Can real men do the crane pose, the cow face pose or the downward-facing dog? 

Sioux City yoga instructor Bob Nelson hopes so. That's why he is starting a four-week "Yoga for Men: A Beginner Series," at (Be) Yoga Studio, 1101 Fourth St., Suite E3.

The first class  -- focusing on Surya Namaskar or sun salutations -- will take place from 5:30 - 6:45 p.m., Friday.

"Guys are intimidated by the unknown," Nelson admitted. "And, let's face it, yoga can be intimidating if you don't know what to expect."

After all, yoga classes are filled with either 1) women or by 2) limber dudes who could join the road company of Cirque du Soleil in a heartbeat, right?

As for number two, Nelson is quick to point out that "no one will have to twist themselves into a pretzel in any of my classes."

But what about number one? Isn't yoga become a mostly female activity? Well, he said, not originally.

According to Nelson, yoga was designed entirely by men and for men to practice when it originated in India.

"Women were actually forbidden to do yoga in India for a long time," he said. "It wasn't until the 1930s that yoga became the hot new exercise for Hollywood movie actresses."

NOT FOR WOMEN ONLY

Nelson admitted he's still a relative newbie when it comes to yoga.

"I was a runner who'd get obsessed with the sport and end up injuring myself," he said. "Or then, I'd started lifting weights and begin the same cycle of overdoing it until I'd hurt myself." 

After giving yoga a try, Nelson said he felt an instant sense of well-being. Even more than that, he gained strength, increased flexibility and decreased stress levels almost immediately.

Which was important for the North High School teacher, a husband and father to seven kids.

"Originally, I tried yoga as a way to lose weight for my son's wedding," he remembered. "I gave myself 90 days to fit into my suit. Before the 90 days was even over, I knew I was hooked on yoga." 

YOGA, THE KING JAMES EDITION

Nelson certainly wasn't the only man who became addicted to yoga.

Big name athletes like LeBron James, Shaquille O'Neal and Ray Lewis have all incorporated yoga into their regular training routines. The NFL's Seattle Seahawks even negotiated weekly yoga sessions into their contracts.

Still, Nelson was often the lone man in the yoga classes he attended.

"Oh, there were a handful of guys doing yoga," he allowed. "There just wasn't very many of us."

Which is why Nelson's trying to level the playing field with more members of the Y chromosome club.

"Walking into a yoga class for the first time can be uncomfortable and may leave you a little apprehensive," he said. "I want guys to become comfortable with yoga and confidence with me as their instructor throughout the course of this series."

Since the classes are designed for men of all ages and skill levels, don't be afraid if you can't do all of the poses.

"We don't call yoga a workout," Nelson said. "Instead, it's a practice."

And if a pose causes you pain, hey, don't do it.

"That was always my issue with other activities," Nelson said, shaking his head. "I was so compulsive, I thought pain was a part of the exercise. Yoga isn't like that."

Instead, he stresses safety over everything else.

"We have blocks and straps available," Nelson noted. "There's nothing wrong with using those."

COME FOR THE POSES, STAY FOR THE CAMARADERIE 

Nelson is merely hoping to make yoga a bit less mysterious for men.

"We're very lucky to a nice yoga community in Sioux City," he said. "It's very supportive and everyone enjoys a terrific camaraderie."

Which is a good thing for Nelson, who decided to teach yoga, last year, at the age of 64.

"Yoga give me the core strength and flexibility that I didn't have when I was younger," he said. "i do feel like I'm in best shape of my life and I attribute that to yoga."

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