Listen up, lads: yoga is for everyone.
In the run up to Father’s Day and International Yoga Day (both on June 21st), we’re inspiring more men to roll out a mat. This week, allow us to introduce you to some men who aren’t afraid to tell you why they practice #yogaeverydamnday.
For Ewan Manson, discovering yoga not only impacted his life, it gave him a second a chance at life. We discovered the “yogi/artist/runner” on Instagram, where he documents his daily yoga journey and contorts his body into incredible shapes. Read on to hear Ewan’s remarkable story, and come to realise how much more yoga can offer us beyond just movement.
How did you first discover yoga?
I used to be a different person: I used to be a heavy smoker, drug addict, drink heavily, be suicidal and suffer from depression. I was constantly angry at the world and totally heartbroken from numerous failed relationships. I took everything I did to the extreme, until I overdosed, got arrested, or simply ran out of money. I never really felt like I had an outlet to release these sorts of emotions that had pent up inside me. I also didn’t feel like my artwork was the right sort of expressive catalyst for them to be communicated to the world.
When people told me I should give yoga a try, I didn’t even entertain the thought. Instead, I hid away through other forms of escapism.
One day, when I was in a particularly dark and low place, I left my house determined to end everything. I hadn’t even noticed that there was a raging storm outside with 100mph wind gusts. It felt like everything was crumbling around me and that this was how the end should be.
Before I reached the end of my street, a big 8ft vinyl banner launched itself at my head and threw me into a bush. For some reason, I untangled it from the fence it had caught on to and decided to return home. Once I unravelled it in my living room, I saw it read “YOGA” in giant letters on one side and “Heart Space” on the other.
These were the three exact things my life needed. I thought about how coincidental this turn of events was, for all these elements to come together at that very moment. I thought about all the people in my life, the things that I’m good at, the reasons I had to be happy to be alive, and felt so thankful to nature for intervening.
The sign had been hung up on my street to announce the opening of a yoga studio. I met with the owner– who unlike myself was so full of life and energy– and signed myself up for a beginner class straight away.
Six months later, I had lost 3.5 stone, stopped smoking, given up alcohol and drugs, overhauled my diet and taken a good hard look in the mirror. Sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom and being ready to give up to find out how much life is worth living…
How do you incorporate movement into your everyday life?
I used to make excuses by telling myself there was never enough time in my day to exercise, or that I was too lethargic from working all day to motivate myself. But at one point, I sat down to evaluate what was wrong with my life and how I could make positive changes, and I realised how much time I spent procrastinating.
I decided that my attitude towards how I occupy my time needed to change. I threw out my TV and committed to making time everyday for myself to move. Knowing part of my day will be used to let of steam and push my body gives me a stronger sense of focus and achievement. Since taking up yoga and running, I have embarked on multiple journeys to test my endurance and test what my body is capable of.
I practiced yoga twice a day for an entire year, until it become habitual. I completed a 365-Day Handstand Challenge (Handstand365) and used that as a vehicle to focus on how to overcome fear and preconceived doubt. I’m currently on day 314 of a Backbend365 journey. Opening my heart is something very scary to me that I continually struggle with. My daily routine may seem extreme to some, but I have learned that that if something isn’t working for me, I should do the exact opposite to see the results I aspire to.
Where and when do you prefer to practice?
I have an administrative 9-5 desk job, so I work my yoga and running into my daily schedule. I wake up at 5 am to do some stretching and go for an interval run, which I’ll end either at my art studio, a local park or a rooftop car park to practice yoga. I tend to complete a playful hour-long practice that focuses on hamstrings, hip opening and shoulder opening. I’ll also take time during my lunch break to seek solace in my art studio, and continue my yoga practice after work for another two hour playful practice, or go for a walk.
Being stuck in a seat and chained to your desk job all day can be so detrimental to the body and quite soul destroying. Yoga can be used as a tool to battle against the frustrations of the day. I believe every office environment give access for this.
Do you have a preference of style? Which is it and why?
I love to practice Forrest Yoga. It has a very strong focus on using your breath to build strength and understanding in your body, and makes you become very honest with what is happening in your body day to day. It focuses on strength, breath, integrity and spirit.
I was introduced to Forrest Yoga about six months into my yoga journey and it honestly felt like I had been hit by a train. I hurt for days afterwards, but my body started to be able to do things that it had never before. It enabled me to realise that I am in control of body and I can overcome any fear or obstacle if I put my mind to it with practice, patience and consistency. Yin Yoga and journeying through Meditation also helps me to focus and sharpen my mind and my imagination.
Who or what inspires you?
I’m inspired by artists, contortionists, circus performers, dancers, b-boys and gymnasts– people who communicate without words, but through a conduit of being driven to express their existence through movement. I find inspiration through children’s drawings, the smell of freshly cut grass, the colours of a sunrise as it scorches the sky, dreams, visions, and to some extent , myself.
How can we get more men on a yoga mat?
If you had told me three and half years ago that I would be doing this with my life, I would have told you to take a hike. Yoga was so far off of my spectrum of things in life that I should be doing, it didn’t even register!
The way yoga is represented needs to shift its paradigm and become more inclusive. For example, yoga brands shouldn’t only create women’s clothing and appeal to women. I guess it plays on the antiquated stereotypes of men being muscular and women being flexible. For me, yoga cured a lot of my misdemeanours in life, and more people should realise that it can be used for curing aspects of modern life that effect us all.