Yoga and a Mans Life Passages

Men have different needs—physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually—at different phases in their lives. Many books have been written on the various stages and passages in a man's life by such well-known authors as Gail Sheehey (Understanding Men's Passages) and James Wilder (Life Passages for Men). The yoga tradition also recognizes that men have different needs at different periods in their lives, and has developed ways of helping men make the most of each phase of life, while preparing them to make the transition to the next step in their journey.

One of the most influential of all yoga teachers was the South Indian yoga master teacher, Krishnamacharya (1888-1989). It is thanks to his search early in the 20th century to find the authentic sources of hatha yoga that most yoga practitioners today owe their practice. In search for authentic hatha yoga training, he traveled to the sacred caves of Nepal to study with one of the few remaining hatha yoga adepts at the sacred temple of Sringeri Math. The tradition that formed the basis for his approach to yoga is traced back to the revered sage Nathamuni (circa 800 c.e.), and through him, to the earliest recorded authority on yoga, Patanjali (circa 200 to 500 c.e.).

Krishnamacharya is responsible for expanding these sacred, traditional practices beyond their limited exercise by a few priestly (male only at the time) initiates and making them available to laypeople—men and women alike. He directly taught these practices to many of the most influential and well-known teachers of yoga in India—teachers who eventually developed their own schools of yoga and exported hatha yoga practices to the United States. Notable among these teachers are B.K.S. Iyengar, perhaps the most well-known teacher of yoga in the West (see Chapter 4); Pattabhi Jois (see Chapter 6); as well as his own son, T.K.V. Desikachar, who has trained many influential yoga practitioners and teachers. Another great teacher of yoga whose work has been widely disseminated in the West, Swami Sivananda (see Chapter 5), also traces his lineage to the same sacred temple of Sringeri Math.2 The yoga tradition from which these practices that form the substratum of most yoga that is practiced in the United States today acknowledged from the very beginning that yoga should be adapted to suit the needs of the individual who was practicing it. And that meant different emphases for people of different ages.

The yoga innovator who has done the most to promote an awareness of the need to tailor a yoga practice to an individual's needs, especially taking into account the phase of life in which they are, is American yoga teacher and innovator Gary Kraftsow. A student of Desikachar, Kraftsow founded the American Viniyoga Institute (AVI), through which he educates the public about the principles of his Viniyoga (see "Viniyoga," page 107).

As Kraftsow notes, for children and teens, yoga can support balanced growth and development. For men entering and proceeding through adulthood, yoga can help promote vibrant health and support productivity and creativity. For more mature men, yoga can help promote health and well-being while fostering the quest for deeper spiritual meaning, which often accompanies this stage in a man's life. The many ways in which yoga can support you in various phases of your life journey are included in the following sections.3

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