Clive shares how he braved the challenges of feeling out of place and inflexible in yoga classes. He shares some of the many life changing benefits he continues to reap from his yoga practice.
After playing a range of sports for several years until my early 20’s, two things became noticeable:
- I was getting injured more regularly
- My body was taking longer to recover.
A friend recommended yoga suggesting that I would benefit from the stretching as well as increasing my body awareness. She also thought I would benefit from the mental side of the practise! She noticed how busy I was and thought that yoga could be grounding and balancing for me. I hadn’t thought about these benefits of yoga for men.
So I went somewhat nervously to my first yoga class. I was the only man there and felt immediately out of place. Everyone else seemed so flexible and to know exactly what they were doing. I was in my football kit feeling uncomfortable and very self conscious. By the end everyone seemed so blissed out and I felt like I’d run a marathon and had the sweat to prove it. I definitely didn’t feel like joining in all the hugs that were taking place.
I sat in the changing room alone after wondering whether yoga was for me. I spoke to my friend and she encouraged me to give it another go. We talked about the importance of finding a setting and a teacher that I could feel comfortable with. After some experimentation, I found a space and a teacher I connected with.
My yoga journey had started and I gradually became more comfortable about being so inflexible and feeling out of place. It was a challenge I was ready to meet.Clive Fogelman
My yoga journey had started and I gradually became more comfortable about being so inflexible and feeling out of place. It was a challenge I was ready to meet.
In time, I started to experience so many benefits from yoga not just with my sports but really as a person as a whole. It was life changing.
Here are some of the benefits I continue to receive from my yoga practice and the benefits of yoga for men (and women too!):
It wasn’t until I started yoga that I realised how tight I was. With yoga I have experienced benefits of both dynamic and static stretching which aid pre and post athletic performance. My body has become more flexible over the years and I understand how to release tightness.
I experience more ease of movement, have greater range of motion and suffer fewer injuries and less pain. And there is no doubt that exploring flexibility in my body has harnessed a flexibility in my mind. I have become far less rigid in my thinking and much more open with my attitudes and how I experience the world around me.
Yoga developed my strength in a different way, particularly engaging with muscles which were underutilised in other sports. By working with my own body weight, yoga helped to enhance my core body stability and strengthen under-developed muscles, leading to a more balanced and optimally functional overall strength.
I also feel that overcoming my initial insecurities around yoga was a very strengthening experience on a personal level. It strengthened my connection to self and opened me up to a whole new world of friendships and experiences.
Balance & Coordination
My coordination and balance improved significantly with yoga. In other sports this made me feel more agile as poses can generate a more subtle awareness of the body’s centre of gravity and how the body functions as a unit to balance. This helps cultivate a deeper sense of the body in relation to space.
Exploring balance in yoga has greatly helped me connect to the importance of balance in life. When I need some balance I find incorporating balance poses really helps me to focus and steady the mind.
Yoga created a deeper connection to my body illuminating its uniqueness and how to identify subtle bodily sensations and shifts in energy. As a result, I have developed a clearer understanding of when it feels good to push and challenge myself but also when to take a step back and shift to a softer and more effortless approach realising both have much to offer at different times. Going slower, taking time and finding softness in the body is crucial if like me you are used to pushing so hard.
Learning to breathe in different ways and creating harmony between breath and movement has been very supportive. My breathing is deeper and more controlled improving my stamina for endurance activities and shorter, more intense workouts. The meditative aspect of focusing on breath makes me feel more centred and grounded. It helps maintain my balance and facilitates a state of flow where I feel my whole body and mind is functioning in sync.
This has significantly improved my capacity to stay more present enhancing focus and concentration among other things.
Rest & Renewal
On a physical level, this has facilitated deep release and expanded flexibility in tight areas of my body. But beyond that the depth of these practices with their emphasis on replenishment and renewal had a profound influence on me. In today’s world with its prominence of speed, getting things done and pushing ourselves to do more, to be more, our sympathetic nervous system can be over stimulated making it very hard to relax. This can sustain us in a perpetual cycle of stress, preventing the body from truly healing and recovering.
Restorative and yin yoga along with meditation taught me truly how to slow down, to let go and to relax more deeply. It taught me how to resist less and find more ease in the moment. In these practises the parasympathetic part of the nervous system gets activated.
This is when heal, this is when we recharge our batteries, this is when we recover. And when we slow down we can really connect to ourselves, identify more clearly what we need to thrive and have more to give ourselves and others.
I would love to know what other benefits you receive from your yoga practice? Especially men practicing yoga out there, how have you benefited from your yoga practice? You can comment below or tag me in a post on the Mover’s Facebook group!
Clive Fogelman is a UK based yoga and meditation teacher with a background in learning and development as well as psychotherapeutic work and sports coaching. Clive focuses on supporting people to cultivate intuition in their own bodies and develop greater self-awareness.