In the last couple of decades, the West has inherited those practices from the East highly regarded as the markers for true strength, relaxation and longevity—yoga.
In response, yoga studios have gradually filled with westerners eager for something which our culture doesn’t seem to provide.
There are many different types of yoga to choose from, healing both body and mind. On a physical level, dynamic classes get your heart rate up and alignment focused classes tend to be more for relaxation. However on the whole, whichever class you choose, the intention is to always calm the mind and ease the soul.
Here, summarised, are eight great reasons why anyone (man or woman) should practice yoga:
4) Injury recovery
6) Better Sex Life
7) Deeper sense of one’s own awareness and consciousness i.e. more happy
8) Stronger Focused Attention—better work ethic
Basically, yoga has an array of benefits for every aspect of one’s life, so you’d expect every man and woman on the planet to at least give it a go.
Why then have the majority of men in particular still not jumped onto the yoga parade?!
Yoga puts us more in touch with our bodies, and arguably it’s this increased sense of “sensitivity” which men have shied away from. So as yoga became a female dominated discipline, marketers had the “yoga image” geared toward women.
Now, having worked at many yoga studios, I can vouch for some of the most common male excuses for avoiding a yoga class. Along with their actual meanings and my usual responses:
1) “Yoga isn’t enough of a work out.” (I may not be as flexible/strong as most of the women going in to the class.)
Go do an Ashtanga or Dharma Yoga class and tell me that wasn’t a work out.
2) “Yoga looks really hard.” (I don’t want to exercise at all, let alone do yoga.)
Try out the more relaxing classes first and work your way up to better strength.
3) “There aren’t any other men doing it.” (I feel threatened in a female dominated environment.)
Exactly—you’ll get to be the only man in a room full of girls working out…I don’t see the issue here?
4) “The chanting, humming and general hippie stuff is weird.” (I’ve been brain washed by the media, and Hollywood, to believe that involving myself in anything esoteric will isolate me from my peers.)
Here’s a whole list of yoga classes which won’t involve that, and soon, after feeling the benefits, you’ll be singing away!
5) “Isn’t yoga for girls?!” (The image of yoga has been portrayed as feminine and I’ve chosen to give my power away to marketers, rather than making rational choices for myself.)
Aren’t you reading the news? Countless successful male athletes have cited yoga as being the deciding factor for their success, including Shaquille O’Neil and the New Zealand International Ruby Team. In fact there’s no longer a big athlete in site not doing yoga these days to attain that winning edge.
Upon writing this, I realise that there are certainly a number of men who have found their own equivalents to yoga.
Be it swimming, hiking or walking in nature, if you’ve found a practice which can give you the same benefits which yoga can, I’m all for that. The physical practice of yoga isn’t necessarily a must, rather its benefits are, so if it can be found elsewhere that’s great.
Likewise, I mustn’t disregard the affect marketing can have on self-esteem. There are definitely a large percentage of men who would genuinely like to do yoga, but see its physical feats as unattainable. Indeed, men may have shied away from an increased sensitivity because society has told them to do so. Unfortunately, the “be a man” image often suppresses vulnerability instead of celebrating it.
“The mass of men lead quiet lives of desperation.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
So perhaps the bigger issue here isn’t the fact that men don’t want to do yoga, it’s that they don’t feel supported in doing so. In fact, the more we can create a sense of community with one another, the more welcoming every man would feel at a yoga class, regardless of their physical or social backgrounds.
The one reason why I care:
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” ~ Gandhi
The people who make real changes to humanity are those who live by the core values which they wish to see in others. There’s no use complaining about the unfriendly people on the train; if you want to see a change start being friendlier yourself.
Indeed, this article wasn’t intended to be a rant, rather a marker for change.
You see, our societies have been brought up on a system largely dominated by a few individuals, and their quests for power. Thus far, the economy goes through terrible periods of recession, the topsoil is being ruined, greenhouse gases are wreaking havoc, our water is polluted, our food is contaminated, our drugs are unnatural, our militaries are killing one another, our media scares us and our movie screens make us doubt ourselves.
We’re being watched, probed and kept in line for the fortunes of a few power hungry individuals.
Fear not! There is now a movement away from this archaic way of living.
This movement has taken on many different forms, from farmers markets to electric cars, and people are starting to care. We care about our environment, we care about our food and our water, we give, we share and we appreciate everything which we’ve been given. Most of all we care about ourselves and the effect which we’re having on one another. People are happier, more in touch and are becoming stress free.
So you see the reason why I care is because I wish to see a world where any man can openly do a practice as beneficial to him as yoga, and be comfortable in doing so.
And I’ve chosen to be that change which I wish to see in others.
Author: Jonty Hikmet
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Author’s Own