Jock and roll: a T.O. yoga teacher unites sprituality, physicality and masculinity with Jock Yoga
By Anna Sajecki
Michael DeCorte jocks out (Image: Michael DeCorte)
Lets face it, jocks corner the market on everything from football to foosball, but yoga is often the kryptonite of physical activity for these mighty but inflexible Adonises. Toronto yoga teacher and self-described jock Michael DeCorte feels differently, though. We caught up with him to find out just what the deal is with Jock Yoga: his athlete-friendly incarnation of the ancient practice that’s being taught at yoga studios across the city.
How did you originally come up with the idea of Jock Yoga? How would you describe it?
I came up with the idea of Jock Yoga when I first pitched a gym (with a large male clientele) to be a teacher there. The idea was to attract more people (including more men) who would normally not be interested in yoga to give it a try. It has evolved since then and I would say it is more of a contemporary, athletic-spirituality, with an emphasis on perseverence and belief in oneself. I believe that Jock Yoga is helping to inspire the inner athlete in practitioners.
Do you think jocks have traditionally shied away from yoga?
Yes, for primarily the fear of inflexibility, but also I believe because of contempt prior to investigation — they think it's too girly or new-agey and weird.
Is there a particular pose that you find most people in your classes have trouble with?
I would say that the most frustrating pose for athletes would be splits — I try to introduce it by letting them know that I totally suck at doing it too, so that they feel no shame. It helps that I use props to really stretch the hip-flexors and hamstrings. I can almost guarantee that those who try it with me will feel amazingly increased mobility and comfort in the hip-flexors as early as the next day.
Do athletes tend to get more frustrated when they can't do a move?
I would say that, yes, athletes (newer to the practice) do tend to get a little more frustrated than non-athletes when they can't do a pose. I believe this is because, as an athlete myself, I know I am extremely ambitious and I want to be able to do everything immediately!
Would you say there's more competition among students of Jock Yoga then say, Hatha Yoga?
I would say that yes, there is a little more competition among practitioners of Jock Yoga than of other branches of the practice, for the same reasons listed above. I also believe, though, that this is where the dialogue begins with oneself to begin to accept one's limitations, and therefore, begin to overcome one's ego bit by bit. Personally, I have watched others in yoga classes pretty much fly through their practice, and being slightly jealous of their abilities, I attempted to do an ego-driven jump-back one day, resulting in a loud CRACK! and pretty much a broken toe. And there began my journey of self-acceptance! Disclaimer: This doesn't have to happen to you if you come to my class!!
What is your favourite Jock Yoga pose and why?
My favourite Jock Yoga pose, which is not my own made up posture but one I like to throw in the works, is Parsva-Bakasana (side-crane pose — balancing on your upper-arms with your legs out to the side). It is very challenging, it works almost all of the muscles, it requires focus, strength, balance, stability, breath and it looks REALLY cool when you come into the full expression of the posture! I also believe that there is nothing wrong with a little pride in a sense of accomplishment when moving forward and achieving deeper/more advanced levels of practice.
What has yoga meant to you?
Yoga to me has meant a combination of physicality and spirituality. Some describe it as the union between mind and body. I agree, and also, as I continue to open up my body and uncover my inner strength, I find myself connecting more to the essence of who I really am. In short, I would say that yoga for me has been a physical and spiritual journey of becoming more fit and self-aware. Yoga is not just poses, and it's not just meditation; I believe it is a balanced way of living life. I also believe that the challenge of a regular yoga practice can help us in overcoming challenges in life, and persevering.
Jock Yoga is taught at Buddha Body Yoga, 473a Church Street; 889 Yonge, 889 Yonge Street and other locations