign up for yoga classes under the guise of getting healthy. This motivation is not lost on my wife.
“So,” she asked the other evening after I arrived home panting and sweating, “how was yoga class?”
“It was great!” I said, speaking as I usually do after yoga class in sentences that end with exclamation points. “I’ve never had such energy!”
“You were leering at the women, weren’t you?”
“Why, no, not at all. Yoga is not about paying attention to other people. It is about focusing on one’s self and one’s mat and perfecting the poses.”
My wife gave me that look. It is a look in the face of which a condemned man bares his craven soul.
“Okay, Your Honor,” I said. “But let the record show that I was not, in the very strictest sense of the word, leering.”
“What were you doing then?”
“I was practicing my Ogling Pose.”
Here is the underlying basic truth about yoga: It dashes the notion that there is such a thing as equality between the sexes. For starters, in any yoga class I’ve ever attended there are at least 10 women for every man, and it is not unusual for me to be the only guy in the class.
Which makes it altogether oppressive for we members of the male species because women are much more flexible than men could ever hope to be. I don’t care what kind of great shape a guy might think he’s in, you can put him in a yoga class alongside the heftiest, Spandex-stretching woman imaginable and, seated in lotus position, she can touch her nose to the floor and he can’t.
“Accept your limitations,” one yoga teacher told me. “Women just have much more open pelvises than men.” This is why women get to have babies and live longer, while the full expression of man’s flexibility is his superiority in striking the Couch Pose, with his feet resting for hours on a coffee table and his fingers nimbly operating the remote.
Another thing: Men make lots more noise in yoga class than women. I’m not talking about grunts and groans. I’m not talking about joints popping and bones creaking. I’m talking about those objectionable noises of a gaseous nature that, when one is warm and relaxed from doing yoga, just kinda slip out.
That’s why most men in yoga classes usually position themselves at the back of the room in a corner. Plus, it’s the best place for perfecting the Ogling Pose.
Bob Morris, a forth-generation Floridian, is a Winter Park-based novelist who teaches creative writing at Rollins College and is founder of Story Farm, a custom publishing company.