What was I doing as the lone male in a yoga class last month? I’m not sure, but there I was in the forward bend position with screaming hamstrings while the soothing voice of the instructor droned on in the background.
I’m not a yoga kind of guy. I know it’s good for you and people swear by it for building strength, flexibility and inner peace, but as an early middle-aged male with at least a shred of self-respect remaining, it’s just not happening.
For one thing, the word itself wigs me out. “Yoga” sounds like a hybrid between yogurt and toga. And can you picture the late John Belushi doing yoga in a toga at the Delta house? I guess it would beat seeing him in spandex, but you get the picture.
When it comes to yoga, I admit I’m full of preconceived notions and biases. When I envision a yoga class, I see a bunch of women on mats stretching in positions I haven’t been able to get myself into since I made it through the birth canal. They’re sipping fancy coconut water in bright designer outfits and, most importantly, there are no men in sight.
If there is, by some miracle, a man in the class, he either A) was dragged there by his girlfriend and is miserable knowing he passed up free tickets to Fenway with a buddy; B) read the sign wrong and thought he was attending a hot toga party; or C) subsists exclusively on granola.
So what was I doing as the lone male in a yoga class last month? I’m not sure, but there I was in the forward bend position with screaming hamstrings while the soothing voice of the instructor droned on in the background. From the novice’s perspective, yoga is much harder than it looks, and the next morning, my calves were definitely not feeling that inner peace.
Maybe I got tired of hearing so many people nagging me to do yoga, or maybe it was the convenience of a parishioner offering a summer class at the church, which is perhaps 50 feet from my front door. The main reason I decided to show up that night was not that I wanted a break from the kids’ bedtime routine, although that was a nice change. Rather, I’ve become desperate to fill the void left by not being able to run this spring and summer.
An avid long-distance runner, I’ve been dealing with a nagging hip injury. And a runner who can’t run is not always so pleasant to be around. I’m not sure yoga will solve this issue, but even if not, I was pleasantly surprised.
I’ve been back to the class three times now and –– please don’t tell anybody –– I now own my very own yoga mat. It’s a masculine blue, of course.
The spiritual point in all of this is that it’s important to get out of our comfort zones every once in a while. Some of the most profound experiences with the divine occur when we take chances and leave the safety of the familiar. When we encounter situations that are uncomfortable, there is great capacity for personal and spiritual growth. It may be entering a church for the first time in years or taking a chance on a new relationship or just trying something new, like yoga.
When you leave your comfort zone, there is risk, of course, but there is also the possibility of great reward. It’s helpful to remember that the life of the spirit is not about the status quo, and it is often at times of our greatest discomfort that God’s presence becomes most readily apparent.
I hope to get back to running marathons one day, but I’m glad I stumbled upon a new exercise routine –– even if it shatters my image.
The Rev. Tim Schenck is Rector of the Episcopal Parish of St. John the Evangelist in Hingham, Mass. Visit him on the web at www.frtim.com, where you can access his blog, “Clergy Family Confidential.”