It's no secret that females are generally more limber than males.
While the thought of stretching the body in any number of directions might scare most men, instructor Paul Shapiro says that once you get used to yoga, it brings positive change.
"Yoga is a lifestyle," said Shapiro, who holds classes at Yoga on York in Baltimore. "It helps with breathing, balance, your core and every aspect you can think of."
Shapiro started teaching a class called "Stiff Guy Yoga" in 2010, but the avid runner, biker and swimmer says he has been doing yoga for over 20 years.
"It's relaxing and it translates to other areas of your life," he said. "For example, the balance may help when you're doing laundry or other chores around the house."
"Stiff Guy Yoga" may sound humorous, but these guys take their workout seriously. And they should. Because when done properly, yoga helps alleviate tightness, tones the body and relieves stress.
Who's in the group: About 11 men ages 30 to 60 attend each session.
A typical class: Every Thursday at 7:30 p.m., men bring their mats, their energy and their stiff joints to Yoga on York.
Music set to a low volume sets the mood for a relaxing yet rewarding workout. Norah Jones' "Don't Know Why," Train's "Drops of Jupiter" and Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror" serve as backdrops to a peaceful atmosphere.
Shapiro starts his group with stretches before moving on to yoga formations such as downward dog and child's pose, where members drop their chest below knee level and put their heads to their mats.
Moving on to mountain pose, group members work on improving their posture while strengthening their thighs, knees and ankles. Another formation, Warrior II, focuses on building concentration and stamina and stretching the hips, groin and shoulders. Also incorporated into the workout are balancing poses like the tree pose, which requires shifting weight to the left leg while the right leg is bent.
To close out the workout, the no longer stiff guys go into corpse pose by lying down and putting their arms and legs to the side to — as Shapiro says — "melt into the mat and relax."
Why people like it: Christopher Eisenberg started doing yoga five years ago and has seen a drastic change in his lifestyle since.
"I suffered from hip and back pain for years," he said. "Yoga has made such a difference. It really helps with aches and pains."
Kelley Macmillan joined the class in March because he wanted to do exercises that would work his hamstrings. He says the results were almost instant.
"I was complaining about not being able to reach my toes before I joined," he said. "Yoga works on a lot of stuff, not just hamstrings. It's helped my balance and flexibility."
While there are many physical benefits to yoga, Shapiro says the emotional and mental benefits are just as important. He says the ultimate goal of Yoga on York is to to raise awareness about yoga as a tradition that enriches life, body, mind and spirit through personal growth and development.
How to join: Visit yogaonyork.net to sign up. The cost is $5 per class. Yoga on York, located at 6711 York Road, has additional seasonal and year-round courses such as aerial yoga and yoga for kids. Prices vary.
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