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Men find benefits outweigh stereotypes in yoga

From left Pam Slager BataviJeff Heart AurorJoe Schatz St. Charles hold their Yogposes AurorYogCenter Monday morning class. Terence Guider-Shaw~For Sun-Times

From left Pam Slager of Batavia, Jeff Heart Aurora, and Joe Schatz of St. Charles, hold their Yoga poses at the Aurora Yoga Center, Monday morning class. Terence Guider-Shaw~For Sun-Times Media

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DID YOU KNOW?

Yoga comes with many specific benefits, according to the Yoga Alliance (www.yogaalliance.org). They include:

Stress relief

Pain relief

Better breathing

Flexibility

Increased strength

Weight management

Improved circulation

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Updated: October 11, 2011 12:25AM



Through the years, Duane Welte felt the aging process taking place throughout his body.

The 53-year-old Aurora resident no longer had the strength and balance to ride a horse. He was having throbbing pains from arthritis and plantar fasciitis. Things that felt normal in his younger years were now challenging or impossible.

Welte tried lifting weights to regain strength, but it was too one-dimensional.

But more than three years ago, he opted for yoga. It helped tremendously with his strength and balance. He no longer takes Ibuprofen for his aches and pains. As an added bonus, Welte is now able to stand on his head — something he could never previously do.

“Most men feel like they need a tough hard workout,” Welte said. “But they can go to yoga and they can be challenged.”

Local yoga instructors confirmed the stereotype — their classes are female dominated, many up to 80 percent female.

But men can reap the benefits of calmness, flexibility and strength, all things that yoga offers. According to Linda Karl, owner of Metta Yoga in Batavia, yoga has even seeped into military training.

“It’s not just a women’s thing,” she said.

‘World’s best kept secret’

Jeff Manning has been practicing yoga for 11 years, ever since his wife introduced him to it. He liked it so much he opened the Aurora Yoga Center and teaches classes there. He has about a 60 to 40 percent split of women to men, he said. His numbers may be slightly higher than other yoga teachers because of the comfort of taking a yoga class from a male, he said.

Yoga has been so empowering for women over the years, that it may scare some men away, he said.

“Once you start it, you realize that this is the world’s best kept secret,” he said.

It has helped him recover physically from a military career that involved jumping from airplanes. It has helped in other aspects of his life, too.

“It’s really helped me mentally,” he said. “It helps me slow down and breathe.”

Claudine Beeson, of Living Yoga in Aurora, estimated that her client base is about 20 percent male.

“I would love to see that number grow more,” she said. “Maybe they are embarrassed or shy.”

The increased flexibility that yoga offers is something men can really benefit from, she said. Overall men tend to be less flexible than women, and are tight in the hips, she said.

Her studio has toyed with the idea of men’s only classes, but haven’t done it, Beeson said. They did offer one class more heavily attended by males than females. That was yoga for golfers. But even the yoga for marathoners’ class drew more women than men.

Many of the men who practice yoga with her become involved through their girlfriends or wives, she said.

“Some of the women are no longer coming, but their husbands are,” she said. “They tend to stick with it.”

Greenleaf Yoga Studio owner Pam O’Brien points out that many of yoga’s famous teachers are men.

“It’s kind of ironic that that would be true,” she said, pointing to the fact that most yoga classes across the board are dominated by women.

Yoga tends to be more popular among men in Chicago, she said. That could be because of the quick pace of the city.

“I don’t think most of us take the time to slow down,” she said. “That’s one thing I think men really need.”

Karl is preparing to offer yoga for trauma victims. She expects that she will see an increase in male patrons, particularly military veterans.

“Yoga is a way to teach people how to deal with stress,” Karl said. “Everybody deals with stress.”

Welte has done so well with yoga that he has been teaching at the Aurora Yoga Center with Manning for the last eight months.

“It works for everyone,” Welte said.



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