How To Pick Your Teacher

First there’s a difference between a teacher and an instructor in my opinion.

For example, a couple of my favourite instructors run classes which are very simple, repetitive and quite wonderful. While some might say you could get as much instruction from a decent DVD of yoga, these classes with a real person are easy to do. Remember it’s your yoga class and not your instructor’s (despite what they may think). There’s some advantages to taking the exact same class with the same instructions given each time as a way to improve your own practice.

Finding a teacher, that is someone who actually teaches the poses and perhaps some of the philosophy, is rare indeed and not for everyone. But I treasure such teachers.

But while you’re waiting to find that perfect person don’t overlook the very new teacher. Sure some new teachers may make mistakes but often new teachers are much more alert and concerned about your practice than the instructors with more experience.

So very recent graduate instructor shouldn’t be avoided. Often they have some problems remembering left from right (A lot of yoga teachers seem to be similarly challenged. Just remember one side and then the other regardless of what the instructor says when she’s confused.) and mixes up Warrior I and Warrior II but these are minor issues. What’s much much more important is this instructor is actually engaged in her own practice and interested in her students.

I can remember one instructor whose style was to stand at the back of the room and lazily going through a series of instructions. Had another instructor who ran the class like an Army Rangers bootcamp complete with threats and yelling. These are instructors to be avoided.

Another instructor style I dislike is the person who feels they need to bring their personal therapy into the studio. Some instructors like to read lengthy passages from whatever pop culture self-help writer that they currently find fascinating. I’m in my mid-60s. Many of my instructors are half my age. I’ve done my self-help work. While they may find a new age guru as someone to follow I’m not likely to agree and I’d appreciate it if they’d keep the half-baked philosophies to themselves.

One of my pet peeves is the instructor who in an effort to be helpful says something like “Now clear your mind. Don’t think about work!” What! I wasn’t thinking about work until you mentioned it. The other instruction I object to is the one to breathe in the good air and breathe out the “bad” air. I don’t have “good” or “bad” air thank you.

And, best of all in my opinion is the teacher who moves about the room making suggestions here or an adjustment there. One of my favourite teachers would touch me lightly between the shoulders as she walked by thus reminding me to bring them together.

And men, while I know you’ll ignore this suggestion, don’t pick your yoga teach by how “hot” she looks.

Putting teachers on a pedestal, no matter how seemingly well deserved is extremely dangerous. There is a long and apparently unending list of master teachers accused of sexual or financial improprieties when it comes to their students. One entire style of yoga was decimated when most of the management teaching group and almost all of the teachers of this popular form quit following shocking revelations about the sexual behaviour of the top guy. Another guru from India was photographed touching two female students in an extremely inappropriate way. Of course, the images when public via social media. Same guy is alleged to have broken one woman’s pelvis when he used his foot to apply pressure to her pelvic structure. (We’ll talk about yoga injuries in a future post.)

So it comes down that people are people. You are your own yoga instructor. Listen to yourself. Listen to your body. Your gut knows right away what your head hasn’t even thought yet.

We’ll also talk about the different styles of yoga in a future post.

What To Wear Men

Now’s the time to pull-up your big boy pants men.

I mean the stretchy clingy shorts you see all the women wearing. When Lululemon has them they’re $75-80! The good news is they’ll last four or five years before the stretch goes out of them.

There are also light cloth pants from mountain Coop and sports stores but I’ve always felt better in stretchy shorts.  There’s something reassuring about being all tucked in.

Why?

In yoga there are lots of positions (called asanas) where you’re on your back and your feet are in the air. This is not a situation you want to be in when wearing ordinary workout shorts with or without an inner liner.

If you’re very lucky and you’ve found a brave and gifted yoga teacher (male or female) who occasionally offers hands-on adjustments, you’ll want to be completely enclosed doing “happy baby” pose especially if your instructor comes over to stand in front of you and gentle engages the inverted soles of your feet.

Let’s be honest here. If you’re past your glory days or, like me your best before ticket expired decades ago, it won’t matter much what you wear as nobody will be watching.

The conclusion: Dress for success

Why Yoga For Men?

Why is yoga so popular with young women and so unpopular with men of all ages.

I won’t pretend to understand women and what they think (This will come as a relief to my wife and female friends) but I think I can offer some insights when it comes to men.

Many men grow up in competitive team sports. Yoga is neither.

Yoga studios in North America are almost universally owned or run by women. This shouldn’t be a factor but it is.

Many yoga studios in North America are feminized or “new-aged” festooned with crystals and funny hanging things. There are plants growing in pots and colourful decorations of dubious Hindu inspiration. They smell…well, nice and not like a gym.

None of these things considered alone means much but if you’re a man walking into this environment for the first time it’s akin to going in for a Brazilian !!! Not going to happen.

So where do men go? I’m also a member of my local YMCA and on any given morning there’s more men there than I see all year doing yoga.

So what’s the solution?

My own yoga studio owner has kept the reception area and studio rooms pretty plain. There are a couple of men who teach there as well. If not male friendly, it’s at least gender neutral.

I did a week-long yoga / meditation retreat in Toronto two years ago at The Center of Gravity studio and at least 1/3 of the room was male. Two of the three main instructors were men (Lead by internationally known and renowned Michael Stone).  Of the women, I’d say many, if not most, we’re some of the most together women I’ve ever met.

These were not people soaking and lost in their personal issues. These were people alive in the world. Frightening in their physical abilities (even, perhaps especially those with disabilities) and fearsome in their intentions these were very interesting people to hangout with for a week. I was very grateful for the opportunity to participate in this amazing community.

In future posts I’m going to explain why you’re going to want to buy stretchy pants and your own mat and how to clean it and how to bend over without hurting yourself and how to say “no” to 25-year-old dead-drop pretty and muscular “Miss Power Yoga”  (These are real mitigating factors when it comes to visually oriented male libidos.)  when she puts her hand on the base of your spine saying “You can do it!”

Not only can’t you do it (at least not yet) and you shouldn’t even try.

 

Welcome

Welcome to Peter West Yoga.

This blog is my latest WordPress blog and it’s about yoga but especially yoga for older men and perhaps even their sons and maybe their daughters too.

In our North American culture there are relatively few men in yoga. In India, where yoga originated it’s almost all men and most of the women you’ll see on Facebook who travel to India to study are North American.

So in North American yoga studios men are a minority. In my personal experience I am usually the sole man in the room.