Engaging Men in Practising Yoga
How do we go about engaging men in practising Yoga? There is clearly a need for more men to engage in and benefit from it. So how do we achieve it? It is apparent that more needs to be done to promote the health benefits of Yoga towards men. Be they physical, mental or spiritual.
Although it is growing in popularity, in my experience men still represent a small minority of practitioners in most classes. A certain amount of stigma surrounding it being a practice for women still exists. Despite it being developed by men for men over 1000s of years! There also seems to be an issue of practical information surrounding the benefits that men can enjoy. Although there is a wealth of Yoga information on the Internet, further promotion towards men is required into mainstream consciousness.
There are strong physical forms of Yoga Asana such as Ashtanga. Practised in a heated studio, there is also the recent phenomenon of Hot Yoga. These provide a full-body strengthening, conditioning and cardio workout and an additional challenge to the body in the heat. These stronger Yoga practices are what initially attracted me. It aided mobility, balance and recovery for martial arts and continues to complement my strength and conditioning.
Being drawn to practising these myself, stronger forms of Yoga may be more attractive to men. Particularly martial artists who require great mobility and balance. They may already be on or have an appreciation of the spiritual path of life. This may be due to the philosophy of their own disciplines.
In the 2018 Football World Cup, the England team were regularly practising Yoga, in preparation for matches and aiding recovery. Ryan Giggs, one of the most successful and longest-serving players for Manchester United is passionate about Yoga. He attributes his Yoga practice to helping heal from recurring lower back and hamstring issues. In addition to his ability to play at the highest level until his late 30s. Rugby League clubs such as have also featured on social media practising in Hot Yoga studios.
Using elite athletes who are role models to other men to extol the virtues of Yoga is one way to get the message out to men. That if they add Yoga into their health and fitness routines that they can enjoy good health, fitness and longevity. Which can continue until way into middle age and beyond. Capturing hearts and minds at a young age is essential if we are to stem the tide of men continuing to suffer.
The biggest challenge is to engage those men who are already suffering. Perhaps those who have neglected their mental and physical health and are already experiencing issues as a result. Such men may feel more comfortable in a male-oriented environment. Allowing men to lower their guard and open up to being vulnerable is key to this. Male teachers can take the lead in creating these spaces and sharing with other men through their own experience.
It will encourage men to develop a sense of inner calm and peace through slowing down and turning inward. The aim is to empower other men with the skills to develop their own Yoga practice. So that they can more positively manage their day to day stress. To cultivate and experience greater levels of inner peace and calm on and off the mat.
With more men taking up the practice this too has the potential to create more teachers. If more men can create safe and welcoming Yoga environments they can welcome people regardless of gender. This has the potential to ultimately lead to a greater balance of people practising together regardless of who they are. Breaking down further barriers and stigma particularly regarding the perception of Yoga being a ‘feminine pursuit’.
As a Yoga teacher, my goal is to engage more men in the practice. Through my own experience, I can demonstrate how it benefits me and positively transforms my life. Despite some niggles, as a 40 something man, my body is in better physical health than it has been in the last 20 years. I can train as hard as I did when I was in my youth and I am much more physically strong.
Having a greater range of movement and control of my body through Yoga has been a significant factor in this. However, it is my mindset that has been transformed beyond what I thought was possible. Once chronically stressed, aggressive and full of bubbling anger that frequently spilt out, I have found a way to quell that fire. To channel it positively and to bring about greater balance to my life. If the goal of Yoga is to achieve the unified state of Yoga a teacher should live a life of Yoga.
The way to influence others is to be the positive embodiment of what you preach. I aim to reach that goal by being a positive role model through Yoga to all men. Bringing the values and benefits of it into my own teaching will help others to navigate through the muddied waters of their minds, unwinding their tired and stressed out bodies and positively transforming their lives.