My wife walks down the stairs into the basement, the quintessential sports’ themed Man Cave where I dwell most days. Her long blond hair is clipped back, and she’s carrying her purple yoga mat rolled up under her arm. “It’s Thursday,” Liz says.
I’m sitting at my desk, answering some emails and pretending to write while surfing social media. “It certainly is, dear,” I say.
She rolls her eyes. “Did you forget that we have class today?”
“I’m sorry,” I say. “I totally forget.”
Liz is studying to become a yoga instructor, and part of her course work requires her to teach practice classes. To date, my mom, my friend Dan in Missouri — who she taught remotely, if you can believe it — and I have been her only students. “We’re starting with Kundalini,” she says.
“All right! I can certainly do that first.”
Liz sighs. “It’s a form of yoga, you moron,” she says. “We’re going to use breathing techniques to arouse and awaken the dormant energy from your chakras.”
Seeing I have the emotional maturity of a 14-year-old boy, I giggle.
“Are you really laughing because I used the word ‘arouse’?”
I nod. We’ve been married 18 years.
“I’ll see you upstairs in 10 minutes,” Liz says and leaves the basement.
So here’s my dirty little secret, something I’ve told no one until now: I really like practicing yoga.
However, I’m not particularly good at it. I’m not very limber, some Asanas are near-impossible for me — for example, I’m never going to learn Crow Pose — and, admittedly, watching sports and drinking beer often gets in the way of my practice.
But I still enjoy trying it.
And I’ve learned that some of our common perceptions of yoga — for example, the American image that it’s only practiced by fit and lithe 20-somethings in a hot studio sweating — are misconceived.
Yoga, in fact, doesn’t discriminate. Anyone of any age can practice it. And while yoga — particularly Power Yoga — can burn calories and tone the body, the goal of yoga is ultimately mindfulness and meditation, two things that any human being can benefit from learning.
While it’s true that yoga classes in studios can be quite pricey, they’re not essential in order to practice. Sure, having a trained and certified instructor teach the poses and guide you in your meditation is extremely helpful for beginners. But I’ve been doing yoga videos for years, long before Liz decided to take her course, and have never been in a studio.
Anyone interested can find beginner videos on YouTube or Amazon Prime — I’ve found “30 Days of Yoga: The Beginner Series with Ritesh Sheth” extremely helpful l— or you can go old school and purchase some DVDs. Many community centers also offer free classes.
In other words, yoga is accessible if the desire is there.
My reluctance to admit that I practiced yoga, however, was due to the particularly pernicious stereotype that yoga is effeminate. I was scared that my masculinity would be called to question if I admitted that I enjoyed it and benefited from it. As someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder and panic attacks, it’s been invaluable.
While this issue of emasculation is — what my daughter would call — a “me thing,” I tend to believe that a lot of American men, still suffering from a collective John Wayne hangover, might share the same reticence when it comes to talking about their yoga practice; they might feel like “real men” pump iron at the gym, while the girls do their yoga-thing.
Let me make this unequivocally clear: These toxic, limiting and misogynistic stereotypes are the antithesis of what yoga teaches.
After Liz and I open our eyes and finish 10 minutes of Savasana — or Corpse Pose, where we lie on our backs and try to meditate in the stillness — we sit up in Sukhasana, or a cross-legged position and fold our hands in front of our hearts.
“Namaste,” Liz says, which is Sanskrit word that roughly translates to “the divine in me recognizes the divine in you.”
Not a bad sentiment.
“Namaste, honey,” I say. “Can we do Kundalini now?”