Man vs. Yoga

 

(Image courtesy of http://www.essential-yoga-for-men.com)

Now this might be just me, but don’t you think “Man vs. Yoga” could be the new reality TV series to kick off 2012? Okay, maybe it’s not something worth tuning into every week, especially with exams on the horizon but it is still an interesting idea!

So, I have a friend who is a man and he is very athletic and plays a bunch of sports. A few weeks ago, I was out with said man, we’ll call him G (because he’s gangsta haha not really but okay!) and some other man friends for lunch. We got on the topic of my yoga classes and I suggested he join! One of the dudes is already a yogi, or perhaps formerly dabbled in yoga, and was very supportive of the trial yoga class for G. G-dude was a bit hesitant to say the least! So I left the offer on the table and sure enough just last week he told me he was ready…to hit up hot yoga!

What’s so great about yoga for men (and women)?!

  • You get a whole body workout and stretch – which most of us neglect to do post-gym!
  • You feel more energetic after the blood flow and circulation is moved through your entire body!
  • You experience less soreness after a great stretch in a warm room.
  • You experience clarity of thought and peace of mind after a peaceful hour of no books, technology or even talking.

So why did G-man have the sudden change of heart? Well, he’s been feeling pretty sore after his hockey games and he’s looking to loosen up a bit. If I were to separate people into three categories, based on flexibility, I’d divide them as follows: Bendy Wendy/Bendy Buddy; Regular Cinnabar/ Regular Alamar and Rigid Bridgid/ Rigid Euclid. G would be in the latter category and I’d be in the middle. I can touch my toes, but can’t place the soles of my feet on my shoulders.  G-dawg, on the other hand, is still reaching for the floor.

Anyways we went, just to a yoga place downtown. Sadly G-man doesn’t have the benefits of being a UofT student like I do or the subsequent opportunities to enjoy reasonably-priced Ashtanga, Hatha, Yin or a combo of Pilates and Yoga classes! But we managed to find a decent deal.

How was it?! Well for those of you non-believers out there, I think he had a great time! There aren’t many groups of people more welcoming  than yogis! Everyone’s super supportive. Plus, you’re in a warm room with soothing music; it’s hard not to relax. So, if you’re a dude and you think yoga sounds intimidating, find a friend who can help you out and try a class! You never know, you might start off as a Rigid Euclid and move all the way to a Bendy Buddy in no time at all!

Best of luck in crunch time! If you’re feeling like a heavy weight, might be time to lighten up with some yoga, just sayin!

-Laura

Dances of hope and healing

I’m surrounded by strangers and TV cameras and bright lights as far as the eye can see. Somewhat unlike a typical lecture, there’s a certain energy about the people in the rows and rows of wooden chairs. The excited buzz of conversation around the room is gradually replaced by a rhythmic clapping; each of three parts of the room carrying a different syncopated beat. African drums are struck at the front of the room, and in call-and-response, we all begin to sing.

This isn’t the way I thought we’d communicate about a disease that currently affects millions of people every day. I expected an evening of solemn statistics and heavy hearts. What I found was a celebration of common humanity, when on Wednesday night I attended a World Aids Day event at Hart House, presented by the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

As many of you probably know, Stephen Lewis was, from 2001 to 2006, the United Nations Special Envoy to HIV/AIDS in Africa. I first learned of his incredible work in 2005 or 2006 when a high school teacher encouraged me to read Lewis’ Massey Lecture, Race Against Time. I was able to see Lewis speak during the following year at a public library, and was captivated by his passion to not lead from an office, but from the ground. In perfect contrast so many volun-tourists and 2-week-prophets that like to speak about Africa, Stephen Lewis exhibits an authentic commitment to reaching out and genuinely caring for other human beings without a hint of self-righteousness.

The event was opened by a stunning spoken word poetry performance by d’bi.young titled “Dear Mama,” telling the story of a Canadian daughter sharing news of her HIV diagnosis with her mother at home in Africa. Tears trickled down my face as she pleaded, “mama I want to come home / only you alone can love me / but ya have to promise / that ya won’t tell nobody / about my shame.” Through all of this – as one of the fortunate few to have a life and social circle untouched by HIV/AIDS – I was given a glimpse into the pain and hope of others. The speakers at the event emphasized that scientifically, we’re rapidly approaching new ways of preventing and reducing risks associated with the transmission and progression of HIV. They reminded us that medical treatments, however, are not enough. It takes the care of a cohesive community to create the psychosocial structure in which health-consciousness is established and the physical and emotional needs of infected individuals are met. A woman who had been a social worker in an HIV clinic for 23 years was sitting next to me and in our conversation, asked me why I was at the event. My simple response – “to listen” – felt trite and inadequate. I felt like it was wrong of me to be in this special, almost sacred place and to have nothing to give.

Maybe, though, there is instead something I can take, and keep, and nurture until it grows. As I listened to poems and stories and dramas and songs about this world so far from my own, I started to see connections. I worried about how the stigma attached to HIV treatments in Zambia inflicts a similar scale of suffering and violence that the stigma attached to mental illness does in Canada. I saw the way that dance and music helped children rise up and find reprieve from some of their suffering that resulted from personal or family experiences with HIV/AIDS. It made me think about how arts – music, dance, poetry – can become a valued, collective expression of the passions of a community, rather than something rehearsed, performed, and judged. I wondered what radical honesty might look like in the face of our suffering – to dance to the songs that move us, to write poetry about the weight that we each carry behind us, and to write and speak fearlessly and honestly about our feelings not merely toward our circumstances, but to the people who comprise our worlds.

I’m grateful for the health and community I’ve been granted, but to know how lucky I am makes me just feel like we all need to keep asking for more. More stories, more healing, more compassion, more dances, more love. As I sang out under the bright television lights, I felt, for a moment, less alone than I had in a very long time. This need to feel a part of a community is by no means exclusive to those suffering from life-threatening illnesses – it is a fundamental human essence. And so why do we deny this to one another? Where does our compassion hide when we’re not singing? And why do we ever stop?

I like to think of all of the ways we could care about each other with a love like that. Even if we aren’t doctors or researchers, I feel like these moments of open ears and minds and hearts are underappreciated ways in which to make life just a little softer for others, and almost certainly, for ourselves.

- Jennifer