Sunday, April 7, 2013

Rutgers Coach Mike Rice is Why Men Need Yoga

I’m sure everybody has seen the video of former Rutgers Coach Mike Rice utilizing his various techniques to motivate his players. 

I don’t really know if you can call it motivation.  I don’t consider using fear, physical intimidation and homophobic slurs as motivation.  Mike Rice wasn’t motivating; he was just out-of-control.  I think we see way too much of this in the hyper-competitive world of men’s sports and I’m not surprised at the line up of people defending Mike Rice.  We live in a society that places an extremely high value on male competiveness which easily morphs into a win-at-all costs mentality.  This win-at-all-costs mentality becomes to overtake us, clouds our judgment and before we know what has happened we have lost our balance. 

My favorite defense of Mike Rice is that they say he is “passionate” about winning.  If you truly think about the word “passion” you realize that Mike Rice is not passionate.  Passion is not mindlessly flailing about screaming obscenities and physically assaulting people.  Coach Rice is just simply living a life out of balance.  Physical competitiveness without discipline of the mind and the spirit will only take you so far and what I saw on that video was a man who has no discipline over himself. 

This example more than any thing demonstrates why men need yoga.  One of my favorite yoga sutras that I take from my yoga practice and continually apply to other areas of my life is the concept of “effortless effort”.  Effortless effort is the exact opposite of struggling or forcing the effort.  My yoga practice has taught me that you can not struggle to overcome your difficulties for entering into a pose and you certainly cannot struggle to overcome your difficulty in maintaining the pose.  In trying to master an inversion or sit for extended periods of time in lotus, screaming a homophobic slur and throwing a block is not going to get the job done. 

Yoga teaches that when we reach the point of struggle we recognize it and back off.  We learn to recognize it by focusing on the breath.  We start breathing heavily through the mouth instead of steadily breathing through the nose.  Once we have identified this, we can then say with the pose, “Not today, but maybe tomorrow.”  The physical body has reached a limit, the mind recognizes the limit and the spirit accepts the limit.  When these three things come together a man has mastered himself and therefore can accomplish great things. 

This is unfortunately where I think men loose their interest in yoga.  So much of male mystique is built around the macho idea that men power their way through challenges.  If you can’t drive the nail you get a bigger hammer.  What Coach Rice shows us is that men need to learn a better way.  We need to learn to control and calm our mind, body and spirit by accepting what our limits are.  Now this doesn’t mean that you are giving up on accomplishing a goal.  Instead you are recognizing that a limit exists.  When you recognize and accept your limit your spirit is calm and you mind is free to develop a strategy for either one day overcoming the limit or choosing another path to lead to your success. 

If you think I don’t make a compelling argument, consider the career of Phil Jackson.  Phil Jackson represents the opposite of Mike Rice.  During his career as a coach, Phil Jackson had earned the nickname, “Zen Master” for his following of eastern philosophy.  Phil Jackson had said that one of his biggest influences on his life and coaching was the book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”.  Now I know that Coach Jackson was surrounded by talent but when things went wrong did you ever see Phil Jackson screaming obscenities and throwing objects.  Of course you didn’t, and Phil Jackson won 11 NBA titles as a head coach. 

Which man would you rather emulate, Coach Mike Rice or Coach Phil Jackson?  If you want to be a great man, get on your yoga mat and learn to master yourself before you attempt to master the competition. 

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