Most men have found that it’s easy to unleash built-up energy with high-impact sports. But many men are now starting to find that their girlfriends, wives — or even just friends who are women — are standing upright, strong and happy at the end of their day doing yoga. And that they may actually have found something in a yoga session that most men are missing: compassion.
So more and more men are giving it a try — discovering that yoga will just as much train your body, as train your mind.
It can be from from very simple things, such as teaching a guy who’s overwhelmed by his many responsibilities that the best way to get things done is by being present—focusing on one thing at a time. Or to also see the bigger picture and act from integrity instead of freaking out. But most of all, yoga can remind men, especially busy ones, what life is all about: awareness, equanimity, and keeping one’s ego in check—after all, the world is a bigger place than any one…man.
Ready for this challenge? Read on and hear Kevin Mattison, a retired military officer, share his story of how yoga saved his life.
What are the benefits that men will experience practicing yoga on a regular basis?
Physically, yoga stimulates the body to enhance functionality over time. It builds muscle without irritation. When a man sincerely commits to practicing Bikram Hatha Yoga consistently, his dietary needs will also change; requiring more fuel, more water, and more electrolytes. In turn, men will lose connections to foods and habits that do not enhance their day-to-day well-being in favor of those that do.
Emotionally, men will benefit from taking the time to wind down on a daily basis. They will also find themselves riding the daily highs and lows of life much more smoothly – and then helping others through their example.
Case in point: I know at least two other men, who are executives with huge staffs. Both had anger management issues. Through their Bikram yoga practice, they have become more effective leaders and less aggressive and stressed both at home and at work. Stress is the Launchpad for so much of the poor health, poor behavior, and less than optimal living that many, otherwise fortunate, and well-off people, suffer from. Stress kills!
As a man, how has your body (and mind) changed as a result of your regular yoga practice?
I came to yoga as a retired military officer. I was a type A executive – and yet I didn’t know it until I started practicing yoga. In 2011, I was attacked on a subway train. A month after that, my mother, who I was very close to, died. The whole experience crushed me. The following month, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. So I began the Bikram teacher training program and it flushed away all my pain and anger – as well as cured my prostate cancer and hyper-tension. I can unequivocally say that Bikram yoga saved my life.
Is there anything in particular that men need to be aware of before they enter the Bikram studio for the first time? Advice you’d want to share?
Do not eat within three hours before you enter the room. And if you’re a cigarette smoker, your expectation needs to be in alignment with how much you smoke. It generally takes one to two hours to hydrate your body, so make sure you drink plenty of water and include electrolytes before class.
There are still a lot of men out there who feel yoga is for un-masculine Men. What would you say about that as a man?
As you get older, Hatha Yoga will keep you manly, if you know what I mean!
I remember hearing about yoga as a child and all the overweight, smoking, drinking, junk food eating, couch sitting adults saying it was for hippies. At the same time, many of my pro football idols were taking ballet to improve their performance as professional athletes. I felt that if men could use ballet to achieve their athletic objectives why can’t I use Hatha Yoga to achieve my longevity objectives? I generally do not follow fads or succumb to social engineering; Hatha Yoga is old, it’s not new! So, I went to class based on two recommendations of people, including my wife and a friend’s daughter who encouraged me to give it a try. After trying a bunch of different practices, I tried Bikram because I was told it would be a good challenge. Yes, there were (and still are) a lot of women, but I like working out with women. Is that un-masculine?
The men who believe they shouldn’t do yoga because women do it, are the ones who would benefit the most – I’d say that they’re hiding something using their egos to run interference.
What about overweight men? Or underweight men? Any particular issues they should be aware of?
For those guys who have issues with their bodies: as long as your medical team gives you the okay, you are going to be encouraged and welcomed in the studio.
No matter what emotional, energetic or physical challenges, you are going to find the answers in that room. You are going to change. Something is going to change. You will become you! You are not your job, your title, your business, your materials, your buddies, your body, or even your name. You are much bigger than any of that. A wise man will release himself from these limiting trappings and boundaries. A wise man will naturally strive to be and become his own compassionate master wielding the productive, infinite hand that enhances everything that it touches. You cannot do this unless you come to know you. Bikram Hatha Yoga is not the only means, but an undeniably significant means to self mastery.
When it becomes harder to suffer than change, you’ll change, but with all of that suffering, will it be too late – No, of course not, you can start right now!
About Kevin Mattison
Kevin Mattison is a certified Bikram Hatha instructor at Bikram Yoga Santa Barbara.
“I am a lifelong athlete with a military leadership background. I engaged in a full spectrum of ‘gladiator’ type sports that typically have many injuries associated with them. Fortunately, as I approached the BIG-5-OH, I made it to my first Bikram Yoga class in relatively good condition; not perfect, but good! Although I practiced other forms, or traditions, of Hatha Yoga prior to my Bikram experience, I found that the Bikram method resonated with me and, ultimately, healed me in remarkable ways.
I became a Bikram Yoga teacher to proliferate the benefits of this practice. I bring an open mind and heart to the art and science of Hatha Yoga. I regard this gift that we share as a ‘health’ oriented Yoga journey. As our bodies process what we do in the hot room we incrementally fix what needs repair and enhance what’s already working. In short, I’m here to help you gain physical, energetic, and mental strength on all levels; increase not only your physical range of motion, but your mental and spiritual ranges as well; detox all systems; especailly your integumentary system; and, last, but not least, experience a dignified longevity. After all, if we don’t take care of our bodies, where are we going to live?”7