I’ve been teaching yoga for over 25 years and I can’t believe how the number of men participating in Yoga Immersions has not really increased. Every man who has ever attended my yoga immersions has been so grateful. Each of their lives improved because they broke through the hurdles that were limiting them.
For this reason, I started my men’s only yoga group in New York City in 2001. My men only studio created a safe place for men to explore yoga without the worry of comparing themselves to those more flex and bendy women, which of course isn’t true because so many women are actually not flexible.
Every single person starts somewhere in a yoga practice and has to address their own unique limitations.
The irony of this new trend is that it is really new. What most men do not realize or have forgotten is that women have only just recently been introduced to this practice. For thousands of years, yoga used to be just a men’s club. The idea of women doing yoga is only about 50 years old. (And thank the Goddess women can now enjoy the practice as well.)
So let’s first take a look at the problem before we discuss what can change this paradigm. There has been a lot of stigma about yoga over the years. A lot of advertising showcases lanky white women practicing yoga in tight yoga pants and leggings. This is a billion dollar industry that thrives on this type of marketing. What happens? Lots of women come to yoga classes seeking to emulate what they see in the ads, and now on Instagram posts. I think this is great, but it also creates a marketing bottleneck for the rest of the population.
If the marketing doesn’t turn men off from stepping into more yoga classes, it might be the actual practice of yoga that terrifies them. Often times, men feel obliged to catch up to women in classes because of their lack of flexibility. Men certainly do not enjoy looking up at women from a competitive point of view and this can emasculate the common man. This “over-portrayal” of beautiful women practicing yoga has turned off male participation more than anything else.
When I ask my male friends who do not practice yoga why they do not they often reply that there is no way they can perform the kinds of positions and asanas that they see on ads and instagram posts. The very idea of stepping into a yoga class terrifies them because of the standards they’ve built up in their minds. This is unfortunate because there are so many kinds of yoga classes that are simplified so that students can gradually build flexibility in their bodies. One of my favorite classes to teach is restorative yoga.
If that’s not bad enough, the spirituality in yoga can turn men off. Chanting OM or sitting still with their thoughts is not very comfortable for most men. Although many executives and CEO’s are turning to meditation and breathing exercises to deal with the immense stress they face on a daily basis, most men shun at the idea of sitting still or practicing any kind of spirituality that isn’t what they were raised with, if they were raised with any spirituality at all. If you read my book (LINK) I share my journey with this very issue, being that I was raised by a born again Christian mother and a stout military father. It took me a long time to accept and embrace the beauty of Eastern spirituality.
Yoga is neither about chanting OM or sexy, slender bodies. It is a practice of self-reflection. The movement is important, but its primary strength lies in its ability to build character in the participant. Yes, more diverse marketing would help men visualize themselves in yoga classes more. But that’s barely a good reason for men to enter yoga classes, and moreso, yoga immersions like the ones I hold at BLUE OSA.
Yoga is integral to improving self-confidence. That is very important for men. Strengthening the spine automatically improves body posture. A good posture is indicative of a confident and powerful man. It makes sense to do an activity like yoga. Yoga improves body posture and a man realizes more confidence in his professional and personal worlds. It doesn’t matter what industry a man works in, his confidence can open doors for him and his family. If you read my blog on how to cultivate your own yoga practice, you can practice for yourself and notice the positive changes in your life after you align your spine.
Posture is one thing, but most men deal with an excess amount of stress. Yoga practice has the ability to show men how to be calm and collective in the face of intense tribulation. This can lead to better decision making and ultimately, career progression. More men need to learn to be calm in the face of challenge. This makes them better romantic partners and family men.
Yoga’s ability to combine body manipulation with breath-work completely changes the way men approach life.
Yoga is a powerful tool for men, and it needs to become more commonplace. It will require more convincing and I hope more men take part in the yoga teacher trainings and immersions that I run. It would be an honor to share the gifts of yoga practice with more men. Also, as men practice more yoga there will be more chance they find peace and happiness in their lives. They can then in turn share with other men and women their deep gratitude and understanding of yoga’s role in their lives. This is the great truth about Yoga. It is a cycle for us to enjoy and participate in life in the greatest of ways.