The fact that Simon Park started with yoga in 1995 was the result of an accident. After a motorcycle crash and subsequent rehab, he enrolled in a yoga class at his university, UCLA. The US-American fell in love with yoga, trained as a yoga teacher and became2007 awarded by the Yoga Journal as "one of the most influential and talented yoga teachers of the next generation".
Park's style, Liquid Flow Yoga, is strongly influenced by his teachers Shiva Rea, Richard Freeman, Maty Ezraty, Joan White and Dharma Mitra and combines traditional and modern yoga. By nowPark teaches at the Kale & Cake Studio in Munich.
ISPO.com talked with Park about yoga as a perfect complement to sports and discussed the question why many men still find it hard to get into yoga.
ISPO.com: What did you learn from yoga?
Simon Park: Many things over time. For one thing, compassion and a connection to other people. But yoga can definitely teach patience with oneself and with lengthy processes. Things happen when they should happen and I believe that the greatest lesson yoga teaches you is to let things go. You realize that nothing is forever and everything will pass.
In our western world, yoga classes are mainly attended by women. Why do women do yoga in the first place?
I think that the statistics of yoga classes vary from country to country. For example, in some big cities like Los Angeles, Berlin, London or New York City there is definitely a higher percentage of men who practice yoga. In general, however, yoga is probably so attractive to women because the type of movement fits the female body well. It has a balancing effect, it affects the hormonal system, the nervous system, the emotional system. Yoga also has an effect not only on the outside, but also on the inside. But above all, there is also a large female yoga community, which has an attractive effect on women.
Do women tend to make it a happening and meet their best friend in the studio, while men prefer to practice at home alone with YouTube videos?
Yes, I think that's part of the culture that was created out of it. Going to a yoga studio and meeting like-minded people is an important point for women, but not yet for men. Men often feel uncomfortable in a yoga studio surrounded by flexible women because they think that's what yoga is all about. But it is not. It's about practicing yoga with exactly the skills you have right now. This can help with physical flexibility, but also with strength, stability, clarity and concentration. And I know that this may not be very popular with men, but yoga can help them to get in touch with their feminine side or their non-linear masculine side. Even if you don't want to put a stamp on it, there is a gender-specific assignment to certain types of movements or feelings.
Do men still have prejudices against yoga?
In very practical terms, yoga is an activity for the upper middle class. Classes and studios are expensive and some studios exude a feminine atmosphere, almost like a beauty palace. Not every man likes that. Then they go there and there are women everywhere who are much more flexible than they are and they are the stiff guys. The spread of all these online programs makes yoga more accessible, not only for men but also for different social classes.
If someone has prejudices, whether man or woman, how do you counter them?
I'm not confrontational, because that doesn't really work and doesn't fit with the philosophy of yoga, but I'm encouraging and open and as a teacher I try to convey consistently good experiences.
Do men and women do yoga differently? Or are there anatomical differences between the sexes that show up in the asanas?
It is natural for women to be more in touch with the human physiology, the hormonal system and the menstrual cycle. It's not that all women are like this and all men are not, but there is a tendency. And flexibility also plays an important role. But you always think that yoga is about that, but you don't really do it. It is about strength, stability and awareness. The main difference is probably that it is probably easier and more natural for women to do the practice.
Does one have to make a general difference between men and women in yoga?
Yes, because I think the modern man has less awareness of it. When I started, I had no idea After my accident, a personal trainer told me to start yoga and I just thought, "Oh, what's that?" You have to start educating people about yoga. Because it has great benefits and is one of the best training supplements for any sport - and I have done a lot of sports. It increases the efficiency of training and recovery.
There are more and more offers like "Yoga for climbers", "Yoga for racing cyclists" etc. Do you think this appeals to men more than classic yoga classes?
I think it's a great approach, because these programs target an activity that men are familiar with. It is a complementary addition to climbing, for example. The best climber in modern history, Alex Honnold, does yoga in his film. Yoga has become even more popular because professional athletes, such as the German national football team or NBA teams have integrated it into their training.
Do sportsmen and sportswomen generally approach yoga with great sporting determination and perfectionism?
I lived in Aspen for a while and there were definitely personalities in the classes who did yoga the way they ski: hard and fast. It is not wrong. Yoga can also be seen as a physical exercise, but you will also get the other benefits. I came to yoga myself with a sporting background and it was my way of thinking to work against myself when practicing. This contradicts yoga, because there I actually want to work with myself.
To do sports on a high level, you have to tune into yourself, your psyche and your body. To bring them in harmony instead of working against them. If you can do that, you can overcome many obstacles. This often leads to a higher performance level than with the so-called classical training methods. Yoga is great for that. That's why it is recommended by so many psychologists, because it teaches athletes to look inside, to find peace and focus. That is an important part of sports.
Liquid Flow Yoga is very fluid. Are such flowing styles the future of yoga or western asana practice? Or where do you see yoga in the coming years?
Well, I don't like to get stuck on anything in a particular way, and sometimes I switch from still and static to a more flowing style. I think you always have to find the balance. The development can go both ways. But the media will probably push things that are more conspicuous, so maybe more dynamic movements or super flexible poses.