We Tried It: Yoga for men

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

John Boehner isn't the only guy doing yoga. Jeff Long tries out a dude-focused version of the ancient Indian practice-sans yoga pants.

Man, I'm sweating.My face is about 6 inches from the floor, and I can see the drops falling on the polished hardwood, making little puddles.

I worried my first encounter with yoga would be an affront to my dignity. I should have worried about a heart attack. If this is yoga for men, I wonder, what's really in it for me?

The venerable men's magazineEsquireprovided my shred of inspiration: "One huge bonus of the practice you may not be aware of: it can improve your sex life...yoga is linked to longer erections and doubled testosterone." OK, sign me up.

If you're a man, the yoga community is ready for you. Yoga-for-men websites abound: There's Broga, ManFlow Yoga, you get the idea. I found my guy locally at Merrelli.com, home of Jimmy Merrelli and his Yoga Engineered for Men. Merrelli-"artist, athlete, comedian and billionaire maverick"-promises "uplifting stimulation, northstar navigation, muscular coordination and geometric imagination."

Plus, "zero tools, gadgets, mats or bullshit." Manly enough for you? He says his "fabric of yoga has been redesigned into a more masculine possibility." I take this to mean I can forgo the yoga pants (although I did see a nice pair of sheer men's yoga pants online-I know what I want for Christmas.)

I meet Merrelli at his beautiful little studio in a renovated building on Main Street Downtown: a shiny wood floor in a room empty except for a card table, a stereo and aromatic candles in niches along the redbrick wall. No mats, no gadgets, no women. Most of his clients want one-on-one sessions rather than a class, he says; one-hour-and-eight-minute sessions ("108" has mystical meaning for yogis he tells me) go for $10 a pop, and the first one's free.

So it's just me and Merrelli, a tight, lithe little guy with long, curly black hair under a knit cap. We start right in, no formalities, standing side by side in our bare feet facing the wall and we start to...breathe. This I can do. Then we stretch our arms, reaching for the wall. No sweat.

Thirty minutes later, sweat is all over the place. I've got my left hand on the floor, and my right hand is trying to grab the foot that I swear used to be at the end of my upraised right leg. I crash to my chest and observe my instructor-serene, graceful, perspiration-free-and I have a vision: the imp and the oaf.

Merrelli keeps up an amusing patter as we work out, describing the moves, telling jokes. He doesn't mess with yogaspeak, no cobra position or floating lotus or whatever: "I call this stretching your head over your knee." He's kind about my struggles. As I hop around in a circle (unintentionally), he says, "Hey, that's better than me."

The session ends with a few minutes of stillness (and breathing), and I've never been so grateful to lie on my back on a hard floor before. And I wonder, am I man enough for yoga?merrelli.com