If you stepped into a yoga studio today, what would you see? Probably a group of women, moving in unison to the instructor’s directions, engaging in various yoga poses. This is quite typical; it seems that a higher percentage of women are attending yoga classes in studios, gyms, community centers, and even at home taking online classes. Where are the men? Do men do yoga, too?
Yes, they do. However, the women often outnumber the guys that attend classes these days. That wasn’t always the case though. There was a time when only men practiced yoga. That’s right! Only men and boys were subject to yogic philosophy and physical practice. What changed?
Yoga’s male origins
The physical practice of yoga (called asana) was introduced into the timeline of yoga about 3,000 years ago. The intention was for elders to teach young men about the ways to live a healthy and fulfilling life. They were taught about making intelligent decisions for themselves, how to develop mentally strong minds and bodies, and to lead an enlightened path toward the Divine. These were the elements needed in life to be a strong man. This was typically done as one-on-one study; much like a tutor. A teacher would guide the student in yoga poses and sequences to encourage physical strength and flexibility. This would translate into being mentally and emotionally strong men as they matured.
Why was this so important? In order to succeed in life, boys and men needed to clear their minds of distracting and unhealthy beliefs. These distractions would act as roadblocks toward sociological success. On a physical level, yoga led to physically strong bodies. When one was physically fit, it helped to ward off illness and disease. Further, yoga lessons allowed these young students to be more aware of and manage their emotions. They would be able to identify the things that triggered negative thinking, to acknowledge them, and to make wise choices in order to change their thoughts and behavior.
With this new sense of self-awareness, men were more capable in society. They were more aware and respectful of their fellow human being. They were more likely to show kindness, generosity, and love. If these things were learned and practiced as a young boy, they would have highly successful and meaningful lives.
Don’t these seem like qualities and traits any man would want to possess today? Of course. So, why aren’t more men attending yoga classes to develop these attributes? One reason for the gender shift in the yoga practice in this modern era of yoga is due to the evolution of the fitness craze.
Rise in the west
When aerobic dance classes and Jazzercize was making it’s debut in western culture, it appealed to women and they flocked to these classes. And as yoga was still making a quieter introduction in the west, it, too, was attracting more women. Yoga was being offered as group-style classes in gyms and the captive audience were the women already attending aerobics classes. Therefore, yoga became associated with something that only women did (with just a handful of men). This perspective, though, needs to change.
So, how can we encourage guys to step into the yoga studio for the first time? Classes need to be appealing to the average guy. One way to do that is to sell the physical aspect of yoga to them. If your fellow dude is an athlete, gym rat, or marathon runner, suggest that yoga is only going to make them more fit, stronger, and faster.
Treat yoga like a challenge. Some men think that yoga is “wimpy” or easy. Invite your male buddy to a Power Yoga class and let them experience the engaging yoga “workout.” They will be amazed at the endurance needed to get through the session. They may get hooked on that feeling and continue going to class.
Does your guy want to lose a few pounds, is mostly stationary, or has a desk-bound office job? They probably have complained about how stiff they are and that their back is always sore. Invite them to a yoga class. How about the guys that need a little emotional balance in their lives and the ones that could learn how to relate to their colleagues, friends, and partners a little better. Yep…yoga would be ideal.
There are many great benefits to having a regular yoga practice. Women are certainly reaping the benefits. It’s about time that guys step up and return to something that men did all along. Reclaim, enhance, and further develop their masculine being. Experience an inner power and potential they didn’t know existed under all those other layers. Let yoga reveal the man’s true sense of self to live a fulfilling life.