Yoga for Men?

These past few weeks I have been consumed by one question: How can I get more men into yoga? Hell, I would be satisfied with just getting them to try it! Just once! It is ironic that there was a time when yoga was meant only for men and women had to fight for the right to practice yoga.

But to get to the bottom of my issue, I asked a wide range of men – young, old, single, married, straight, gay, normal, weird, athletes, non-athletes, boxers or briefs (?) – what is stopping him from trying yoga? I even set up a poll on my Facebook Page to get more input!

Below are the three most common objections voiced by the people I interacted with (and my response to each, of course!):

1. I am not flexible enough.

My response: Yoga will help you with that. Trust me. No one expects you to be an expert. It is my job to help you get there.

2. Yoga is a female-dominated exercise (aka Yoga is for women).

My response: I do not see what the problem is especially for those hoping to make new female friends. 😉 But then again I am not afraid to walk into a male-dominated weight room. No one is paying attention to what you are doing. Get over it.

3. Yoga is like stretching. It would be one more thing to do. I’m not seeing the  benefits.

My response: Yoga is so much more than “stretching.” (You would know that if your ignorant butt would actually try a class!) It requires flexibility and strength. It is holding your squats and planks instead of powering through them (poorly and incorrectly I might add). It is stretching your muscles to the limit but still demanding strength from it. Instead of weights you are using your own weight with gravity. Anyone who has ever done a pushup would know that this is enough.

This man is not a pansy

Men need yoga maybe even more than women do precisely because men are less flexible. As you age, you are going to need that flexibility more than ever. Even Men’s Health Magazine recognizes the need for men to do yoga and have dedicated a page on their website for precisely that.

But my question of how to get men into yoga classes remains unanswered. My husband suggested a “Yoga for Men” class – designed specifically for men in a room filled with men. The idea has merit (don’t tell him I said that). So what say you, men of the world? Are you in?

And if anyone else has any suggestions, I would certainly love to hear it. If you are a man who practices yoga, I want to hear from you as well!

Image via Flickr (creative commons) by Andy Polaine.

11 thoughts on “Yoga for Men?

  1. When it comes to the physical part of yoga, the asanas, men are even better suited to do some of them simply because they tend to have more upper body strength. It’s quite frustrating to practice Mayurasana for ages just to find out that many men can do the posture without any training. This might make some men roll out their mat? 🙂

    1. Thank you for pointing that out! It is frustrating for us women but should definitely be an incentive for men to roll out their mat. I just wish they would stop being scaredy cats. 😉

  2. I agree. I’ve wondered about that, as well. Some of it has to do with the “woo woo” effect from the pseudo-spiritualists who have a rep as flakes. Some of it has to do with having a female teacher. Some of it has to do with the fact that you have to open a lot of tight spots-spots where we store our emotions. Those places that scare us, the ones men are taught not to feel or show, are accessed in asana classes. Confronting those for the first time without preparation can drive anyone away. Even the idea of opening hips that held onto feelings can keep someone away from yoga.

    I think it’s the reason women in the west can come to it so easily, as well. There is much emphasis on softening and surrendering, things that women are “allowed” to do. It’s easier for us than for men to let go and still understand that it is not making you less or relinquishing power.

    Anyway, I’m rambling on. This was a thought-provoking piece.

    1. I think you’ve brought up a really interesting aspect that I failed to bring up. For me, yoga is emotional and forces me to tap into a lot of things that sometimes get ignored and I think I’ve just taken that for granted. I don’t know how to get around getting men to give in to that but that’s another reason why yoga is good for men. Thanks, Zoie!

  3. Most women teachers I know teach styles of yoga that focus on the physical and emotional aspects of yoga. And they have a teaching style that is naturally attractive to women; they teach from their personal realization as women so other women are attracted. Combine a man’s natural competitiveness and ego (they don’t like not being able to do at all what the girl on the next mat can do with ease), an aversion to acknowledging their own latent feminine aspects, and distaste for female-to-female language (“Open your heart as you soften your blah blah blah… let your emotions flow out in this ‘juicy’ hip-opener…” etc.), and it’s easy to understand why guys aren’t into yoga. My suggestion: Put a little emphasis on the traditional ideal of yoga as a path to liberation from material consciousness. Guys can relate to yoga as a means of transcendence. In fact, many feminists argue that the idea ‘transcendence’ is a male invention, but that’s a conversation beyond the scope of this comment. If women teachers trade emo talk for talk of transcendence (assuming they walk that kind of talk) then guys who want more than a workout from a yoga practice may start showing up in their classes.

    1. Thank you for the suggestion and incredibly thoughtful comment. As someone who is not always a fan of “yoga teacher speak” I can understand how what you say can make a lot of difference in the practice… which I think is why I like the idea of a yoga for men class as a way of getting them in and at least allowing them to experience yoga for the first time or again within the realm that they can be comfortable in. Although I do have to say that I don’t see an increase in male participation even when the instructor is male and not coming from their “personal realization as women.” 🙂

  4. I think there is this cultural reason as men here don’t want to be associated with anything passive, mindful and non-testosterone activity.

    You should give free lessons to women who come as a couple. That would work. It like a couple only club, they will come for whatever reason. It is upto your teaching to keep them there.

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