Sunday, December 09, 2001

Golfer might add yoga to his bag




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        Yoga is huge now. It is more than an exercise in self-absorption practiced by movie stars who love themselves. It's not only about preening in front of the internal mirror, though that's part of it.

        Yoga is becoming an accepted way to cure sickness and heal injuries. Practitioners say it quiets your mind, and who doesn't need that?

        Everybody's doing it. Almost everybody.

        “Would you like to take part in a session?” asks Diane Utaski, my guide on the road to self-enlightenment. She runs the Cincinnati Yoga School in Blue Ash.

        “Well, um,” I say. (Or should I say, “Ommmm.”)

        Not really.

        You can't knock it until you've tried it, Diane says. Or something like that. Diane is tall, willowy and owns the kind of calm you see in people who say they've found God. Diane doesn't jangle through life like the rest of us. Must be the yoga.

        “Take your shoes off,” she says.

        “What's that smell?” I say.

        “Nag champa,” she says.

        Pardon me?

        “Incense.”

        “I like flavored candles,” I say.

        “Hmmm,” she says. “Carcinogens.”

        I am an incredibly sensitive man. I can tune into the Inner Me with the best of 'em. Plus, I want to know how these people fold themselves into human origami without hurting anything important.

        But. . .

        “How many men do this?” I ask.

        About 25 percent, Diane says. One in four.

        It's a chick thing.

        Actually, yoga was invented 5,000 years ago by guys. It has been practiced that long, by lots of men. According to a brochure Diane gives prospective students, more people do Hatha Yoga in California now than in the entire country of India.

        “Yeah,” I say, “but that's California.”

        She tells me I need to get over myself. The road to self enlightenment has no detours for dumb male egos.

        “But the positions,” I protest. There's one called Downward-Facing Dog. Come on. “Good luck getting men to do that,” I say to Diane. “Not now, hon. I'm doing my downward-facing dog.”

        Yoga is the difference between football and poetry. One encourages competition, effort and pain. The other requires you to chill. Yoga goes against a man's basic nature to eat meat and achieve. Plus there's the downward-facing dog thing.

        In a cover story last April, Time magazine allowed that yoga's “effects on the body and mind are so complex and pervasive that it would be nearly impossible to certify,” concepts that are way beyond the typically shallow nature of this column.

        “We focus on breathing,” Diane says. That's good. I'm all for breathing. “Slow down,” says Diane. “Breathe, lift your arms up in double slow motion, let them float down. Full, complete breaths, using the diaphragm. Fill your belly, your ribs, your chest. Fill the back of the body. Hold the breath in, then let it release with a sigh. Ahhh-nnn-hhh.”

        Before I can ask her if I should do three sets of eight reps, then move to the next pose, Diane says, “You're trying to quiet the mind. When you focus your mind on your body and draw your awareness inward, you start getting in touch with that little voice. The inner self. That is who you were meant to be before everyone told you who you were supposed to be.

        “In five minutes or less, you can close your eyes, focus on your breath and after that time, be in a whole different place,” she says, which could be just incredibly useful when covering a Bengals game.

        Then she starts talking about getting on all fours and arching my back like a cat. “Uhhh,” I say.

        The only way I might consider yoga is if it helped my golf game.

        “Some of our male students say it has helped their golf games,” Diane says.

        Where do I sign?

        Contact Paul Daugherty by phone: 768-8454; fax: 768-8330; e-mail: pdaugherty@enquirer.com.

       



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