Yoga is for Everyone: Making Men Feel More Included in your Yoga Classes
Being one of the most ancient disciplines in the world, Yoga has always been a sort of invisible thread that followed the course of humanity’s history, reflecting the shifts in societies and cultures. It has indeed changed so much through the years that some might even argue that it has lost its original spirit.
We’re now living in a time where Yoga’s popularity is reaching an incredibly high peak, as a growing number of people are magnetically drawn by the mysterious charm of this sacred practice.
Nevertheless, our modern society has created some stigmas and misconceptions around the practice that are deeply changing the inclusive nature of yoga itself, building invisible boundaries for some individuals, especially for men.
What surprises me the most is that our society is making meaningful steps toward sex equality. Every day we see more and more men and women finally breaking down gender boundaries: men are now doing ballet and other practices once stigmatized as “girly stuff” but somehow, yoga is still far from being fully “gender-inclusive”.
Recent researches confirm in fact that women still account for 72% of all practitioners, despite yoga having an enormous range of benefits for both men and women. As a Yoga teacher, you might have noticed that yourself too: isn’t it true that the majority of your students are women?
But have you every stopped and wondered why this is the case?
Because you do have enormous power, the power of breaking down these gender biases and finally debunk these false myths on yoga.
The Western View On Yoga
The reason is that yoga, as I said, has dramatically changed with time. Especially after its arrival to the West. Interestingly enough, back in the days when it was born, yoga was originally a men-only practice.
It was only in the late 1900s when Indra Devi brought Yoga to Hollywood that the tables had turned completely. She befriended the jet-set and introduced some iconic divas such as Marilyn Monroe and Greta Garbo to this ancient practice.
Many years later, following the wave of this growing new trend, Madonna played a big role in the popularity of yoga in the west, depicting yoga as a must for a toned body. This had of course generated an enormous impact on female audiences, which then helped to shape the idea that yoga is somehow meant for women only.
So much that, even to the present day, yoga is still perceived and advertised on social media as a female-only practice. Nowadays, most men tend to neglect yoga because they’re still rooted in this misleading idea they have of it. The bitter truth behind this view is that many people who practice yoga in the West tend to bypass its deeply spiritual meaning.
They are completely unaware of the fact that yoga is a spiritual practice that shapes a way of living, rather than a mild stretching class. As a result, it is too often perceived by some as the discipline of the four Ps: a pseudo-philosophical physical practice.
Stubbornly wondering about the reason behind this blinkered view on yoga, I’ve asked some male friends why they feel so reluctant to try this practice. They all seem to agree on something: it takes too little strength and too much flexibility, which is typically seen as a feminine prerequisite. On top of it, they’ve also added that they wouldn’t feel at ease in an environment mostly dominated by women.
The teacher’s job: break down barriers and grow more awareness
To some extent, it is undeniably true that when a man walks into a yoga class he might feel a little uncomfortable, being surrounded by scented candles, relaxing music and women’s chatters.
But I believe that as a teacher, you can really do something about it and change the situation by promoting a more inclusive approach to your class. This implies the use of a more neutral language and behaviours so that no one feels left out. Also, since some men may struggle with flexibility, try to always offer alternatives when it comes to tricky, tangled asanas.
Another tip is to reach out to your male practitioners and support them as much as you can. If you have male friends who still unsure about yoga, encourage them to try attending a class, but then remember that it’s also up to you to make it worth it! Try underlining the great benefits it has on everybody but if you’re a female teacher, try to think also with a guy’s mind.
Most men are competitive by nature: let them understand that yoga can truly be an incredible challenge. Only thing is that you don’t get to challenge others, but rather yourself. Moreover, as we all know through experience, in the long run, they’re going to get a strong body and a steady mind, which could help them improving performances in other sports and life.
But let’s not forget that yoga is most importantly, a mighty tool to discover the endless potential of our minds. All that being said, it seems clear now that if you want to make the difference you can, and it costs nothing.
Because you do have enormous power, the power of breaking down these gender biases and finally debunk these false myths on yoga. You can help growing awareness on the matter, allowing our society to shed a light on a practice that is frequently misinterpreted, unveiling its infinite beauty to everyone. After all, Yoga is made for everybody and the soul, not just for some.