This new series is guest blogged by Doug Logan.
Doug Logan is an Adjunct Professor of Sports Management, at New York University.
He was the CEO for USATF from 2008 until September 2010.
He was also the CEO, President and Commissioner for Major League Soccer from 1995 to 1999. To read more about his background and involvement in Track, Soccer, Rugby and the Music industry, read my Freelap Friday Five Interview
This is his 25th article. Click here for his entire series.
SHIN SPLINTS REDUX
Real Men Don’t…
This series of essays has spawned a number of readers who periodically suggest topics. Some suggestions are just mischievous, as the reader who challenged me to write about “nature”, knowing that the topic is not necessarily in my sweet spot. Others suggested “bullying in sports”, chronicling the Miami Dolphins’ woes, or a tribute to the World Series champs, the Boston Red Sox, knowing of my rooting interest in the Yankees. This week’s missive, however, was stimulated by the delivery of my local morning paper.
The lead article in the Health + Fitness section of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune this morning was a reprint of an article written by Eric Niler in The Washington Post, titled “Why Don’t More Men Do Yoga?” In this well developed and interesting piece, Niler wrote of a survey done by Yoga Journal in 2012 that found of the 20.4 million people who practice yoga in the United States, only 18 percent are men. That men stay away in droves is counterintuitive given the many proven benefits that come from the practice. Niler states, “Several studies have linked a regimen of yoga to a reduction in lower back pain and improved back function. Other studies suggest that practicing yoga lowers heart rate and blood pressure; helps relieve anxiety, depression and insomnia; and improves overall physical fitness strength and flexibility, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a branch of the National Institutes of Health.” Why, then, do men shy away from a proven remedy for a boatload of masculine infirmities?
In giving you my answer to this puzzle I will admit that I am doing so at the risk of some peril. Both my sons, Carter and Philip, regularly practice yoga and really like it. My brother-in-law, also a Douglas, has, for some years, been encouraging me to start. Despite the fact that I take pride in my fitness, I personally lay claim to being the world’s least flexible man [just physically, mind you; not literally]. My fingertips have not found my toes in decades. The nuts and bolts that hold my joints together are over-torqued and someone threw the screw driver away.
The principal reason men will not do yoga is that it is a realm where women possess a huge edge. Just like cooking, or conciliating, or expressing one’s feelings, or processing out-loud; this is a game where women have a home field advantage. It is not a friendly arena.
Also, the vocabulary is all wrong. The objective of the exercise is to “ease into a pose”. Men “ease into” a comfortable chair to watch football, or into the front seat of a Corvette, or onto their favorite stool at their “local”. Not into exercise. We explode into a run, or a jump, or a lift. And “posing”? About the worst thing you can say about a guy is that he is a “poser”. Women, on the other hand, have been “vogueing” from an early age, aping their mom’s fashion magazines. It’s no wonder that many [of us] feel that yoga is a feminine conspiracy to neutralize masculine musculature.
The “spiritual” side of yoga does nothing for me. I expect a Yanni concert to break out any time at an exercise session. The next thing you know we’ll be off to Sedona, AZ, to feel the “energy” and buy crystals. And, what’s with the chanting? The only chants I ever enjoyed while working out were the dirty songs we sang while running in the army.
Last year, William Broad, a reporter for The New York Times, wrote a book titled “The Science of Yoga”. He found that though men practice yoga far less than women, they get hurt more often and more seriously, including cervical fractures and strokes. He wrote, “You start to get the impression that modern yoga isn’t really made for men. It seems like it’s designed for women and their bodies and their elasticities.”
The activity is non-competitive [I love to compete], non-confrontational [I was born confrontational] and I have a huge gender disadvantage. And, you wonder why I haven’t rushed out to memorize the Sanskrit terms for the poses?
Now, I may be getting older, but I’m not numb, yet. The fact that there is a 4:1 ratio of women to men at most yoga classes has not escaped me. And, that most are clad in stretchy Lululemon finery has some level of appeal. However, once you get past the clandestine ogling you ultimately have to contort yourself into a position that defies geriatric biomechanics. And, as the “lovelies” on your right and left “ease into their pose”, you are left grunting while managing to look like a bozo. No thanks!
Now, I have to confess, I do eat quiche. I do wear the color pink. I do get a regular manicure and pedicure [a necessity of being inflexible]. But, yoga? Not for me! Not until they introduce a clock; not until they make women wear a 25lb pack on their back; not until they have a finish line; not until they have a score; not until there is a betting line in Vegas; and, not until they let you spit in the studio.