When it comes to yoga, there seem to be many misconceptions. Only women practice yoga. You have to be flexible to do yoga. It’s too hard.
James O’Connor, owner of James O’Connor Martial Arts and Fitness, hopes to dispel these misbeliefs. While he does agree that there are not enough men in the yoga classes offered at his martial arts and fitness center, yoga is an excellent exercise for men, especially male martial artists.
A black belt in Tae Kwon Do and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, O’Connor began practicing yoga to better prepare his body for Jiu Jitsu, which requires a lot of balance in all of your limbs.
“For me it was great for that,” he explains. “Then what I discovered after doing it for a short while, going online and looking up different poses, was the crazy strength it took to do some of it. It was really exciting.”
Which leads to the second misconception men often have: You need to be flexible to practice yoga. “There’s a stigma about yoga that you have to be super flexible or maybe even really strong if you look at the difficult positions,” O’Connor says.
Some think they cannot do yoga because they do not have the ability. “But it’s totally backwards thinking,” O’Connor adds, “You get that ability by doing it.”
Yoga can help build strength much like gymnastics does because the practice requires all body weight. “You don’t really have to go to the gym to get super strong,” he says. “Yoga seems like the perfect sport for everybody.”
The third common misconception among men: Yoga is too hard. While some people may be intimidated by the more difficult positions, yoga is only as hard as you make it and you can work up to the more challenging positions.
When he started doing yoga, O’Connor noticed that other men doing yoga were toned and strong, which really challenged him to step it up a notch. “Once I got a pose down, I maybe try to do it on one hand,” he says.
Not sure what to expect for your first class? For first-timers, O’Connor recommends having no expectations and not being hard on yourself when you can’t complete a pose. “I just laugh at myself if I tip over,” he admits.
While he says the atmosphere is fun and easygoing, the yoga class is challenging. “The way I teach it it’s a great workout, so you can expect to breathe heavy,” he explains. “You almost think you’re getting cardio at some points.”
Interested in trying a class? Fitness yoga classes are held at O’Connor’s facility on Saturdays at 8:30 a.m.
James O’Connor Martial Arts and Fitness
534 Broadway, Chesterton