"The continued exploration of real men, real yoga, an inquiry into what it means to be a man through the lens of yoga, ancestry and expectation.”
It’s been a busy couple of weeks, and the men’s group continues to deep dive into the exploration of masculinity through the practice of vinyasa yoga. Of course don’t forget the beers and burgers that follow each session. That’s the personal reward for all that stretching, sweating and deep belly ‘Om’s’.
Week 4: Non-judgment
The room is feeling energized this evening and the men quickly find their yoga groove. I’ve come to enjoy this form of exercise. The combination of contorting, breathing, bending and stretching is truly starting to have a real positive impact on my overall health. I’ve not experienced any lower back pain for weeks and I’m finding that the typical chaos of my day just doesn’t affect me as much. Time just flies by in this room.
"A day spent judging another is a painful day. A day spent judging yourself is a painful day". Buddha.
What I love the most is that it offers me the opportunity to ‘decouple’ the mind for an hour. This allows me to calm the nerves and find my own wee Zen corner of the world. In some ways, I’m experiencing the same as what surfing back in Australia used to be like. It’s been a long time since I was on a board, and I would be a long way off from catching a wave even if I tried. However, a few hours thrashing around like a lost seal in the water would always replenish the mind and re-energize me for days.
Since participating in this class, I’ve come to the realization that its vital in life to find positive channels that wash away the cobwebs and recharge the batteries. The concepts of self intention and commitment to ourselves create these benefits. When the class ends, I feel immense pride in myself that I participated. I never judge myself on ‘how much I gave’, this is no competition, not even with myself (my own worst critic). Finding a space where we can care for ourselves unconditionally, without judgment is vital. Let’s learn to be kind to ourselves as men for once.
Week 5: Mortality & Forgiveness
The room is like a sauna this evening and I’m struggling to be present. My day has been up and down and I’ve been in a bit of a funk. This makes me thankful to be here, knowing that in a few moments my mind will be focused and sharp. Before we start, one of the men in the room discloses a personal story about how death has touched his life. This disclosure sets the theme of our practice for the evening and we find ourselves taking a few moments in a meditative seating position to talk. We explore our thoughts about mortality and how as men, we often take our own for granted. We are reminded significantly at times in our lives when we lose loved ones, become fathers or watch our parents grow old.
“Without birth and death, and without the perpetual transmutation of all the forms of life, the world would be static, rhythm-less, undancing, mummified.” Alan W. Watts.
Mark, our yoga guru teaches us a Buddhist meditation technique that has us visualizing breathing in ‘light’ and breathing out ‘smoke’. This technique, which is not too dissimilar to other forms of mindfulness, allows us to visually cleanse ourselves of emotions that no longer serve us (something that many men are experts in carrying). This method of creating self forgiveness, as explained, is a way to break the karma trail (think of the jet stream of an aircraft) and all the feelings of shame and guilt that often result in a never ending wake of destructive behaviors that impact our lives. Yes, this is truly mind-bending stuff but I honestly appreciate the message and the intention of creating new experiences.
This theme has created a powerful energy in the room. I can tell that each of my yoga colleagues are digging deep and it’s intense. The commentary from Mark continues, describing that we are consistently carrying the weight of our ancestors with us, even though their challenges and problems may not necessarily be our own. Forgiveness includes recognizing this in the generation that preceded us and creating a space to exonerate and respect their experience. We understand that they, similar to our own journey were just winging it as they went along. Life doesn’t come with an instruction manual.
Simon Niblock is an Austin TX based, Marriage and Family Therapy Associate who is dedicated to helping couples and their families find peace, direction and meaning within their relationships.
Thank you to Mark Herron, Co-owner & Yogi and the amazing team @ Sukha Yoga for the inspiration for this weeks post. www.sukhayogaaustin.com.