This post comes from our contributor FP Naomi.
While the male presence in most yoga classes has steadily risen over the years, we all have to admit, things still seem a bit…out numbered. The benefits of a yoga practice are clear and broadly known, but yet we all know men who are too scared to try it. Where does the fear come from, and how can we influence our male friends to take the leap?
Too many of us devoted yogis listen to our male counterparts complain of muscle problems, injuries, or that beer belly they can’t lose. If you know a man like the one I’m describing, you’ve probably tried to get him to a yoga class, and his response was most likely a laugh or a “hell no.” The truth behind his defiance is that he’s scared.
To delve deeper into why our men are scared of yoga, I actually convinced my own boyfriend to serve as a test subject. Documenting his feelings before and after, we took a private yoga class together. The man has never once stepped into a studio, and anytime I tried to get him to free up his back with some “cat-cows”, we were done quicker than we’d started. Admittedly, his biggest fears before class were that he wasn’t going to be flexible enough, that it was going to be painful, and that he was going to be made to do things he didn’t want to do. Other than that, his understandings of yoga – the spiritual side, etc. – were pretty spot on. Afterward, he was surprised with how good he actually was, and I must say, I was too. He felt a sense of accomplishment from what he was able to do, and was ecstatic to find how sore he felt the next day. He even went as far as to tell a friend it was “f*cking awesome,” and that he would do it again!
So there is proof that we can take a man who is scared of yoga and change his mind. I caught up with expert, Jake Panasevich, instructor of Yoga for Dudes, to hear more on how we can help surpass the fears and spread the yoga love to our better halves.
Why do you think some men are scared of yoga?
I think there are a couple reasons why men have a real fear about attending a yoga class:
1. The class will be too “preachy.” That they are going to end up in a class where they will sit around in a circle and chant to a yoga god they don’t care about. They fear teachers might offer their personal opinions about what they should and shouldn’t be thinking, eating, and doing.
2. They won’t be flexible enough!
3. It won’t be challenging enough or that they will be bored.
4. The hyper-bendy teachers won’t have the proper variations to keep them from getting hurt.
All of these fears are warranted. I’ve experienced them all myself. You have to pick the right classes. That’s why, with the right teacher, yoga classes specifically for men work!
What techniques do you use to break down barriers and get males into yoga?
I make it more practical and accessible. I make them comfortable being themselves. They don’t have to be flexible and they don’t have to chant to practice yoga. I give them proper variations for their limitations and ailments. I’m open to conversations and answering every question that they might have. I make it challenging, interesting, and fun!
What are some great poses for men?
Arm balances! Inversions. Standing poses. Men are committed. Give them something to work on, and they will get good at it.
Do you find that, in the end, men are more attracted the spiritual or physical aspects of yoga?
Men like to see real, clear results. At first, yoga makes them feel great physically. When you feel great in your body, your mind will also be clear and sharp. There’s a sense of overall wellness and health that infiltrates all arenas of life. This just happens naturally with yoga through time.
How did you first get into yoga? What were your fist impressions and what hooked you?
I was dragged to my first yoga class, kicking and screaming, by an ex-girlfriend. At first I was a bit confused and lost, but I felt amazing afterwards! I was hooked after two months of yoga! I went to class nearly every day. I lost 40 pounds, my chronic back pain subsided, my knees and joints didn’t hurt and I felt better than I ever had in my life. I wrestled for 15 years, and I never thought I would be able to find anything nearly as challenging and fulfilling. Yoga delivered challenge without an addictive, competitive mind-set.
How do you suggest that one coax their male friend into giving yoga a try? What have you heard that usually works?
Only preach to the choir! If someone doesn’t want to hear about yoga, they won’t. Also do it without sounding “preachy.” Try to encourage them and keep it positive. Give them some of the benefits that come hand in hand with yoga – it will help with pain and injuries, it’s intelligent exercise that won’t wreck your body, etc.
Thank you for your insights, Jake! If you have more specific questions that you’d like to ask Jake, be sure to leave them in the comments below.
(Last image courtesy of YogaWithJake.com)
Check out Naomi’s blog Numie Abbot!