I received this email from one of my yoga students. He’s been active his whole life (cyclist, runner, body builder) but has found a new appreciation for his body as well as yoga.
I love what I do.
—-From my student—
Thank you again for the amazing yoga session today. I mentioned after the session that it felt better than most do (and, honestly, your Man Yoga sessions are the first to leave me feeling refreshed rather than worn out).
I’ve put some thought into why today’s session felt so much more successful, for me at least.
And ultimately it comes down to more intensity and more muscle activation today. I’ve always been taught to “relax into” yoga. To “be calm and still”. Yet I think my interpretation of those phrases are very different from their literal meanings.
What you’ve taught me (or at least what I’ve picked up from you so far) is that intensity and yoga go hand in hand. I need to be activating every muscle with intensity in any given pose. I need to be deliberately firing specific muscles as hard as possible to maintain other poses.
Today I was near-grunting, using intense faces normally reserved for weight lifting, and forcefully activating (and holding) muscle contractions that I never have in yoga before.
Maybe this is right, maybe this is wrong. But adding that intensity to my practice today seemed to have taken it to another level.
Of course, I was still focused on controlled breathing (one of your focuses today). And I was successful with that too. What was a bit of a revelation to me was that “controlled breathing” can still be achieved when deliberately firing every muscle in my body and being fairly intense. In fact, that seems to be the entire purpose of yoga: to stay in control even when your body is screaming at you.
So, ultimately, I think what it comes down to is: most yoga teachers have used phrasing that, unfortunately, has confused how to actually practice yoga (for me at least). And I would guess a lot of other guys are confused this same thing: they think they need to be as loose and relaxed as possible (since that’s what most yoga teachers seem to preach), when in reality you need to be deliberately firing your muscles HARD in every pose in order to maintain them. That it’s that HARD muscular contraction that puts you into a state of meditation, forcing you to focus on the present moment (so you don’t lose your balance and fall over).
If I’ve confused any yoga concepts here, then feel free to correct me – but after some thought, this is what led me to enjoy today’s session more than I’ve enjoyed any yoga session before. I felt in control and “free” of competing thoughts – because I was fully in the zone, focused on my muscles and my poses, not holding back the intensity it took to maintain them.
And this is all stuff I’ve never picked up before until starting these yoga sessions with you.