We’re shaking up the weekly letter to share a male perspective on starting a yoga practice courtesy of Eugene, aka the Yoga Dear hubby. Let me tell you guys, when I read this the first time I was so moved. For one, Eugene doesn’t write (not that he’s bad it...actually he’s pretty good). But, even more than that, Eugene is already thinking about how to teach our son how to release any pressure to be a so-called “real man” through yoga. I hope you enjoy it.
<3 With love, Leanne
I often have these conversations with Leanne about masculinity. The questions of What does it mean to be a man? What makes a great man? are on my mind now more than ever as I recently became the father of a baby boy who is now almost six months.
Growing up, I remember always feeling pressure to be the biggest, strongest, fastest, toughest, essentially the “Alpha Male” mentality. Oh you can’t cry, suck it up. You’re fine. You you have a cut? Rub some dirt on it and shake it off. There was constant conditioning for me as a young boyto lock up my feelings and emotions. I wasn’t regularly encouraged to work through them or even acknowledge they exist. Fellas, have you ever felt like this? That you can’t give yourself the permission to be vulnerable as a man? I’m sure women feel it, too, but I'm coming from the male perspective.
As a little guy, where did these pressures even come from? Certainly I wasn’t born with this fear of feelings. Well, it’s the media, it’s society. Both have rubbed off onto family and friends. And,this NOISE creates a definition of masculinity that is downright harmful. I found that men are conditioned from a very young age to hold feelings in, to not communicate how they feel, what hurts, their stressors, fears and anxieties...and then what happens?
We learn to hold everything in. We know from a yoga practice that this isn’t helpful. We learn from yoga to feel what we feel without judgement, to work through emotions with breath and movement, to consciously change our own minefields into peaceful landscapes through meditation. But, without these tools, we can’t experience release and instead turn to aggression, anger, excessive fitness activity, food, drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, etc. Before finding a regular yoga practice, I found release in various times through excessive powerlifting, uncontrolled anger, even punching holes in walls. I didn’t know how to cope. And, is that what I want for my son? Is that how I want him to grow into being a man? Absolutely not.
In my extreme powerlifting days, I was eating 6500 calories per day and at the gym two hours each day to maintain muscle and weight. At one point, I remember turning to Leanne and saying,“I hurt. I am in pain. My stomach is on fire constantly, my wrists hurt, my back hurts, my shoulders hurt, my knees hurt.”I was trying to achieve this image of societal masculinity. I worked at creating this image for a long time. Sure I looked like a total beast on the outside. But certainly did not feel like it. Physically and mentally, I was exhausted and not happy.
Leanne saw it. She had been trying to get me to yoga for months and finally I went with her. That first yoga class, where I practiced something that resembled a downward dog in a dark corner of the room, taught me to start accepting who I am. I’ve become a better man, a better husband, and hopefully I’m learning to be a good father with this practice.
Here’s what having a yoga practice has taught me and what I hope to pass down to my son:
- Yoga helps me block out the noise, the societal pressure put on men to be “masculine” - aka tough, strong, macho. It’s taught me to accept who I am.
- Yoga gives me the courage to acknowledge feelings and emotions so that I can release stress in a productive way...rather than through anger or aggression.
- Yoga gives me confidence, energy and restored vision for the life I want to live...and this is so powerful. Life isn’t prescribed. Your thoughts create your reality.
- Yoga allows me to be strong, powerful, flexible, balanced, calm and grounded. I love the asana, the poses, and experimenting with new ways to move my body.
- Yoga gives me the strength to suppress my ego most of the time. Example: When a car passes me on a single lane highway because I am going too slow, I no longer get pissed and press the gas pedal a little harder so they can’t pass me (anyone else ever done this?). I don’t even bat an eye, just keep chillin!
- Yoga taught me to learn the power of breathing. Breathing has helped me communicate with a clear and calm mind.
- Yoga grants me an opportunity to look inward, you know, a little self-exploration. To stop and ask myself why am I doing these things, how do I want to feel everyday when I wake up, how can I connect deeper with my wife, what steps can I take to be a great father, husband, brother, son, friend...and so on.
I honestly could go on an on and on and yes, I obviously drink the Kool-Aid as Leanne would say. I truly believe that yoga can help you, too, and especially the men out there, which is why I am writing this.
So my dudes, where you at? Have any of you felt some of these pressures? Have you thought about coming to yoga but have not quite made the leap? I would love to hear from you and see you on the mat. Write to me here at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit me on Insta at @genoyoga.
With love (yep, I said love to you),
Geno (aka Yoga Dear Hubbs)
P.S. Okay, Leanne here again. Seriously, what do you think? Is there a fella in your life that could use some yoga? Please forward this to him. Maybe share our Intro Pass for new folks. Yoga is NOT a practice solely for the ladies. It's truly for everyone and every body. xoxox.