Yoga
for Men

Four Steps Toward Individual and Organizational Wellness


Step One: Discovering the Inner Comic

How is everyone tonight?

Have you ever thought about how we Americans must look to foreigners when we travel abroad?

Lumbering lards of tour bus flesh in sneakers and tees on the Champs Elysees in Paris asking for the $6.99 buffet special.

I said buffet all you can eat. (loudly in a southern accent)

I’m speaking in French…I said buffet.

What do you mean that dinner is not served until 7?

It got so bad that the European Community threatened to withhold support against the war on terrorism unless we did something to stop halt the massive flow of vacationing retirees that were decimating their culture.

So Alan Greenspan invited Ira the Investment Banker, Larry the Lawyer and Bruce the Accountant to devise a plan to take money away from the retirees and redistribute it to the more intelligent management classes who wouldn’t embarrass us if they traveled overseas. So we thought up the Long Term Capital, and then when that didn’t work we devised the Internet Boom and Bust and then the Enron crises.

And yet with all these accomplishments I still felt empty. Can you believe that? So I left accounting and became a Yoga Guru and a comedian wanabe.

I remember a vacation I took to Nice in the South of France. My wife and I had been strolling through the old section of the city with our French friends admiring the local food merchants, and their loyal customers who would make special trips to the market daily to find the freshest products. As we were walking by a counter, my wife let out a scream and everyone in the marketplace was suddenly looking at the Americans. The site of a decapitated pigs head on ice, wearing a Yankees cap and bleeding through the nostrils was a bit disturbing. “You Americans are so funny, you can go to the movies and watch thirty people being gunned down but you can’t bear to see where your food comes from… you want it neatly wrapped and packaged as a hamburger”, our French host blurted. I quickly replied that her observation couldn’t apply to us because we are primarily vegetarians, and we all had a good laugh.

So if you want to travel to France and fit in don’t utter a word, stay away from tour buses, wear uncomfortable shoes and don’t scream in the food market.

We can’t live life without experiencing some form of pain. It is part of the human experience. Pain gives our life’s journey meaning and can lead us back on the path of growth and the pursuit of our life’s purpose. Humor can help us to honor the pain and acknowledge it.

Unfortunately most of us repress pain and anesthetize ourselves with addictions such as alcohol, drugs, food, nicotine, sex, money, things, work, relationships, etc. In my own life I went through a series of addictions. You name the addiction…I had it. In fact, I was even addicted to my therapist.

Many psychiatrists, psychologists and pharmaceutical companies think we should all be taking daily doses of Prozac however this is just another addiction resulting in power being taken from you. What we really need is to get in touch with our true feelings, which is what the addiction is preventing us from in the first place. Yoga practice allows us to evaluate our emotions and feelings from a balanced, objective place. Overcoming our addictions is one of the spiritual lessons we have come to this life to experience. Will we have the courage to admit that we have these addictions and will we have the courage to take the action necessary?

Many of us never get the courage to face our addictions and we continue to blame others for our failings. This pattern of behavior was taught to us in early childhood. We learned by fear that if we placed the blame on others we could escape punishment.

I recall a time when I was five years old. I had colored the solar system on the living-room wall in crayon. When my mother asked me who did it, I told her that it was my one-year-old sister. When my mother began to praise my sister’s genius, I quickly admitted that it was my creation. I was given a bucket and a sponge and I remember scrubbing all day long.

Many parents are quick to react to such behavior with a physical and verbal assault. This conditions the child to avoid accepting responsibility. The results are that we have organizations full of individual who have been socialized to lie and blame others for their shortcomings. Our legal, healthcare, and educational systems have further contributed to removing the burden of personal responsibility to the detriment of the individual and society as a whole.

I have found that many people facing life-challenging illnesses are willing to accept responsibility for their actions and dispense with the denial process because it is obviously no longer serving their best interests. In working as a Yoga therapist with cancer patients I have found it very important to begin to unlock the energy blockages in the body because all of our experiences become manifested in our physiology. Therefore I consider the use of humor to be the first step in healing and healthy living. So as a first exercise, construct your own comedy act. You may want to take a few painful experiences from your personal financial life and exaggerate them. Humor is often about creating absurdity out of the stuff of everyday life. Sometimes our lives are absurd. In these cases you will not have to be as creative. I have provided about half a page for this exercise. Please fill in your name. I suggest you may want to share your act with a friend or co-worker. Sharing can be especially healing because it allows us to better understand each other’s challenges and past journey. However, do not feel obligated to share. We also will be running a contest for the best Inner comic. Please submit your submissions to www.yogaforbusiness.com

Exercise 1:

_______________’s Comedy Act:

You know if my dietary habits were made into a movie it would be called (i.e. Big Momma’s House) _______________________(visit the www.fandango.com site under Hot Movies and choose from a genre. Your life may fall into one of these categories; Action, Comedy, Drama, Suspense, Romance, Family, Sci-fi or Art House. Once you have chosen your category you can search the letters for the movies in your category to find the one that best fits your life.)

(Now you can complain) Not only do I have a (Bruce’s hypothetical story: a Momma that loves to cook with lard) _____________________ but a (Bruce’s story: a boss who loves to eat at the $6.99 buffet) _____________________ and an (Bruce’s story: addiction to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups) ___________________________________ and a (Bruce’s story: preference for midnight snacks) _________________________________

(Now write your story. Exaggerate and be absurd with your own faults as well as your family members.) (Bruce’s story: I was a mild mannered CPA working at Anderson and Co and I had a mid-life crises. My wife wouldn’t let me buy a sports car or have an affair, so I had an affair with an Entenmann’s Blackout Cake and then a fling with a Dairy Queen Float)

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

(Now see if you can touch upon the more painful experiences with humor) (Bruce’s story: Now when I travel they want to make me pay for two fares) ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

(End by telling us what the sequel to your movie will be called) (Bruce’s story: The sequel to my movie will be 28 days where I will do a juice fast and daily colonics at some she-she Spa in Arizona) ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Step Two: Discovering the Inner Artist

Our talented Illustrator has brought to life the three characters I have created; Annie Thracks, Manny Problemas and Oscar Fodder based upon certain Archetype characteristics from Ayurveda, the ancient Indian Science of Life. The characters are engaged in a program that is being implemented by the Human Resource department. I use these characters in a lighthearted way, to honor the difficulties you may have encountered in your relationship with food. They are intended to be fun, not heavy and painful. The characters allow us to explore some of our similar traits and behaviors, and possibly uncover some of the limitations we impose on ourselves.

Expressing ourselves through art has also been part of the human experience for tens of thousands of years. Below we present a Case Study, using characters from the End Run Company. On the right sidebar I would like you to honor your own experience related to food, and your own relationships with fellow workers with an illustration. In addition you may want to identify some of the other characters as family members or other acquaintances. Please try not to be judgmental of your artistic ability, just focus on re-creating the painful experience. Adding absurdity can create some space between you and the experience.

Please add commentary where applicable. Feel free to add to your comic strip as you proceed through this book. We will have contest and pick the best submission and post the ten best on our website at www.yogaforbusiness.com. Please visit our website for details. So lets begin.

Case Study:

Rena Uwel meets with Sam E. Old, the new CEO of the End Run Company, at O’Riley’s Steak House to discuss the most recent financial crises. Having already laid off 40% of the workforce and reduced pay across the board by 20% the only thing left to cut is benefits.

Rena we have to cut health benefits. The employees are just going to have to take the responsibility for their own health. Sam smiled as he cut into his prime rib steak. “I’ve heard about this program that has been successful at reducing labor costs by promoting healthy lifestyle choices”. Rena giggled as she sipped her third martini

The next day Sammy Soysa, a consultant for Yoga for Business, creates a program to educate employees on healthy eating and develop sensitivity to dietary diversity.

“Okay class today we will discuss the various dietary preferences amongst your co-workers”, says Sammy. “And here’s Vito De Ficiencia from Corporate Communications. Vito is a raw food advocate”.

“Remember always thank the plants for giving its life for your sustenance and take in the living energy in its raw state”, Vito speaks in a weakened voice as he collapses and is helped to his feet by a nurses aide.

Vito gives Oscar a glass of wheat grass juice. Oscar turns green and runs to the bathroom.

And now let’s say hello to Dana Hunter from Collections, She’s an animal rights activist and our token Vegan. “Hey you with leather belt”, she yells like a Brooklyn Bruiser. She points at Annie who is trying to remain anonymous. Yeah I’m talking to you. Get rid of the belt.

Annie sheepishly removes her belt.

You know there is one thing worse than killing an animal for food…Killing for self image. Annie sinks lower in her chair.

The only way to stop the killing is to blow up the fur factories….Only kidding

“I will not eat any food containing an animal product including honey”, she says smiling at Annie. Annie sinks to the floor.

“Now lets welcome Jean Sheppard a Vegetarian from the shipping department”.

“Yes I refrain from eating meat, I do eat dairy”. I will not eat anything that has a central nervous system and must be destroyed. I must admit my diet could still be better. I tend to load up on carbohydrates like pasta, rice and I love pizza.

“Our next employees are Mary Yin and Steve Yang. They have been married for seventeen years they will now explain their Macrobiotic Diet and the secret of their successful marriage”.

“The reason we get along so well is we are exact opposites”.

“A Macrobiotic Diet combines both yin and yang to promote balance. Our modified macrobiotic diet consists of the following components”:

45% Grains

30% Fresh Vegetables and Fruits

15% Soybeans & Sea Vegetables

10% Fish and Seafood

  • Grains: especially barley, millet oats, rye, wheat , buckwheat
  • Vegetables and Fruits: especially broccoli, bok choy, collards, kale
  • Soybeans & Sea Vegetables: especially tofu, wakame, hiziki, arame
  • Fish: Salmon and other fatty fish high in Omega 3 Fatty Acids, seafood such as shrimp scallops that are well cooked. We caution against eating raw fish.

“And now lets welcome our Author Bruce Van Horn”.

Ayurveda is a sister discipline to Yoga. Yoga is the science of the union of body mind and spirit. Ayurveda is the science of life. Ayurveda helps us to understand our relationship to food.

Ayurveda has created three archetypes in which one will be dominant. So for each individual, there may be different weightings of the following food categories.

Annie: Vata

Oscar: Pitta

Manny: Kapha

The focus of Ayurveda is to eat a balanced diet that contains all of the tastes we are sensitive to:

  • Sweet: meats, pasta, bread, fruits
  • Sour: lemon, vinegar
  • Salt: sea salt
  • Bitter: green leafy vegetables, herbs
  • Astringent: soy and tofu
  • Pungent: garlic, spices

One meal per day should have all of these elements. Ethnic foods such as Japanese, Chinese, and Mediterranean cuisine follow these principles.

  • Annie, a Vata archetype, would want to eat foods that decrease Vata such as sweet, sour, salty, heavy, oily and hot.
  • Oscar, a Pitta archetype, would want to eat foods that decrease Pitta such as sweet, bitter, astringent, cold, heavy and dry.
  • Manny, a Kapha archetype, would want to eat foods that decrease Kapha such as pungent, bitter, astringent, light, dry and hot.

Now lets see what you are currently eating and the problems you might have.

  • I like convenience; the frozen dinners are just fine for me. I don’t usually have a big appetite and when I get home I’m tired and I don’t want to cook. I usually eat very fast. I get heartburn frequently and pop a lot of antacids.
  • As an African American I was raised on really fatty foods and I love deep fried chicken. My doctor tells me I have high cholesterol, which could lead to a heart condition. I’ve tried that low fat food but it tastes like cardboard. I usually eat by myself so I turn the news on. In the office I eat at my desk but am always interrupted by the phone or one of my subordinates. I am taking medication for an ulcer.
  • I know I have to lose weight but I just love Haagen Daz ice cream and porterhouse steaks. I love to eat out at fine restaurants. Eating is the biggest joy in my life. I eat fairly slowly and a meal can take a few hours.
  • I know I eat too much red meat. I have to eat more vegetables but they don’t have the same satisfying taste. I find it very difficult being a vegetarian. I prefer being a humanitarian.

Let’s take a look at the dietary history of mankind:

Our earliest ancestors relied on a varied diet of meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts and beans.

Along came farming and the rise of civilization and our diet shifted toward grains.

The trade-off to having a constant supply of food was that a diet heavily concentrated on carbohydrates can lead to chronic illnesses.

The industrial revolution and mass production techniques pushed our society toward efficiency at the expense of freshness. Our food products became processed, preserved and deficient in nutrients t such an extent that we had to had nutrients back into the food after processing. But as the studies with supplements have shown the only truly effective way to get important nutrients is from the food, in most cases in cooked form. Furthermore we have added sugar to most of our processed food to make it more palatable.

As the final exercise please draw a picture about some of your painful experiences with food. It could be overeating, upset stomach, incorrect food combinations, eating too quickly, eating when you are upset, etc. Feel free to add commentary.

Step Three: Discovering Your Inner Musician

There is an underlying vibration throughout the Universe that dates back to the original “Big Bang” some 8-12 billion years ago. There is also a vibration that runs through our physiology that is related to our heartbeat and breathing. Even our thoughts have a sound associated with them. Therefore everything has its own theme music no matter how silent it appears.

When our thoughts are out of kilter they throw off our normally relaxed patterns of breathing, and heartbeat.

Our talented Musician, Michael DiGirolamo, has created a musical combination for the meditations in the accompanying CD that will help you move from patterns of thought that tend to disrupt the system, to patterns of thought that lead to relaxation, focus and healing.

As an exercise in breathing and in vibration awareness I suggest you purchase a basic c chord harmonica. The harmonica is a great instrument because we can make sounds both on the inhalation and exhalation. What I suggest is that you work toward a 4 second inhalation and an eight second exhalation. This is a very healing interval. By getting six breaths per minute you are entraining your entire physiology to slow down and assume a healthier beat and rhythm.

To make the exercise even more interesting you can vary your position on the harmonica using higher notes and lower notes. You can even shake the harmonica in your mouth to create interesting sounds.

I recommend practicing the music exercise at least five minutes a day until you feel comfortable with breathing intervals. Or feel free to continue to use the harmonica. It is a wonderful instrument, which I have found to be very healing. I have found that using the harmonica to play the blues is especially rewarding. I recommend tapes videotapes by David Harp, which can be purchased on the Web.

Step Four: Loving Your Self

While it is true that as human beings we all need to experience some pain on our journey, there comes a point in time when we no longer need to inflict suffering upon ourselves. Self-love involves understanding that you are complete and whole and not lacking in any regard. You are a microcosm of the universe. That is inside of each of us is a hologram of creation. We all have great power, but we have been afraid to uncover it. The uncovering takes great courage because what I am asking you to do is to step into the silence. This involves tuning out the problems of the world we ultimately wish to solve. Only by creating the distance can you be effective.

There are many forces that don’t want you to uncover your inner power because it will mean they will lose power over you. Some of the greatest offenders are family members, organized religion, the healthcare industry, business organizations, the media and the government. Unlocking your personal power is one of great gifts of Yoga practice.

Yoga practice requires discipline, and yes, time. It is so much easier to embark on this path when we have the time and our health, yet we often do not and wait for a crises or breakdown before we take action. The key to developing the discipline to practice is self-love. You have to love yourself enough to give yourself this time.

In music the silence gives the notes meaning. In your life the silence can do the same. To be effective you must make a commitment now to yourself and your well being to immerse yourself fully in this program and allocate the time required, which is about an hour each day. I suggest you commit to follow the program for a month. I am confident that once you have experienced the benefits you will make it a life long pursuit. So lets begin.

© 2007, Bruce Eric Van Horn

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If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health. - Hippocrates

Author, CPA, MBA and yoga instructor Bruce Van Horn founded Yoga for Business, Inc., a company devoted to organizational and individual wellness. He presents a daily Yoga Workout routine that provides a complete physical, mental and spiritual workout. He is the author of Yoga for Prostate Health and Yoga for Men, designed for all levels of experience with yoga.. He has renamed (Asanas) positions in Yoga using terms from business to help you identify with the movement and focus your attention. He is the Chair of the Advisory Board for the Center for Complimentary Medicine at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey. Bruce also leads a volunteer yoga program designed for cancer patients and healthcare workers at Beth Israel Medical Center. He lives outside New York with his wife Michelle who is a Reiki Master. Bruce has two daughters who have asked that he refrain from headstands at the town pool. His website is www.yogaforbusiness.com If you have any questions, feel free to write: E-Mail.



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