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Yoga: Not For Softies

David Blake joins Beckham, Clinton, Clooney, Murray and Giggs with a 45 minute bargain blast at Yoga Express

Written by . Published on June 11th 2014.


Yoga: Not For Softies
 

YOGA is much like moisturiser for us men.

For years none of us would go near it - or at least never admit to it.

Like smoothies and calling your haircut a ‘style’, it was for softies. Not for regular jean-wearing, pork-pie eating Clives.

For me exercise had always been stomping about and sweating. Yoga just seemed like an elaborate pre-match stretching exercise. As usual, I was talking nonsense.

Still, there’s no denying results.

That's why I continue to swear by Palmer's Cocoa Butter (for MEN, by the way), and why I'm now a convert following Matt Ryan’s 45-minute yoga blast at Yoga Express in the Northern Quarter.

Matt Ryan: hates wet feetMatt Ryan: hates wet feet

Yoga has seeped its way into standard practice. What was once a fringe interest of a fistful of hippies now has millions of followers across the globe - more and more of which are hairy-arsed men (Ryan's classes aren't only for hairy-arsed men, most are lovely smooth-bottomed girls, but being a man, I'm writing this as one).

Entire rugby and football teams are at it, so is former US President Bill Clinton and George ‘Everybody Would Do Me’ Clooney. Wimbledon-winner Andy Murray swears by it, as does Ryan Giggs, who has evenyoga released his own yoga DVD.

The point is that yoga is not 'just for girls', spiritual bods or sensitve types. 

Lifting weights and getting stronger is all well and good, but if all you've got is boulder bulk and the flexibility of a broom handle, something is eventually going to give.

'But it'll make me soft' - poppycock.

You see, Matt Ryan, former DJ and founder of Manchester’s Yoga Express, is solid. Not steel-capped boot of a Georgian doorman solid, but could hang from the gymnastics rings for four weeks solid. He can also sit legs akimbo and touch his chest to the floor, which, if you’ve ever tried it, is fucking bonkers.

“Living life to its excess as a DJ took its toll and I started having panic attacks,” Ryan explains as we discuss why he came to yoga fifteen years ago. “A friend suggested yoga and within three months I’d hung up the headphones and was on my way to India to study with a guru.”

India? Gurus? Sounds a touch heavy on the enlightenment-chasing for me - one of the very reasons I've swerved yoga in the past.

Yoga ExpressYoga Express at Studio 25, Northern Quarter

Luckily, Ryan’s classes aren't of that ilk - we haven't got the time for that.

“The main barrier for new-starters is the length of classes, 60 to 90 minutes is too long to do anything you’ve never tried before,” Ryan tells me. “Plus my wife and I had a child, so I had to strip back my own practice to 45 minutes. It still has massive benefits.”

Ryan's Yoga Express classes have been created for cost and convenience. 45 minute yoga blasts for £6 in your lunch-hour (Tues and Fri 12.15pm to 1pm), straight after work (Mon, Weds and Thurs 6-6.45pm) or a weekend morning class (Sat 10-10.45am). It's all the core poses and principles without the guff: "I want to try and demystify yoga. There’s no chanting or incense," says Ryan, "just straight-up benefits."

Prior to the class, I wasn't been convinced by the 'benefits'.

For me exercise had always been stomping about and sweating like a 25st Texan toll booth attendant. Yoga just seemed like an elaborate pre-match stretching exercise punctuated by bouts of 'focused breathing' - Not enough to be classed as exercise, and anyway, I'd been breathing just fine for 27 years.

As usual, I was talking nonsense.

Yoga ExpressYoga Express

The class wasn't strenuous, but far from easy. At first the instructions seemed to stream out from Ryan, with the more seasoned yogis going into autopilot as I flapped along behind watching and trying to copy.

But you soon come to realise that the majority of the instructions are merely guiding you through the fundamental moves that link nearly all poses together. Once you've got these sussed, you focus less on the instructions and more on your own form.

Not knowing my arse from my Asana, I haven't the foggiest which poses we worked through (there were some dogs, warriors and salutations in there - I think), but there were no crumples, no collapses, just the odd one-legged wobble.

The truth is, if you've ever played a sport that requires pre and post-match stretching, you'll be atuned to a good chunk of what's going on here. The poses are simply more extreme versions in a much more peaceful environment.

OK, so advanced yoga takes things to a level, Ryan is capable of moves that would almost certainly snap my pelvis in seven places, but for this first session at least, I don't feel out of my depth. Even with ankle ligaments that historically carry the consistency of a Milky Way in the microwave. "You should never be in pain," Ryan stresses. "Find a version that works for you. We're not all the same."

He's spot on. We've all got varied sized torsos, necks, arms, legs, spines and noses. OK, the girl in front may be able to bend her leg over her shoulder and lick her tootsies, but I can barely reach mine. That's fine. It's still working for me. My muscles say so.

The key is to compete with no one but yourself, there's beginners and experts here, so go at your own pace.

I positively floated through football training the following day and out of bed the next without as much as a wince. That's never happened before.

If only he could sort out my first touch.

@David8Blake 

Studio 25, Church Street, Northern Quarter, M4 1PE. 

@yogaexpressmcr

Times:

Tues and Fri 12.15pm to 1pm

Mon, Weds and Thurs 6pm to 6.45pm

Sat 10am to 10.45am

Offers on classes here - 10 for £50

This article has been produced in association with Yoga Express.

EasyYoga Express

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