My friends know that one of my goals as a yoga teacher is to get more older men into classes – 30’s, 40’s and older. Our lifestyle sets unreasonable materialistic and even spiritual goals for men that many labor their entire lives to reach – the “happy” marriage, the “special” kids, the “perfect” house and vacations, and of course, he has to get the hottest car. It’s a setup for emotional and spiritual disaster and disappointment. I believe that the damage done by years of fruitless striving can be, if not healed, at least mitigated through yoga practice. The emotional and even physical calming effects of yoga can help us men put a new perspective on what we should really expect from life.
These three blog entries will I hope get Johnny Olderman ready for what to expect in class, logistically, emotionally and physically. Today, logistics.
Getting there. Get to the studio about :15 minutes before class. You’ll have to register your information, sign a waiver that no one reads, pay. Introduce yourself to the teacher and tell him/her it’s your first class. Most teachers enjoy showing new students yoga, so don’t be embarrassed or afraid to be new. We all were at one point.
Clothes. Be modest. You may be partially upside down, your ass will be up in the air, things may be hanging out. Be modest. Also, you’ll be sweating, a lot. Shorts are generally better. Sweatpants will probably be way too hot. You don’t need fancy yoga clothes. Also, be clean and don’t smell.
Socks. Take your socks off. No one cares what your feet look like. If the instructor is looking at your feet, it’s only to make sure your foot position is correct.
Setting up. Most studios (at least in Chicago) will have mats for you to use at no charge. Yes, probably 500 other people have used the mat before you. More. When you’re done, spray the mat with the spray bottle of cleaner they have, and wipe it down. Once you start taking more classes, maybe get your own mat so you’re not sharing feet with everyone. Unroll your mat in the direction that everyone else is doing it. Set up in the back of the room so you can see how others are doing the poses. It’s best to have a sweat towel and water bottle handy next to your mat.
The people. I’m just going to come at this head-on: the class will probably be full of young, pretty girls in yoga outfits. You might be the only man, and probably the only man over 30, 40, 50… Treat them like you’d treat your own daughter. It’s okay to look and admire a well-executed pose, it’s not okay to stare like a weirdo. It’s okay to compliment, “your handstand looked really strong;” it’s not okay to be a creep, “are those the see through Lulu’s? Can I check?”
Remember: if you wouldn’t want your 45 year old friends saying it to your 23 year old daughter, don’t say it to someone else’s 23 year old daughter. Better yet, if you wouldn’t say it in front of your wife, don’t say it. Better yet, just keep your mouth shut. The reason I bring this up is that I’ve seen it suggested in other “getting dudes into yoga” blogs that yoga is a great place to meet women. It’s not. You’re there because you’ve chosen to try to work on whatever spiritual or physical issues you have; so are many other people. It’s not the time or place for being a creep.
The Poses. You will have a hard time doing many of the poses, and it will be very uncomfortable. Your body is designed to move in a certain way, and you probably haven’t moved it in that way since you were a kid. It will get better; it will take a long time. Recognize it, deal with it. It sounds trite, but you’re doing good just by being there.
The Effort. You may get winded during class. It’s okay to sit back on your heels and rest, or to take Child’s Pose (your instructor will show you how). I do it, and I’ve been doing yoga for 10+ years. No one cares, no one is judging. You wouldn’t feel bad if you couldn’t run 10 miles your first time running in years. Same thing with yoga.
In-class Etiquette: No talking once the class gets started. Respect other folk’s space and silence before and after class. If you have a question, get the teacher’s attention. Otherwise, enjoy the quiet time away from the chaos of your every day life.
After Class: Be quiet. Respect other’s space and silence. Clean up after yourself. Go home and tell all your friends you did yoga so you’ll be just *that* much cooler than them. And come back for another class.
And finally, yes, it will smell like feet and incense. Learn to love it.
Check out Part II of this series, Your First Yoga Class – Part II – Simon Says