Men’s health is a taboo subject… For men at least! Why are men so reticent when it comes to their health? Honestly, this is a tough one! Women seem to find it a little easier to ‘face up’.
I have decided it is because we have gynaecologists who wake us up at a very early age to the fact that dignity in the nether regions does not exist! OK, so let’s imagine men have the same; would that mean they were able to think about looking and touching themselves for any other reason but for pleasure? I doubt it!
There is hope…
I have been teaching yoga to men for over 20 years and I have to say that in the last 10, the attitude to yoga as a passive pastime has diminished. I train athletes and sportsmen and when they see me they assume it’s going to be just fun! I have had Marines saying they would never have finished their training if they had had to work with me. The truth is that yoga targets all muscle groups.
Ask a rugby player to use all his muscle groups when he is trained to block or to jump and he would not excel at his own position. Yoga reaches the parts other exercise cannot!
Breathing and being male
Take the breath: ask a man to listen to it and he is amazed it exists! ‘Wow, I never thought about my breath’ is the typical answer. At least they do learn if their partner is in labour.
I try to get men to talk about breath in relation to anger. Anger is a feeling and expression most men respond to. ‘Imagine you are very angry – what does it feel like?’ Within a few moments the face gets red, the body pumps and the chest constricts. The breath becomes shallow and fast – easy!
Now ask them to think about their newborn baby and the face relaxes, the breath softens and the face radiates love. Wonderful! Here is the basis of yoga: the breath.
Positive body awareness
Most of us are only conscious of our body when it is ill. A deep wound or a break that reveals the bones horrifies us. We feel faint and shocked. Men are no different; I know many a man who has fainted at the sight of blood.
It seems odd that the Alpha Male sees himself as a warrior and conqueror. I think this is the point. He sees himself but does not feel himself. I teach men to recognise how they feel when they are well and to be able to develop skills to keep them healthy. I feel good and I don’t feel so good. Here we talk about feelings that seem abstract, but they also refer to the body. Teaching men to feel their own body without sexual overtones is a liberating experience for them. Freedom.
The Warrior within
What is the warrior within? We like to describe it as the hard armour and the soft core.
True strength comes from being the opposite: soft on the outside and hard on the inside, as the Buddha: a sweet smile but a centre of discipline and strength.
What does this mean to the 21st century man, though? It means finding a self that cannot be seen any more in the traditions of everyday life, like those of his father or grandfather. Born, school, work, 21 key to the door, engagement, wedding, fatherhood… Respect.
To be a man these days is to be able to accept change and part of that success will be to delve deeper beyond the male mind. Yoga allows stillness and through stillness movement.