Over a third of men over the age of 50 will experience some issues relating to the health of the prostate, statistics from the National Health Service in the UK, and yet it is a part of the anatomy most men are very unfamiliar with.
What is the prostate? The prostate is a small gland found only in men. It surrounds the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body). It sits just below the bladder and the opening of the vas deferens (tube that carries sperm up from the testicles to the urethra).
What issues does it face and why? The prostate can become enlarged, a common occurrence in men over 50, and can put pressure on the urethra and effect the ability to urinate. It can become inflamed and sometime infected by bacteria. This is most common in men between 30 and 50. It is also susceptible to cancer. There is evidence to show that chronic tension caused by stress directly impacts the health of the prostate. Stress weakens the ability for the body to fight infection and lowers levels of minerals such as zinc, which causes enlargement of the prostate.
What are common causes for stress amongst men? Unemployment, divorce and experience of alienation or rejection due to socioeconomic status, or sexuality are all common factors leading anxiety and depression amongst men. In the US 75% of suicides are made by men. However, men notoriously avoid talking about emotions and personal struggles and for some showing softness of any sort is a repellent concept. A memory from my childhood which sticks clearly in my mind is seeing a young boy reaching to hold his father’s hand and the father shrinking back, shouting ‘MAN UP!’
The ‘man up’ mentality comes from a masculine ideal which is deeply ingrained within many cultures. It dictates that being strong, virile, fit and unshakably stoical equates to being a man. It leaves little space for personal expression and so emotions and insecurities are quite literally pushed down.
Ron Kurtz in his book ‘The Body Reveals’ explores the psycho-anatomical significance of tension held within the pelvic region. It is the region where ‘modern industrial man cuts off his breath. This is the most direct way to contain rising influences and feelings.’ He asserts that the holding of tensions within the pelvis correlate with inability to fully express emotions. Louise Hay in her book ‘Heal Your Body’ supports this viewpoint, locating the area of the pelvis and prostate as a site for feelings of guilt, sexual pressure and guilt.
How can this practice help men to manage the health of their prostate? On a physical level we teach our students how to focus awareness within their body and consciously bring about relaxation. Often this is the hardest for who have been trained to hold onto tension to support an outward display of strength. We teach students how to interact with their bodies in a non-competitive, non-violent interaction way. Conscious relaxation gives the body and all its organs an opportunity to restore themselves. When the area of the prostate is releases it can become nourished. In the process the student can become aware of the direct connection between the mind and body. When both are still the emotional storage of the prostate can potentially unlock and be integrated. Throughout this process the student is guided in how to observe and let go of emotions, accepting their transient nature. Above all else, we create a space where men are able to step out of their perceived roles and rebuild a softer, more nurturing attitude towards themselves.
Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre
Nicholas James Waters
5 July 2018, Dharamkot, Dharamsala, India