Ira Bloom calls himself a yoga "evangelist." By day,
the 52-year-old Bloom is a practicing dentist. Two or three times a week,
though, after leaving his office, you'll find Bloom at the Greater Baltimore
Yoga Center. There, for an hour and a half, he practices a form of hatha yoga
known as Iyengar.
Bloom came to yoga quite by accident about five years ago. An
ad offering a free week of yoga classes spurred him on, and he's been hooked
ever since. "It's a great way to improve your strength, become more
flexible, and relieve stress," says Bloom. "It really calms the
Sitting in high school biology, listening to the teacher drone on about
genetics, I snapped to attention when she used male pattern baldness as an
example of a dominant trait. My heart started pounding with fear - with bald
men on both sides of my mother's family as far as the eye could see, I was
doomed to have a chrome dome.
I remained anguished about the prospect of being bald for the next 20 years
as my hairline retreated and my hair steadily thinned. Bald men seemed
disfigured to me....
Though Bloom says that his ultimate goal is to practice yoga
every day, he admits that a hectic schedule makes that difficult. But, he adds,
even the two or three times a week he does make it to yoga class has a strong
influence on his daily routine. "It just spills over into your everyday
life," he says. "You learn to do your life like you do your yoga ... to
be centered, to breathe more calmly, and to be focused. Little things don't
bother you as much."
Calming the mind not only makes day-to-day living easier, says
Robert Bulgarelli, DO, FACC, who practices integrative and preventive
cardiovascular medicine at Cardiovascular Associates of Southeastern
Pennsylvania, it also has far-reaching effects when it comes to protecting men
(and women, too) from the physical damages of stress.
"Yoga, with its combination of meditation and breathing,
helps get the mind and body in sync," says Bulgarelli. Men, he goes on to
say, frequently downplay the stress that they're feeling, and as a result, tend
to develop heart disease at an earlier age than women.
Dealing With Stress
"Women are more in tune with their emotions,"
Bulgarelli says, "and are better able to handle daily stressors. Men often
ignore signs of stress and as a result, their heart rate goes up, their blood
pressure rises, their platelets get stickier. ..."
Along with the physical changes brought by stress itself, says
Bulgarelli, are the more subtle behavioral changes that accompany stress --
eating less healthfully, exercising less, and engaging in more high-risk
behaviors such as drinking and smoking.