More men should practice yoga, but they are not. Why is there still a stigma on men doing yoga?
In this modern society, you might think we passed the boundaries of gender. Men can do ballet, women can play soccer, men can dance in heels, and women can be bodybuilders.
Is it too New Agey, flaky, soft or touchy-feely? Or is it because a lot of men don’t know what yoga actually is?
I am the only man in yoga class.
Most of the time when I go to a yoga class, I’m the only guy in the room. It rarely happens that I meet someone of my own species. Is it because we, men, are terrified of flexibility or is there something that goes deeper than that?
As yoga has spread more and more in the west, it has become considered a ‘sport’, and mostly a feminine sport. And there is a reason for this. Have you peeked in a yoga room? Oh you will be the witness to this.
In most cases yoga classes are filled with 80% women and 20% men. Women are now flocking to yoga classes. Almost everywhere you go you see women shopping, eating, hanging out, etc. in yoga pants.
No wonder why you think yoga is only for women! But this could not be farther from the truth.
Yoga was actually a practice made by men for men. To be exact, made for Indian teenage boys.
Yes, believe it or not, this is how yoga started. Yoga was created in India by male practitioners and taught to boys only. Hundreds of years ago yoga was ONLY practiced by men, and women weren’t even allowed to take place in a class. Only in the past few decades has a lot has changed.
But why aren’t more men doing yoga?
Before jumping right into that question, let’s go back in time to understand how yoga came to the west. How did it travel all the way here from India? And how did yoga become a “women’s sport”, especially when it was actually made for men?
The Yoga Journey from India to America
Swami Vivekananda, a Hindu monk, was the first person to bring yoga to America. He introduced the practice of yoga and philosophy to the United States in the late 1800s.
He set out to bring the teachings of his guru to America. He wanted to spread the spiritual essence of yoga from one person to another.
Yes, yoga is in essence a very spiritual practice. Doesn’t feel like it anymore? You got that right.
If you have practiced or seen some classes, you can see it has changed its course a bit here in the west. But actually it was first brought for a spiritual purpose.
After the American Civil War, America needed to change its mindset. It needed to regain confidence in that the human race was not going to moral and ethical hell. People needed to trust again in basic human decency and kindness. They needed to have faith in humanity once more.
Swami Vivekananda was that much-needed voice for the west. He provided hope, optimism, and a message of unity to a nation in turmoil. He brought peace and tranquility to the mind of the people of America by using yoga and meditation.
There have been a lot of “Westernized versions” of yoga since it came to America . For example, dog yoga, beer yoga, bar yoga and broga, we’ll get to that last one later. But, the Westernization of yoga also brought another thing to the class: WOMEN.
Western Twist in Yoga
The new ways of teaching and presenting yoga started to change people’s view on yoga.
Instead of it being a spiritual practice, yoga started to turn into a new modern workout. Instead of spirituality, balance and flexibility had the main focus.
No pain, no gain! right?
Yoga has become trendy workout for girls and women of all ages. You want to lose some weight, become more fit, feel more confident, and reduce stress, all at the same time? Do some yoga!
Nowadays, yoga is mainly focused on the poses –the asanas- and the crazier the pose, the better.
It is interesting that even though it has such a physical focus in our part of the world, men are still not much drawn to it.
The philosophy and spirituality behind it has in most cases been marginalized. Many people who practice yoga in the West are not familiar with the philosophy of it.
They are unaware of the fact that yoga is actually a way of living, not a once-a-week stretch class. So, does this mean it is not the spiritual aspect of yoga that drives men away? We still have a question to answer.
For now, let us just clarify that there’s so much more to yoga than doing some yoga poses. But in our busy society there’s no time for a whole other way of living. We just want the quick benefits: become more flexible, more active, and have less stress.
But this hasn’t answered our question: why should more men do yoga?
I think we can say that most men want to become stronger, faster, fitter, right?
So, is this then maybe one reason why men turn away from yoga?
When you think of yoga, it still has a feminine image. Women in leggings, soft background music and candle light doesn’t sound like the typical workout for a man. Doing some stretches for a couple of breaths is not something that typically gets men pumped.
There is still some misconception about what takes place in a yoga class and what yoga is about. Most people think of ‘flexibility’ when you mention yoga, but that’s not what yoga practice is about.
There’s so much more to it. Beside the spiritual side of yoga, yoga can also help to make your body stronger, fitter and more athletic.
If this is something you pursue, consider taking a yoga class. Keep reading to find out why.
Is yoga scary?
Perhaps men are intimidated by yoga. I mean, perhaps?
They might feel like they don’t belong in a class with a bunch of flexible, bendy women.
The idea of being in a room filled with beautiful women, doing effortless poses might scare men a bit.
You don’t want to be that guy who’s awkwardly trying to survive the last pose, barely being able to breath. I understand the fear.
I think if that was the case, I would not go too. But this image couldn’t be farther from the truth. A lot of women aren’t even that flexible as you might think.
Everybody has their own process and progresses at a different rhythm. Every beginner has to start somewhere. Besides that, it might be a good mental practice not to compare yourself to others that much. It is something you learn in a yoga class: less comparisons, more accepting of differences.
Yoga is not even so much about flexibility. The purpose in yoga is to pay attention to yourself, your own growth. Try to observe your mental patterns and train the mind to focus.
So even if you’re the stiffest man ever, no one will probably even notice it. And who cares?! You’re taking a step towards taking care of your body and mind. Most people will only encourage you to do so and you should be proud for actually doing it.
Today yoga is a trend. It’s “in” to do yoga. Yoga schools and studios keep popping up like mushrooms. Yoga has become a business.
Everywhere you find companies selling yoga props, marketing and selling the idea of a yoga lifestyle. The yoga industry sells tight-fitting yoga pants in various designs and colors made for women. They sell yoga-centered accessories such as mantra beads. Yoga is hip among women.
This whole Western yoga world is focused on women, and women love to do what their girlfriends are doing. Especially if it is something that can make them increase their well-being.
The idea of taking time off for yourself is something that has been growing more popular in the past few years. It is mostly women who are looking to spend more quality time for them –with themselves, and sometimes with their girlfriends.
It makes sense that the industry would target women to make the business of yoga grow fast.
Women everywhere are focusing on self-care practices. This concept might be another reason why men have not been very inclined to attend yoga classes. So maybe it is time for #maleselfcare…?
Anyway, there is more to yoga than the industry has made us believe. Keep reading to find out reasons why more men should join yoga!
Social Media Sway
A lot of women get inspired scrolling on Instagram. They see perfect yoga poses done by beautiful, lean and flexible women. And so more women come to yoga and more men stay away from it.
Neon colored yoga mats, tight colorful leggings, “Ohm” bracelets and beads don’t help, either. It’s rarely seen as very manly on insta, which doesn’t make it attractive for a guy to join a yoga class. But there might be another option for you. More on this later!
Sounds like we may have found some reasons why men are not so drawn to yoga classes on this side of the world. Let us now contribute to encouraging more men to try yoga.
Here are six reasons why more men should practice yoga:
#1- Yoga is Really Challenging
A lot of men love a good challenge. Most men are competitive and therefore turn to sports in which they can win or succeed.
At first yoga doesn’t seem like a competitive sport. And yes, this is true, but yoga practice allows you to seek competition on a whole other level: a competition with yourself, a competition in patience.
How strong is your ability to let go, to surrender and to calm your mind? Can you still breathe through a stressful situation (or pose) and remain calm?
Yoga teaches you to extend your boundaries, push further and explore new ways of being. The regular practice of yoga allows you to strengthen your mind.
#2. Yoga Gives You A Strong Body + Mind
Regular practice of yoga will give you a very strong and resilient mind. A strong mind equals strong body, and vice versa. So you become your toughest competition.
Can you beat your old mental patterns? Can you focus long enough to hold a tough pose and push through the discomfort?
It’s mental toughness that will get you far in any path and yoga will help you get there if you practice often enough.
Yoga also teaches calmness, surrender and tranquility. These are all facets of success. Competition may be one of them, but yoga teaches you that there’s so much more to learn and explore.
You can absolutely become stronger with a regular yoga practice. Some of the poses are very physically demanding, and need not only muscular strength but also mental strength.
During the entire yoga class, there is a lot of emphasis on core work and some balancing poses help develop very strong legs and arms as well.
Most people who come for the first time to a yoga class are surprised to realize how difficult some poses can be. Many of them comment on muscle soreness the next day. I bet most of them were not expecting that! Ready to try it?
#3- Yoga Helps to Increase Physical Endurance
While yoga keeps you lean, strong, and fit, it also increases your range of motion and flexibility. By doing so, it actually enables you to lift heavier weight.
Most yoga poses are held for a longer time than traditional exercises. This causes your muscles to tense without moving them for a longer time than usual, which increases your muscular endurance.
And, guess what? This all means you’ll get stronger.
Plus yoga helps to improve blood flow, so the muscles get more oxygen. This helps them to recover faster so they can grow. If you lift a lot of weights, let’s say you train your biceps a lot, your muscles in your biceps are probably really short.
Yoga helps to create more length in your muscles, which will eventually create more space in the muscle for growth. And here is everything every man wanted to hear from the beginning of time, I mean, from the beginning of this article… This means bigger biceps! Stretching actually helps to create a stronger and more stable physique and prevents injuries.
If you’re a guy who practices a lot of heavy weightlifting, you might consider doing yoga as well.
Yoga can often prevent injuries caused by fitness and weightlifting. That’s because yoga focuses on muscles you rarely use when doing fitness and weightlifting.
Yoga improves flexibility and range of motion. It also helps to improve joint durability by strengthening connective muscle tissue.
If you’re not a sports guy, but spend your time behind a desk, you might have some shoulder, neck or back pain. That’s another reason why men should practice yoga. Yoga is the perfect antidote for bad posture and injuries caused by sitting all day long behind a desk.
#4- Yoga Will Help You To Stand Taller – Literally!
Ready to grow taller? Besides getting a stronger physique and avoiding injuries, yoga helps to create a better posture. Which the ladies will definitely appreciate. Not bad right? If you have a good posture, your shoulders will look wider and your chest will look bigger. You might even look like you’ve grown a few inches.
Many people complain of back pain, which can be due to many reasons, including bad posture, sitting for too long, practicing sports very often. Yoga can help you reduce pain. Bad posture is one of the biggest causes of injuries. And I would assume you don’t want any injuries, do you?
Another win? Good posture will make you more attractive. And what will also make you more attractive is a boost in your sex drive. It’s said that yoga can have this effect on men.
A study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine said that yoga improves all sexual functions in men. Yoga helps to increase blood flow to the genital area. This will help to improve sexual performance. Ready to try yoga now?
Besides these effects, yoga helps to reduce anxiety which will make you more confident, and, therefore, a little bit more sexy. I know, yoga is awesome. Time to grab your pair of leggins, too!
#5- Yoga Takes You Beyond the Body
Besides helping to improve your body, yoga can also help to overcome some serious mental issues.
A lot of veterans are taking yoga classes to overcome their PTSD. Yoga has a direct effect on the on and off switch of the nervous system.
Blue Osa guest teacher John Thurman, ex-army veteran, decided to change his lifestyle and become a yoga teacher.
John was at the Pentagon terrorist attack in 2001. After getting out of the hospital, after the attack John started his yoga practice to help him recover from his injuries. He found that yoga had a very healing effect on both physical and mental sides.
John is a perfect example for how yoga helps to get over some serious physical and mental injuries.
People with PTSD are stuck in the fight or flight mode, known as the sympathetic nervous system. With the right practices and the right teacher, yoga can help to switch off the sympathetic nervous system and switch on the rest and digest mode instead, known as the parasympathetic nervous system. Especially nowadays, it’s important for all of us to pay attention to our minds and our breathing.
We experience a lot of pressure and stress in our Western societies, more than we used to endure. Yoga helps to make our minds calm, as I mentioned before, focus on our breathing, and bring attention to our body. Men have a tendency to cross their limits, to not listen to their bodies, to “man up” and avoid whining about stress.
A regular yoga practice is a great stress reliever, and can even help go beyond daily stress to more serious conditions like PTSD. It’s worth giving it a try!
#6- Yoga will help you find purpose
Nowadays, most men have several “acts” or phases in their life. So many men, especially in their late 30’s and 40’s are often asking the bigger questions of life.
“What is my purpose?”
“Where am I going?”
Yoga brings clarity of mind and a deep sense of purpose.
In this video with Yogi Aaron, he discusses how yoga poses can ignite purpose and clarity.
It doesn’t matter how far you can stretch. What matters is the intention you bring to the yoga pose. And the benefits of the yoga practice flow into all aspects of your life. Another reason why men should practice yoga.
If you are feeling unfocussed in your life, consider jumping into an intense 14-day yoga teacher training immersion as a way to find purpose and clarity of direction. The short and quick yoga immersions are a great beginners yoga introduction as well as a chance to disconnect and focus your energy on the more important aspects of life – YOU!
Yoga For Men and Yoga For Everyone
Push yourself out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself, man up and drag yourself to a yoga class.
Grab your guy friends and join the next yoga class you find!