As a male yogi, it’s not unusual for me to be in the minority in a yoga class. Even on my Yoga Teacher Training at Bristol School of Yoga, there were only two male students, amongst 14 women. Not that it bothered me – I’m there because I love practicing yoga. In fact, a reason for me becoming a yoga teacher was to inspire men of all ages to do yoga.
The tide does seem to be turning, with more men now regularly practicing yoga. The appropriately titled 2016 Yoga in America Study stated that more men are now practicing yoga than ever before. There were approximately 10 million male practitioners in 2016 up from about 4 million in 2012. Although it is great to hear this, yoga classes are still dominated by women, with over 26 million female practitioners in America. Although these statistics relate to America, these are likely to be representative of the UK market.
What is it about yoga that discourages more men from attending classes?
Men are generally not as flexible as women
Being in a class full of ‘bendy wendy’s (to coin a phrase from Ashley Russell on my teacher training) can be an intimidating experience. Particularly if you are the type of man that struggles to tie shoelaces, let alone do yoga amongst super supple women. Where yoga teachers single out men for instructions, this can be an uncomfortable experience. Men can feel as though they are being unnecessarily put in the spotlight.
Yoga is not a competitive activity
Our education system also doesn’t help. Physical education mostly focuses on competitive sports with children being conditioned to adopt a competitive mindset through a curriculum that supports this philosophy. The majority of our highest profile sports role models are men, and this is likely to inspire boys to follow in their footsteps.
Yoga can be perceived as too gentle or slow
Practicing yoga can come across as a bit soft & fluffy, particularly if the yoga teacher focuses on the spiritual aspects and tapping in to the subconscious. This is not necessarily that accessible to men, who are likely to be more interested in the physical benefits to their body and also working up a sweat when doing any physical activity.
Yoga can provide immediate benefits to beginner students
My recent yoga for cyclist classes at 73 Degrees bike shop have demonstrated success in encouraging more men to do yoga. Male practitioners were the majority, most of whom had never done yoga before in their lives. Most were very keen cyclists who’s bodies were inflexible with muscular imbalances causing aches, pains and strain on the joints.
The feedback I get from my students, especially men, is overwhelmingly positive. That sense of feeling taller, broader and physical and mental health and wellbeing. The opportunity to tune in to their body and breath through movements enables them to better understand their limitations, without too much emphasis on the subtle body.
My 6-week yoga for cyclist programme in Keynsham sold out within 24 hours – once again the majority of my students are men. Due to popular demand, I have launched a 6-week yoga for cyclists programme at Yoga Loft in central Bristol starting in October.
I am also pleased to be starting yoga for men classes in Keynsham. These are designed specifically for the male body. Further details are available at my Yoga for Men page.