It’s (not) Raining Men

YogaGuyIn almost any yoga class you will find that the men are far outnumbered by the women, if there are any men in attendance at all. Yoga is practiced by women for the most part. And taught by women as well. Browse the teaching schedule of any yoga studio and the majority of the instructors are women. I can count on one hand the number of classes I’ve taught where the men outnumbered the women.

I think there are a couple of reasons for this, and I’m not sure what order to put them in. I suppose it depends on the man. First, men are a lot less flexible than women. And somewhere along the way, Western society decided that practicing yoga was about being flexible. Men are built solid and strong. This gives them a huge advantage in poses that require strength. Chataranga is a great example. I’ve yet to have a man in my class  who couldn’t do Chataranga on his first try.  But invariably, a man will try to do Uttanasana and decide that he’s not good at yoga and he’s gone. Incidentally, I’ve never had a woman say to me “I’m not strong enough to do yoga”.

The second reason men seem to avoid yoga is a bit trickier because it gets me into gender-difference territory where people can get offended. In the most general way, women tend to be more open to emotional experiences than men. That might be nature or nurture or a combination of both. And everybody can think of several exceptions to that general rule, I get that. But for the most part, men don’t go around seeking out experiences where they can get in touch with their emotional side. I’ve had men say to me that they see yoga as far too “touchy feely” for them. As if that’s a bad thing. One can only contemplate what the world would be like if those in charge (mostly men) were in touch with their emotional side. But that’s a whole other blog topic.

So what are we women to do about this paucity of men? Changing the conversation about what yoga is and what it isn’t would help a great deal. Yoga is about balance after all. The balance between strength and flexibility is something that everybody can work on. Flexibility does you no good if you can’t hold anything. And strength does you no good if you can’t move. Changing the conversation about the touchy feely aspects of yoga would also help. Not that those things aren’t important. But they can mean different things to men. Maybe instead of “get in touch with your feminine side” it could be “be a better husband and father” or “learn to communicate with people” or “manage your stress”. Those are all benefits of yoga that don’t come across as having to give up anything masculine.

So if you’re a man, go do your practice and revel in your strength and work on your flexibility. If you’re a woman, see if you can get one of the men in your life to try yoga. They might just get in touch with something that is meaningful to them.

Categories: Yoga for Everyone

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