When you walk into any yoga classes, I guarantee that at least 90% of the class is women. You ever wonder why? I have been told a lot of reasons. Here are some interesting answers from guys ranging from late 20 to 60 years old:
· I don’t want to wear tight pants
· I am super inflexible. I don’t want to embarrass myself in front of all these women
· When I play sports, I want to compete and score. But you can’t score in yoga
· Yoga doesn’t change my body shape. I want to build big muscles
· Yoga doesn’t give me the outward reward of being strong and muscular
· Yoga doesn’t improve body image
· Yoga is a sissy activity
· Yoga is girly. Only weak men who cannot lift weights and shoot hoops would do yoga
Is that so? First of all, we need to look at how you define “Real Men” and “Yoga”.
What Is Real Men?
When I read the above comments, I have to laugh. One should not judge a book by its cover. Yoga encourages mindful practice and is usually done methodologically. Just because it is done slowly, it does not necessarily mean that it is easy. As a matter of fact, the slower the movements are, the more strength and efforts are required for control and execution. Even though big muscles are usually viewed as a sign of masculinity, big muscles do not exactly equate to real men. Those people who say yoga is for weak men have certainly not tried arm balancing or single leg balancing poses. I would also think that real men will spend time to understand the subject matter and are open-minded to go through with the experience before passing any judgement. More importantly, a real man is someone who can tune in with his own femininity. He is also able to accept his own shortcomings. Check out El Hormigureo's Youtube video on the real experience of how real man (the best bodybuilders in Spain) fare in yoga.
What Is Yoga?
Although the most common perception of yoga is doing meditation or stretching, yoga can be many things. Don’t forget the long history of yoga. It has many facets – from physical exercises, philosophy, meditation, breathing practice to life style discipline. Even if we perceive yoga as a form of physical exercise only, there are many forms of practice – Hatha yoga, Vinyasa yoga, Ashtanga yoga, Yin yoga, Bikram Yoga, just naming a few. While different yoga practice yields different benefits from:
building strength (lean muscles)
increasing flexibility (better range of movements) to
improving stamina (improved performance)
all has two things in common – mindfulness and breathing practice. Technically speaking, it doesn’t matter so much as to what you do. As long as you can focus your mind and do your thing mindfully, you are doing yoga.
Who Does Yoga?
Yoga has been around for more than 5000 years. It continues to gain popularity in recent years. According to the International Yoga Federation, there are about 300 million people globally who practice yoga! In the US alone, it was estimated that there were about 55 million yoga practitioners in 2020 (1). Out of which, 15.4 million are men. That includes a fair number of top athletes in NBA and NFL teams (2). I certainly trust that they are “real men” enough.
Yoga not only improves flexibility and strength, it also calms and re-focuses the mind. The benefits of yoga have been proven and recognized by millions of people over the years. When you practise yoga, it doesn't mean that you can't do other sports or other exercises. It is a discipline that complements your life style. If you have yet to try yoga, I certainly hope you are man enough to give it a go and join the millions of people who reap the benefits of yoga. Namaste!
* Title inspired by the book Real Men Don't Eat Quiche