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It’s for women. It’s woo woo. You have to be flexible and chant Om. It’s too touchy feely. It’s not enough of a good workout. It’s not made for men’s bodies. I’m worried I’ll fart.
Why men fear yoga
These are some of the myths, comments and feedback I’ve heard in mens’ response to the question ‘what puts you off trying yoga?’ In the run up to teaching my first yoga workshop for men, I realised it was not going to be sold out in minutes. It made me feel a bit sad that there was something getting in the way of men reaping the benefits of yoga. I decided to reflect seriously on why men are so scared of yoga. As a yoga teacher, massage therapist and regular human being, I want to share these gifts. I know they can change people’s lives. Just one massage, one reflexology treatment or yoga class can have a huge impact. I’ve been working in this field for nearly four years and I see it happen most weeks. It’s important for me to understand the reasons why certain people might not think yoga - or massage and reflexology - is for them so I can make a compelling case to potential students and clients about why and how these gifts might change their lives. Admittedly, not ALL men, but A LOT of men really aren’t sold on yoga. Even some fit and healthy sport-loving men sometimes become saucer-eyed quivering mice when their lady friend insists on dragging them along to a class. I’m thinking this emoji:
Education, generations & the mainstream presence of yoga
Most of us simply haven’t grown up with yoga being part of our everyday lives and therefore, it’s a bit alien, unusual or exotic. Not anymore though... It’s become mainstream in gyms and yoga studios thrive in most towns and every city but this trend has only emerged over the last decade. Yoga is now pretty much in every village hall, community centre and even in breweries, churches and offices. But before this full immersion, its presence went mostly unnoticed. Yoga and mindfulness is offered at some (not all) schools, from nursery onwards. Up to only a few years ago, it would’ve been very unusual for a child to know what yoga is. Nowadays, a 5-year old can assume lotus position with Jnana mudra and chant Om at the flick of a hat. Generation X and older Millennials weren’t much exposed to yoga until after university and perhaps in our mid to late 20s but now we have every style of yoga available without having to travel very far. Now that yoga, mindfulness and meditation are mainstream, kids grow up with it as an everyday activity, like P.E or Brownies. These future generations are yoga natives, just like Millennials are digital natives - they can’t imagine life without the internet, and hopefully yoga. But that still leaves the generations above, and particularly men in these generations. This group is still at risk of missing out on this amazing ancient technology which could guide them through a healthier ‘3rd age’.
How to encourage men to give yoga a chance
Taking yoga to where the men are (eg, beer yoga). Getting men to try the odd stretch here and there, in random places. Encouraging friends, family and partners (see pic of my in-law, Nick). It’s very hard for anybody to understand a holistic activity such as yoga without having any experience of it. A 10-minute chair yoga session might be enough to turn the biggest sceptic into being yoga curious.
Maintaining visibility of yoga. Talking to men about it. Telling them about the benefits. Writing long blogs like this in the vein hope that the message will get out there.
3. More outreach & persistence
Keep doing 1 & 2.
4. Finding converts to spread the word
Older (ie retirement age) students who attend my classes tend to be the biggest converts. “It’s changed my life” is a phrase I hear often and it warms my cockles greatly. These are the bees of yoga pollen - carrying their magic experience and planting the seed in the unconverted person’s mind.
5. Yoga teachers who are willing to make yoga accessible
Maybe this should be number one, or maybe I wanted to save the best until last. New yoga students need beginners classes in non-intimidating settings with teachers who love teaching slow, gentle yoga. There are more and more ‘body positive’ and ‘yoga for all’ teacher trainings available now. There are more older people training to be yoga teachers. More yoga studios offer beginners courses. This is already becoming a reality. Phew.
The celebrity effect
Daniel Craig used yoga to help him prepare for his James Bond role Since 2006, the German football team has been practicing yoga with one of Germany’s most famous yoga teachers, Patrick Broom More focus, better concentration, better coordination & less tension, the benefits of yoga for footballers include: Stabilising yoga exercises significantly reduce the risk of injury. Rugby & basketball players, athletes
Yoga was developed by men for men in India, thousands of years ago to help sages sit and meditate for long periods of time (because - believe it or not - you can only sit comfortably for a long time if you’re really fit and healthy!!!). The poses or ‘asanas’ are just one of the ‘eight limbed path’. The other seven limbs are: Yoga was brought to the West... Feminisation of yoga Modern yoga and growing popularity amongst men.
Yoga is more than a sport or series of exercises, it’s a holistic practice that connects body and mind and involves many other aspects including meditation, mindfulness and breathwork. Ultimately, it’s like medicine for your body. It improves mood, sleeping patterns and encourages relaxation. It also... - helps correct back problems for people who have spent a lot of time sitting down at work - combats high blood pressure and minimises the risk of heart attacks... both of which primarily affect men. - reduces everyday stress and depression. People who practice regularly report a greater sense of wellbeing and better sleep. - brings people together and therefore can even help with loneliness and social isolation Despite all the evidence, a first yoga lesson can still be a test of courage for some men.
Here are some suggestions for overcoming the initial nerves: There are lots of different types of yoga - do research to find out which style is right for you Find a teacher that’s right for you, who offers a beginners class & makes you feel comfortable Find the right group - yoga is a great community so find one that suits you. Don’t feel you need to try every pose - use baby steps to ease into poses rather than ‘forcing’ your muscles & joints. Your flexibility will improve with gentle & regular practice. TIP NO.1 Practice regularly to experience the benefits One class is not going to be enough for you to fall in love and for it to change your life. It’s a gradual process TIP NO.2 Be ‘open’ to the experience and willing to really give it a go. If you show up to a class and the tape in your mind is saying ‘oh FFS, why did I come, this is awkward, I’m bored, when is it over, I’m never doing this again”, then you might as well leave.
Not everybody’s cup of tea
There are always going to be some men - and women - who just don’t enjoy yoga... They find it hard to relax, get bored or just don’t enjoy it. Just like not everybody is going to like football, or cheese or children! We are all different and although there are a huge variety of styles to choose from, maybe none of them will float your boat and that’s ok... especially if you have other ways to stay healthy and happy. QUOTES “Saying you’re too inflexible for yoga is like saying you’re too dirty for a bath” Chris Magee, Another_Space Yoga ...OR I’m too weak to lift weights. Danny Poole - a yoga teacher from Denver. All I knew is that there were hippies doing it, and I was intimidated because I didn’t know what it was,” Poole said. “Then I got hooked on it because I never felt so good.” When men say they are bored with yoga, Poole thinks there may be something else going on. “Our egos are deflated because we can’t do some of the poses,” he said.