As an instructor I have come across multiple guys hesitant to start Yoga because they feel that it is a female dominated community, and that there is a pre-requisite to enjoying the benefits that Yoga offers.
Yoga has been misunderstood by the large masses for many years, and often gets put into a box that you must be flexible, you must be spiritual and overall it's a soft workout that includes meditation. All of these assumptions could not be further from the truth, and yet I constantly hear people say, particularly men, that they can't do Yoga because they are neither flexible, nor very spiritual.
Yoga is benefical to humans, it helps us aid our mental and physical well being. I must admit, it can be intimidating starting something new, but there is an incredible community of instructors and students who swear by the incredible benefits of Yoga.
Yoke Yoga in Torquay is one of our favourite local studios and is full of experienced and knowledgable teachers, one being the wonderful Chris Christou, whose Sunday afternoon classes will leave you feeling deeply inspired. We sat down with Chris and had a wonderful chat about his life and experiences with Yoga.
What do you do to during your absolute downtime?
Walking my dog is a huge thing, and I think it's mostly just getting out into nature. I find we're always working in these offices and buildings, and as soon as we drop back into nature, you realise that's where we come from, we learn that we are not separate from it, and there's this sense of grounding and peace. It sounds a little weird but surfers love to go out into the water and I think a big part of that isn't just to catch waves, but to just be in the ocean and be apart of nature. I feel like that is a huge part of my downtime, is just to get out there.
What is a mantra you live by?
"Be here now", it's super simple, but it's those moments where everything awakens a little more. Not fixated on whats going to happen in the future, or holding onto the past, you just drop into the space and you can start to enjoy the people, or things around you. I truly think that's where the magic lies.
What do you think anyone could do if they wanted to Improve their Health, Wellness and the way they felt?
I think it starts on a physical level, so, maintaining an adequate diet with good sources of nutrient, water and exercise. Once the physical body is balanced, then the mind often follows that. Also just being mindful of where your thoughts are taking you, sometimes we get caught up in stressing about something that hasn't happened and may not even happen. Just coming back to that mantra of being here now, noticing that you are healthy and perfectly fine. I guess this allows the stress level to drop, and I think that is what the major killer is, is stress in life. Just allowing yourself to be at ease, and it is harder said then done, but I think there's where this practice of stillness comes into play. Because you learn not to get stuck in this fast forward movement of always, thinking, thinking, thinking. When you get comfortable just being here, it's a really wise thing to do, and it does take time.
What do you love most about teaching yoga?
Creating a space for people to just purge out anything they're holding onto. It can be a difficult task, because you see people bring up these emotions, sometimes anger, frustration, and anxiety. I try not to attach, but allow them to process through it themselves. At the end of the class, when you put all that hard work in, and you have people coming up to say that you're really affecting their life in a positive way, you can really touch the heart which is cool. I guess that's what it's all about for me, is serving. Stepping back from my own intellect and ego, and just allowing things to filter through me into the space.
When you wake up in the morning what is the first thing you do?
The first I do in the morning is I sit up and I try to play with my awareness as it enters the world, but also as it drops back into that sleep, dream state. I just try and notice how I awaken. I do a nauli, which is a Yoga cleansing technique of the bowels and the digestive system. I drink about a litre and a half of water, and then I sit in meditation for usually half an hour to 40 minutes and in between that breathing techniques, so pranayama. Then I'll get into my physical practice, once that's done the day kind of begins. That's generally what happens, doesn't matter if I start work early, I get up even earlier. Even though my mind is saying 'sleeep', or you know just veg out, I feel this greater purpose that just pushes me into doing it. If I become balanced, I can really help the people around me more and more, which I think is the purpose of life. To help one another walk back home as gracefully as possible.
Do you find theres any stigma surrounding being a male Yoga teacher?
Yes, a little bit, I guess people perceive you in a particular way. But I think just in general the Yoga as a whole, there's a lot of stigma around it. I think people think it's almost like a cult, where it's all smiles, rainbows and butterflies. But I feel like that is only one part of the practice, you know, I think people really forget that there is always a light and a dark side, and I think you have to get in touch with both in your practice. That's where the acceptance comes from, when you start to see all parts of you, you start to embrace and love all sides. You don't sweep anything under the rug, but you just allow your authentic self, and things start flowing a little easier in your life.
What advice would you give someone who feels limited by their flexibility in starting Yoga? Particularly male students?
I guess the first thing to realise is that it's not even about your flexibility, or the posture you're in. But just noticing what is, in the moment. As soon as you come to that realisation of 'here I am', and you can start from the now, that's when the journey of Yoga begins. Just noticing what's arriving in the very moment and being okay with that, and allowing that. I think when you start to do this, the flexibility starts to arrive in your body because you soften into the moment, instead of being so fixated and pushing, or forcing or working towards something, you just begin to accept what is.
What is your favourite Yoga pose?
I'd have to say it's 50/50, depending on how I feel. If I'm looking for something strong, just a simple chaturanga but holding it with a long breath. Like a 7 second inhale and 7 second exhale, that really builds fire within me. But then I like something soothing like a childs pose if i want to feel a little more nurtured and grounded, just melt back into the earth.
Chris's favourite Yoga mat to practise on is our Ultimate Black Yoga mat! It's longer, wider and thicker than any regular mat, providing the support and experience every Yogi needs in their practice. This is Chris and his gorgeous partner Mary, who has started a a sustainably sourced brand called Snakes and Shanti, click here to check out her incredible products!