More Men Finally Turning On To Benefits Of Yoga

More Men Finally Turning On To Benefits Of Yoga

Despite the physical demands of yoga, the muscle-challenging poses and the sweat-inducing movements, the yoga studio is still pretty much no-man’s land.

A recent survey found that women make up the vast majority of yoga participants (about 77 percent), even though men are some of the most famous and popular instructors today and the fact that men comprise many of the originators of the various forms of yoga.

So where are the men in the studio?  That is a question that many yoga instructors and studios are trying to answer as they try to reach out to a market that, for all intents and purposes, remains relatively untapped.

While there are many theories about why men in general seem to shy away from yoga, a few ideas seem to be pretty common.  Many experts and yoga enthusiasts point to the competitive nature in men and the belief that many men don’t find yoga challenging enough for the physical goals they wish to accomplish.  And many men flat out state that yoga isn’t “rugged” enough, despite the fact that a pose like the Side Crane requires a great deal of strength and concentration.

In a recent magazine article, instructors said that men are a bit intimidated by a yoga studio full of women and perhaps soft music and not one piece of weight lifting equipment in the place.  And if there is a male instructor, his calm, sensitive demeanor is in sharp contract to the “feel the burn” approach of a personal trainer he may be used to.  One yoga instructor said that men come to the studio looking for a challenge immediately.

Yoga experts say there are a number of reasons why many men have come to consider yoga a woman’s conditioning program, beginning with the arrival of female yoga instructor Indra Devi to the U.S. in the 1940s and who was trumpeted by cosmetic legend Elizabeth Arden.  Later, yoga teacher Richard Hittleman became a celebrity with his books and television show – but his poses were always demonstrated by women.  In the 1970s, the PBS yoga show, “Lilias, Yoga and You” featured instructor Lilias Folan and aired in the afternoon in many markets, a time of day when the home was the domain of the stay-at-home mom.  Although more athletic forms of yoga developed later, such as Power Yoga, the deep involvement of woman in the practice solidified the idea of yoga as a woman’s exercise in the minds of many men.

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Yoga experts also say the need for men to have concrete exercise results may also be a reason why they refrain from yoga.  Through weight training, many men can see a definite change in their bodies, such as more muscle mass or muscle definition.  But with yoga, many of the most important changes are internal, mental and emotional benefits that maybe harder to gauge for a person taught to measure success by wins and losses.

As one instructor stated, instead of focusing on quieting his mind or relaxing, men may build even more tension by focusing on performing a pose perfectly (in response to their competitive streak) and not be satisfied until they do, even if it’s a move recommended for an advanced student and they’re in their first class.  By focusing on accomplishments and perfection, the instructor said, men miss out on the one of the greatest benefits of yoga.

The fear of failure in many men, some yoga instructors say, is also one of the reasons they stay away from the studio.  Since most men’s idea of exercise consists of lifting weights or calisthenics that require the body to move in such a rigid motion, they often lack the flexibility that yoga demands.  Even beginning male students, the experts say, give up after a few sessions because they fear “failure” at not being able to perform the moves (without realizing that their inflexibility may be the biggest reason they should participate in yoga).

Yoga instructors say it may help to inform many men that some of today’s top athletic stars are yoga fans who use the practice to help them perform.  Superstars such as NBA star Shaquille O’Neal, former NFL star Jon Kitna and pitcher Barry Zito, as well as entire teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Cubs, offer yoga to their athletes to counteract the rough treatment they receive on the field.

Yoga instructors say that men who begin yoga training must learn to not think of yoga as a “success or failure” undertaking.  The instructors say that yoga is not concerned with perfection of pose or rating someone based on whether they can perform a backbend on their first day in class.  Yoga, they stress, is a gradual process where the student comes to acknowledge the mind-body connection.  When placed in the right perspective with realistic goals, each yoga session can be considered a “success”.

Yoga instructors suggest that men who are attending their first yoga session take time to introduce themselves to the teacher and discuss the class structure.  Men should also accept and admit (to the instructor and to themselves) that they harbor some anxiety about the yoga class.  Opening the lines of communication between the instructor and the student may go a long way toward erasing any fears men may have of not being able to meet some self-created standard.

Another option yoga instructors may want to consider, the experts say, is occasionally conducting a men’s-only yoga session where men can be themselves.  Yoga instructors who have tried this say that it is, of course, a different atmosphere than co-ed or women-only sessions – off-color jobs are not unheard of.  But arranging such classes can be a big help in teaching men to relax in the studio and, in turn, relax with the idea of yoga.

Finally, men should be willing to let themselves go mentally in a yoga class.  Some of the most powerful men in business have credited yoga with letting them clear their heads of the day-to-day stresses and mental strain of the workday.  And not only does yoga let them get rid of old, troublesome thoughts, it allows new thoughts to come in.  indeed, many top executives have claimed that some of their most successful ideas have come while meditating during yoga.

It may be some time before the numbers of men in yoga equal that of women.  But by embracing a new attitude, men can reap the major benefits, both physical and mental, that yoga has to offer.

Linda Adams really loves all things that have to do with health.

One of the very best yoga blogs Linda has found is Yoga Instructors Kamloops, which is a distinctive combination of yoga and exercise.

You can also have a look at Yoga can be a Great Benefit to Athletes when added to Training regarding yoga and health related activities.


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