Men and Yoga


There were twenty of us in my yoga teacher training in Thailand. Three were men. I remember overhearing one girl say, "Oh, I thought women were only into yoga. What are these men doing here?" Unfortunately, it's not an uncommon ratio nor thought. So, what's the deal? Why is this? 

Part of me wonders if it's the way yoga is marketed in the states. I enter "yoga" in a google image search and of thirty-two images, only ONE is of a man (ok we also have one dog and one picture of rocks). Regardless, all the rest are skinny, flexible women- even the two pictures of sketched poses! Are these images of super flexible women intimidating to men? Or does it send the message that only women (and a dog and stack of rocks) should be in a yoga class?

Maybe it's just that yoga is so far from the rough and tumble sports that dominate our society like football, hockey, baseball and basketball- sports in which the objective is to be faster and better and ultimately beat your opponent. Unless you count your ego, which really shouldn't be there in the first place, there's no opponent in yoga. There's no where to go except inward. What does this mean to a man who have been groomed to compete since t-ball? Can he see the value in "going inward"? (Incidentally, there are many athletes who credit yoga in helping their performance: Lebron James, Tim Thomas, Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Devil Rays Baseball team.)

Here are the facts: 

Yoga started in India, over 5,000 years ago. By men. 

Until the 1900's, women weren't allowed to practice yoga.

Even now, in India, there are more men than women in yoga classes. (And the women are usually foreigners.)

Last week, I taught a yoga class on Neptune Beach in Jacksonville. I had ten students- three were men (one was my husband, one came with his wife, and one came on his own accord). So maybe the ratios are getting better? I hope so, because everyone could benefit from yoga.