In 2003, Newsweek used the headline "Real men do yoga" for a feature article that discussed how American men are "starting to hit the mats."
Now, eight years later, I would say they are still just starting to adopt yoga. Far as I can tell, yoga for men has not been an easy sell. I often run into men who, when they learn I am a yoga instructor, say, "I should probably start doing yoga. I hear it is good for stress and stretching."
With a captive audience, I extoll all the benefits of yoga — how it is known to reduce high blood pressure and high cholesterol, how it keeps the spine and all the joints flexible, that it helps prevent back injuries by building core strength, improves breathing and brings the entire body into balance.
I continue on ... until I see the telltale distracted look in their eyes and know that I am speaking to deaf ears. I still try to get in my final closing line: "Yoga is a complete system for self-improvement, for the body the mind, the emotions and the spirit."
"So, why don't you learn yoga?" I ask.
I am not surprised when men, and some women, say as their primary excuse, "I am too busy; I have no time."
This response amuses me and makes me a little sad. With all of the many hours in the week, there is not one or two you can find to release the stress and heal your body? This to me is really unfortunate, and it does speak to getting one's priorities in line. No time to take better care of myself is really a lame excuse.
Another excuse is: "I can't fit it into my schedule. Classes are offered when I can't get to them." Or "I'm too tired at night after work, and weekends are reserved for the family." I usually suggest, at this point, that they might take a few private classes, and in this way they can check out whether yoga works for them. It is true that private classes may be more expensive, but they could be cost-effective in the long run. A series of private yoga sessions, set up at a time that works for you, will teach you ways to stretch and release the stress, and they often cost less than a massage. You will come away feeling just as good as someone else manipulating your body and soothing your mind. Once the techniques are learned, you can, if you are dedicated, have a home practice.
Another comment I often hear is, "I've tried classes and they are full of women. I don't feel comfortable being the only guy."
I can understand this, and sometimes it is true that there are one or two men in a room full of women; however, as more men adopt the practice, this is changing.
In truth, I have utmost respect for any man willing and able to be way outnumbered by females. It does require a man to drop his competitive nature and just do the best he can. Many men simply because of body structure or over-developed, tight muscles, may not have the flexibility to match that of the women. But with time and practice, much more flexibility in the joints will be the result.
Sometimes, I hear, "There's so much yoga out there. It's too overwhelming, and I don't know where to go."
This is true. There is an abundance of yoga classes being offered in every town. They are in the gyms, the Y, adult education, churches and, of course, yoga studios.
Learning at a studio can guarantee you that the teacher is well-trained and experienced. If you are looking for something athletic, certain styles encourage power and stamina. If you are looking for something gentle and soothing, those classes can also be found. You might have to do some research before choosing where it is you want to go.
If you belong to a health club, there are many weekly yoga classes for you to explore. As someone new to yoga, you might be better served to find a series of beginners classes at a yoga studio and start there. Once you learn the basics, you can pretty much join any ongoing class.
If all of the above has not been convincing enough to get the men starting yoga, I recall something my eldest, single son said when visiting my yoga studio.
"Mom, this is the best-kept secret about where all the beautiful women are hanging out. They're doing yoga."
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Angelena Craig of Newburyport is the director of The New Aging Movement and a professional-level yoga instructor. Visit her website at www.thenewagingmovement.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.