The ancient but trendy practice isn’t just for women 

Yoga, a system of movement, breathwork and mindfulness, offers countless benefits and has earned worldwide popularity. But yoga teachers find themselves repeatedly fielding the same question: “Why don’t more men take yoga classes?”

A few men do practice yoga, but they’re a small minority in group classes. Instead, they often prefer private lessons. Guys interested in yoga often ask how many one-on-one lessons it will take before they’re ready for a group class. New female students usually just ask when and where the class is held. That raises questions: What’s preventing guys from taking group classes, and what tips can help them along?

The time had come to investigate with a short survey and an unscientifically small sample of men who ranged from young professionals to retirees. The men unanimously acknowledged the positive health benefits of yoga. A graphic designer said he knew yoga would put more glide in his golf swing. A firefighter referred to yoga as preventative medicine and predicted it could ease his hypertension. A weightlifter admitted yoga would help him gain flexibility in his squats. Yet, despite all the positive talk, only one in this sample of 10 had a regular yoga practice.

So there it was. Only 10% were active yoga practitioners, and 90% said they don’t practice regularly or even occasionally. Why is this so?

Well, many agree that it’s the way yoga is marketed in the West. The culture created around yoga here is geared pretty much to women. In the media, the yoga fitness industry clings to the stereotype of a young, slender, fit woman. That’s led women to share their thoughts about poses and retreats. It’s part of the feminization of yoga.

In the informal survey, men said they felt there were too many women in yoga classes. One felt that he could not perform yoga as well as the women, so he preferred not to go to classes. Another said the sweaty females in sportswear were too provocative and made him uncomfortable. Ninety percent of the men just refused to go to yoga classes because they felt out of place. So let’s address that.

Try these tips to feel comfortable in class:

  1. Take a spot on the outer periphery of the class and toward the center of the room. Don’t take a positioin in the front of the class or the back.

2. When there’s a need to look at the other students to see the finer points of a pose, focus on their hands or feet. 

3. Anyone prone to sweat heavily should bring two towels, a change of clothes and a bottle of water.

4. Bring a mat or call ahead and ask if the studio rents them out.

5. For “safe” yoga, try Iyenga classes that use blocks and straps to help properly align the body. Seek teachers trained to conduct classes at a slower pace to learn without the rush.

With those precautions, any man can assume his rightful place in the world of yoga. After all, yoga has a rich tradtion of male guru figures in Asia. Think saffron robes, beads and long beards. The wisdom those teachers shared wasn’t just for women. It was for everyone. 

Here’s how to start practicing yoga.

Lissette Caballero teaches pilates, yoga and breathwork in Miami. Follow or message her on Instagram @yogitraveladdict