Why do men practice yoga less than women? Why do more men get injured more often and more seriously than women? I reflected back on the yoga classes I have taken and had to admit there were actually very few men in attendance. I was so involved in my own practice that I never really noticed how the men were doing. It made me wonder, would men come to my class? Would I need to teach them differently? How would l encourage more men to practice yoga? I realized I had to take this to the
streets and get the answer right from the source – men. I set out on my search for answers through social media to ask men the following questions:
Have you ever practiced yoga?
If no, what is stopping you?
If yes, how long have you practiced?
Did you practice yoga? If so, why did you stop?
Have you been injured in a yoga practice? What caused your injury?
The men I polled ranged from ages 21 to 65. They came from all walks of life, including: corporate leaders, professional and recreational athletes, mountaineers who have climbed Mt. Everest, body builders, labourers, actors, producers, authors, police, pilots, coaches, teachers, and office workers.
As I reviewed the responses, I was surprised to find the same objections came up again and again no matter what age, occupation, or fitness level the men were.
The most common responses were:
- I am not flexible enough for yoga.
- It is not competitive enough.
- I would rather do a team sport.
- It is not social enough.
- I like the comradery in team sports.
- It is just stretching.
- I am just not comfortable in that environment.
- I am not wearing yoga wear.
- I would rather have a hard work out which allows me to sweat out my stress.
- I am looking for speed and strength.
- It is too soft and feminine, or ‘what women do’.
- I would rather spend money on the gym as it provides more options and interaction.
- The classes were too intense and not fun.
- It makes me feel too vulnerable.
- It is too humbling and humiliating.
- It is too slow moving and provides less gratification than other fitness activities.
- It is not a workout as there is no perceived goal or outcome.
- I found it too hard to let go of my ego.
I received many responses from men who had been injured in a yoga practice. They all knew they had pushed themselves too hard as their competitive nature got the best of them. They felt they had to keep up with everyone in the class even though they were finding it difficult to achieve a pose. Their drive to exceed kept kicking in and the mantra “no pain, no gain” took over.
Interestingly, I did find a few men who knew the benefits of yoga. However, they also knew that they would push themselves too hard in a regular class setting so they chose instead to practice yoga at home using YouTube or a DVD. These men were surprised to discover that the benefits of yoga stretched beyond “just stretching their muscles”. They were surprised by how calm it made them feel.
Ones I had gathered all the data for this male perspective on yoga, I decided to kick it up a notch. I sent a questionnaire out to both male and female professionals to see if they could give me insight as to why males felt this way. I wanted to get a broad knowledge base so I included massage therapists, naturopaths, chiropractors, teachers, fitness trainers, acupuncturists, professional coaches, and yoga teachers of all types of yoga. They also all provided me with similar feedback:
- Men are physiologically less flexible.
- Men’s muscles are different and more bound.
- Men have a tendency to push beyond their current capabilities.
- Men tend to have more difficulty attuning to the subtle shifts in their body.
- Men like to use strength instead of technique.
- Men tend to want physical exercise, instead of stretching or information about yoga philosophy.
- Men want interaction instead of solitude.
- Men want a challenge instead of relaxing during a workout.
- Men have more muscle mass which creates more risk for injury when they pushed too hard.
- Many men lack the realization that yoga is a skill that needs practice and proper form.
- Many men find it intimidating.
- Many men find it brings out their competitive nature.
A large portion of the men I talked to would never look at yoga as part of their regular fitness routine; however I still had many that said they would consider it. Using their feedback, I designed a program to meet their needs and that they all said they would be willing to try. This program consists of the following:
- A six week preregistered class where sweats were worn and “normal” music was on the play list.
- There would be no more than ten poses that were broken down in a fun and easy way.
- It was important that these poses were taught by a female instructor who had an understanding of the male body and ego.
- Part of the class would need to be instructional to reveal the benefits of yoga and how to integrate yoga into their regular fitness practice.
The bottom line was the men wanted a safe environment that was fun and interactive. They also wanted a preregistered class for people at the same level where they could learn and go at a pace that allowed them to work with their body. Yoga is slowly working its way into male fitness and sport routines as pro-athletes and teams endorse yoga into their regimes. A google search will show you thousands of yoga articles, workouts, and male workout gear. In attracting clients, yoga teachers are now using words like speed, power, endurance, strength, balance and full body workouts. Over time I feel yoga will rebrand its way into men’s fitness and men will redefine methods of how to create a connection to body, mind and spirit.
Author: Carolyn Rioux
Editor: Laura Phelps