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Where Are All the Men in Yoga?

During the nearly 8 years that I have been teaching yoga, male students have always been a minority in my classes. There are always men that attend for a few weeks and then stop suddenly. They say they find the practice challenging and will often comment afterwards that they feel ‘rubbish at yoga’ compared with the others (women) in the class. They haven’t understood that you cannot actually be rubbish at yoga. It is a practice and it’s really not about the pose.

There are a handful of men who have continued and have found that developing a yoga practice has been transformative. I know because they have told me. And I can see how much they enjoy coming to classes, either in a group or privately. Plus, they can sleep better, run better, cycle harder, relax more easily, cope with stress better. They no longer have lower back pain or other aches and pains and they can probably do lots of other ‘activities’ better too - but they haven’t shared this with me! They basically feel good - from the inside out. As one of my regulars told me, "finding time to do Yoga allows me to be a better father, husband and colleague"....I have shared his full quote below.

Common male misconceptions about yoga

So, given that yoga benefits everyone and every body, why is it that the men happy to roll out their yoga mats are still in a minority? Based on my own personal experiences and the feedback I have from men joining my classes, here’s what I have learned about male misconceptions of yoga:

It’s a female pursuit

Yoga is seen as a women’s realm, it’s not a ‘man thing’. The advertising industry is doing a fantastic job of perpetuating this myth, with its emphasis on fancy leggings, mats and yoga studio promotions that generally only depict women at yoga classes.

It’s not physically challenging

There is a perception that yoga is a gentle, less rigorous form of exercise that doesn’t appeal to men who want intense workouts. That may be true to a degree for some styles of yoga. Certainly not all yoga classes will be physically challenging but there are plenty of practices that are. Some men attending my vinyasa yoga classes bring towels because they sweat profusely and they tell me the sessions were tough. They enjoy that. And there are plenty of other much more physically challenging styles to try too.

Yoga brings more variety to an existing training programme. Simply building up muscle mass in the gym and repeating the same movement patterns day after day and year after year, from only running or cycling for instance, just adds to a body’s tightness and risk of injury.

It's awkward

Some men feel a bit uncomfortable attending classes with a ‘bunch of women’ and feel self-conscious about being in a minority. They can also find it difficult to relax with other people they don’t know. When I see men in classes for the first time, they can find the breathing practices slightly ‘weird’ and tend to be restless. Some even get the giggles. As the weeks progress this disappears. They settle down on their mats quickly and enjoy the time and space they are giving to themselves.

I’m too inflexible

Lifestyle pays an important part here but men and women’s bodies are obviously very different. A lot of women tend to naturally be more open in the hips, but statistics show they are also likely to be exercising more regularly than their partners. Flexibility comes with practice and over time, men develop much greater ease and range of movement through yoga.

Men are usually also physically much stronger and may be able to do more of the weight bearing postures in yoga from the outset, whereas some women will need to develop this strength over time. But strength in yoga is also about learning core engagement. A lot of the balancing postures that are weight bearing like crow pose and headstand require advanced core engagement techniques (known as udiyana bhanda) rather than basic upper body strength. You will learn this too when you practice yoga!

Overall, yoga can offer men so many benefits, including the obvious increased flexibility, strength, stress relief, and improved mental focus and professional performance. Here is a comment from one of the men that has been coming for a one-to-one session.

What am I offering to help men interested in yoga?

To counter these negative perceptions and encourage more men to enjoy yoga, I have decided to recruit a group of willing beginners and launch a new Yoga For Men programme. I will be offering them weekly small group classes and checking in with them to see how they get on over time. They will be asked to complete a wellbeing questionnaire before they begin the course and at intervals during the programme to measure the outcomes and benefits. I think they will find the whole experience transformative, but we will have to see what they say. I will report back on the findings.

So, if you know a man that would benefit from practicing yoga, please share this article with them and invite them to get in touch with me. I am planning these classes now and will be launching the group very soon, offering a combination of in person and online attendance. You can register interest for more information by getting in touch through my website:

Further reading

If you are still unconvinced about the benefits of yoga for men, you might be interested in this article published in Yoga Journal. Many world-renowned yoga teachers are quoted, commenting on the issue and they share many of my own sentiments.

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