We've looked at a few common myths about yoga in this series. You can find out why you don't need to be super flexible to get started (Part 1), learn from Susan Hartley why yoga is not just for the young (Part 2), and explore why your size and shape don't determine whether you can, or should, do yoga (Part 3).
One of the other common misconceptions about yoga is that it is "for women". Now, to be fair, back in 2012 Yoga Journal released a study that showed about an 80 / 20 split, meaning of the over 20 million people practicing yoga in the US at that time, about 80% of them were women.
That was seven years ago. Times are a'changing.
I'm really excited today to introduce you to my friend and fellow yoga teacher, Bobby Waidler. He was incredibly gracious to give me some time out of his crazy schedule to get a guys perspective on yoga, share how he got started, why he pursued yoga teacher training, and how he has brought yoga to the policy academy here in Denver. Yup, you read that right, the police academy.
T: So tell us a bit about you. How long have you been with the Denver Police Department?
B: Sure, so I was with New York PD for about 4 years. I came out here to visit a cousin and loved it so I kept coming out. I was able to transfer out here in 2000 and I've been with DPD for 19 years. I'm a Sargeant now and also the Resiliency and Wellness Coordinator. The Wellness piece we've had for about 15-20 years, but the Resiliency piece is new and I've combined them.
The Resiliency piece is for officers who are in real crisis. If they ask for help, we wrap our arms around them and get them into programs to support their needs. If they self-report and ask for help we support them as much as we can. The Wellness piece relates to their total body wellness, physical, mental, emotional, through an incentive program to help them become more proactive about taking care of their health. I'm also the Coordinator for our Peer Support Program, our Chaplin's Program, and our Physical Therapy Program.
T: Oh my gosh! You wear a lot of hats! No wonder you're so busy and don't take vacation! (Bobby shared he had recently taken two weeks vacation, but worked most of it)
B: Yes, that's one of the reasons. It's probably 60-70 hours a week right now.
T: You've done the New York City Marathon a couple times and are training now for the Copper Triangle Alpine Road Ride. You put in a lot of miles on the road and and on the bike. I'm curious where yoga came in. Do you remember your first yoga class?
T: Have you experienced any specific physical benefits or changes from yoga that you didn't expect?
T: Have there been any other ways you've noticed yoga has created change for or positively affected you or your students?
B: Actually yeah, I have a great story to share. I teach a class at the Police Academy for recruits and it's a voluntary class, so recruits come when they can. Usually there's between 4-18 people that come each time depending on their schedule. If they're stressed out because there's a major test coming up there might be fewer people.
T: But that's exactly when they need it the most!
B: Right! So, the first major test they had was about a month ago and a higher percentage than normal failed. That's not typical, so you know, they reinforced the amount of studying and good study habits to help them be more successful. So, the next major test was coming up on a Friday and they pulled me aside and asked, "Can we do yoga on Friday? We need it because we're so stressed out!". So, I taught that class and I also brought in my therapy dog. I let him loose in the room for 15 minutes. He comes back out, they take their test, not one person failed. It just goes to show the value of resetting the nervous system and relaxing.
I attribute that to the yoga. I constantly reinforce the power of breath work, how simple it is and how you can do it and use it anywhere. If you're taking a test and don't know the answer, you feel that hear rate accelerate, you start to sweat, your blood pressure rises, put the pen down and take a few breaths. Maybe close your eyes, do a visualization, and when you're ready pick up the pen and move forward. A few of them came to me afterward and said, literally, it was yoga that helped me pass that test because every time I needed to reset I just thought of that.
T: That's fantastic! I feel like it goes to show again and again the power of mindfulness and taking the time to really get to know and understand your body and yourself. I could get on a soap box about all that.
B: Yeah, and it's a great if you can weave that into your yoga class, which we do, and teach them how to take it off the mat. It's not just a skill to use here, but take it off the mat when you're driving to work and you're frustrated or you're angry, if you're having a problem at home, you're stressed or you're anxious. Especially in our line of work, when they get out on the street, on their own, that's when they're really going to have stress and they have life-ending possibilities. So, if you have the opportunity, slow it down, breathe, think, and then you can respond skillfully rather than reacting emotionally.
T: Couldn't agree more. Now let's get into this big yoga myth that yoga is for only women. In 2012 Yoga Journal did a study that showed of the 20 million+ people in the US practicing yoga, about 80% were women and 20% were men. That was seven years ago and I'd be curious to see how that number has changed. You mentioned you started yoga only four years ago. Why do you think the numbers have been so unequal or maybe a better question, what do you think has kept more men from pursuing yoga?
T: Do you feel you teach differently when you have a group of all men?
T: I love what you said about having both strength and stretch, effort and ease, stress and recovery. It's a fine balance for all of us, isn't it? There are so many styles of yoga available now that if someone is looking for a high-intensity, sweat-breaking class they can definitely find it in a yoga studio. And perhaps another day that week they'd try a yoga class that brought in the stretch, ease, and recovery.
What words of advice or suggestions do you have for guys who are kind of on the fence, or maybe still not on even on the fence, about trying out a yoga class? And how about for us wives or girlfriends who would love our husbands or partners to come to a class with us?
Thank you so much Bobby Waidler for sharing your story and your thoughts with us! If you want to catch a class with Bobby, you can find him at Mind Body Life Transformation Center here in Colorado on Tuesday evenings from 6:30-7:30 pm. He is also working on classes specifically for First Responders and for Officers who are on patrol and in their vehicles for long stretches of time. To connect with Bobby directly, firstname.lastname@example.org
1. What do you think? If you're a guy who hasn't tried yoga yet, what has held you back? What part of Bobby's story can you relate to? Leave a comment to share your experience
2. Catch up on the first three posts in this series What Does a Yoga Body Look Like? , It's Never Too Late To Start Practicing Yoga , and Every Body Can Do Yoga if you haven't already.
3. Stay connected through my email list for future blog posts, updates, and healthy living inspiration. I share weekly-ish info, tips, and notes with my VIP email community. You can subscribe to my newsletter at the top of this page.
In love & light,
I'm Tonia, a Midwesterner transplanted to Colorado. I'm a mom of two lovely littles, a yoga instructor, DIY-er, teacher, stay at home mom, and a doTERRA Wellness Advocate. I blog about a little bit of all of these and everything in between!
Are you looking for natural health options, but don't know where to start? Book a 1-on-1 appointment with me! We'll spend about 30 minutes getting to know your health goals and concerns, learn a bit about doTERRA, and go over the most commonly used oils that meet your needs. You don't have to buy anything, but if you see something you like, of course I can help you!