Men’s Attitudes to Yoga

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Men’s Attitudes to Yoga

What are men’s attitudes to Yoga? Many men pursue competitive sports, from rugby to martial arts. Men have evolved to be competitive, driven by nature. In my experience, this is what pushes us to the extreme in physical pursuits. Male bravado too plays a big role in this. It is not considered macho to pursue more gentler forms of non-competitive exercise, let alone for us to come to stillness, turn within and deal with our emotions in a positive way. However, the most influential and healthiest male role models in my life all do Yoga and they all espouse the benefits of it.

What are men’s attitudes to the practice of Yoga? I carried out a survey on this topic and the results were intriguing. Of 104 respondents most men were in the age brackets, 25-34, 35-44 and 45-54.
Only 33% of those respondents said they practised Yoga currently while 66% did not. Of the 66% who did not practice Yoga, 60% had considered taking it up as a practice. This could suggest that there are growing numbers of men who are becoming interested.

Perhaps the most surprising statistic for the question “What would encourage you to consider taking up a Yoga practice?” was that most men wanted to understand Yoga and its benefits. The second most popular response was that they wanted more local classes. This was closely followed by more classes themed towards men’s health. Perhaps most surprisingly, was that more male teachers and more men in classes scored the fewest responses.

Could it be that the common misconception that Yoga is a feminine pursuit for women isn’t as prevalent is it seems? Certainly, some men still have this perception, when responding to “What are your thoughts and perceptions of Yoga?” some answered:

  • “Good for flexibility and toning. But seen as a woman’s exercise”
  •  “It is mainly for women”
  •  “Exclusive ladies exercise group based on flexibility not really suited for larger men.”
  •  “Female oriented”
  •  “It’s a thing middle-aged women do”

Yoga in the media is still very much marketed towards women and this contributes to the perception. As a result, some stigma surrounds it not being a pursuit for men. This answer though succinctly captures the change that can happen when one becomes open to it:

  • “Used to think it was a female-only/not masculine form of exercise. Perception has changed though on the few benefits I know about – would be great if I knew more”

They also make a pertinent point, wanting to know more about the benefits. There is a plethora of information available, but it can be difficult to sift through the number of resources out there, some of which make wild and outlandish claims about the benefits of Yoga that benefit no one. There is also the ‘Instagram perfect’ postures that for most are unachievable and therefore create a perception that Yoga is not accessible for them.

When asking the men who already practised Yoga “How do you think more men could be encouraged to take up a Yoga practice?”, it presented some interesting correlations. Understanding more about Yoga and its benefits again scored highest with 69% of the responses. Classes themed toward’s men’s health scored second highest with 44% of responses. More male teachers proved to be a much more popular choice with 34% of responses, similarly with more men taking up the practice with 53% of responses.

However, this answer truly resonates with my own journey into Yoga:

  •  “I believe yoga to be for everyone, all genders all ages all body shapes. Yoga works in a positive way to help mind body and spirit. I first started yoga because of a physical injury, but before long other changes began to emerge. I believe that any way in to yoga, either through traditional practice or more modern variations will give the practitioner a taste and hunger for more.”

Many years of ‘seeking’ to be the best version of myself eventually led me to Yoga. I was first recommended Yoga to help correct poor posture which led to severe back pain in my late 20s. Despite being interested there were never any classes local to me that I could get to. DVDs proved not to be motivating and I continued to lift weights before taking up Muay Thai Boxing aged 30.

In 2013 a local Hot Yoga Studio opened. I was drawn to the heat and the intensity of the workout it gave me and I became a regular member of their Sunday morning class. Sunday morning practice helped me recover from training, heal poor posture and injury and increased flexibility. What I also found was that it became a perfect way to let go of the week that had just passed and to prepare me for the week to come.

It was during a period between 2014 and 2016 that I went through some personally very turbulent but ultimately transformative times where my Yoga journey began to deepen. I went from practising the strong, hot Yoga to exploring Hatha, Vinyasa Flow, Yin, Restorative and Kundalini. My Yoga mat became a sanctuary from the madness that I was going through in my career and as a young father, having had my life turned upside down.

I had been searching for something the whole time on this journey through darkness and that was to find a sense of inner peace and calm, particularly in the face of adversity. Yoga had become the pathway to that place where I could find a sense of clarity. I was able to make peace with my past, stop worrying about the future and become more present and aware of my truest essence. The sense of inner peace and calm that Yoga has brought has been life-changing. It is a practice that can be done literally anywhere at any time of day with as much or as little effort as is necessary at that moment.

David Balfe is a qualified Yoga teacher with Yogacampus and founder of Dragn Yoga and Well Being.

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