Everyone knows it’s mainly women in the U.S. that do yoga. In fact, the Washington Post reported that only 18% of the 20.4 million people in the U.S. who do yoga are men. Traditional yoga, as it was practiced in India, was mainly done by men.
The reasons offered include the perception among men that it’s a softer impact exercise, not enough of a work out, too “touchy-feely”, or that they’re just not open-minded enough.
These may be true, but having done yoga for almost 10 years, with very traditional and not so traditional teachers alike, and observing the perplexing and often comical transformation of traditional yoga into “modern yoga” here are what I think are the three actual reasons why men tend to avoid modern yoga.
1. It’s Hard to Figure Out What Class to go to
The greatness of capitalism is that it gives us a variety of goods and services to choose from, at low prices. Unfortunately, it’s managed to take more traditional forms of yoga and spawn a multitude of different styles, all involving a play on the words ‘Yoga’, ‘Hot’, ‘Power’ , ‘Vinyasa’, and more recently ‘Core’. Here is a no-where-near comprehensive list of classes I’ve found at various studios:
Hot Power Yoga
Hot Power Vinyasa
Vinyasa Flow Yoga
Hot Power Vinyasa Flow
Core Power Yoga
Power Core Vinyasa
My guess is that men probably go with the class they feel least awkward repeating to a buddy later that night (that is, if they choose one at all).
Men might also get a little confused by the off-shoots of traditional yoga, like Aerial Yoga or “Antigravity Yoga”, which involves “cacooning”:
I’m sure a lot of men would kind of get freaked out by this. So would moths and butterflies.
There are also classes that take yoga and combine it with barre, tribal dance, or Pilates. My favorite is “Power Yogalates”, which for the longest time I thought was an energizing yogurt-based smoothie.
It’s no wonder that men, after trying to make sense of all this, may be compelled to just say screw it and hit the gym.
2. Finding Yoga Gear will not Bring One Peace
Capitalism has also brought yogic attire a long, long way from the venerable loin cloth. As a result, figuring out what to wear for a class can be daunting and expensive.
Take for example, Lululemon’s $68.00 “anti-gravity” shorts for men:
These have been cleverly named for easy marketing to yoga-averse men. I think the reasoning is that men might just do yoga if the shorts they’re wearing sound like they’re engineered by NASA. This is also Lululemon’s way of helping you on your yogic journey of letting go, i.e., by letting go of your cash.
A guy might also come across these dual purpose, slim yoga pants/ice silk pajama pants:
You can wear them to yoga and to bed.…Personally, I wouldn’t be caught dead in a yoga studio or even in my own bedroom (alone) in these.
This is part of a growing trend in yoga to market and sell more sexy “tantric” pants, e.g. Lululemon’s see-through yoga pants, which I’m gratuitously posting a picture of here:
Choosing a yoga mat can also be tough.
You can go to Target and get one for as cheap as $15 or order one for as much as $360 from Manduka.
What’s the difference?
The one from Target only allows you to do Yoga. Forking over $360 for the Manduka will take us to a higher plane of existence, as this testimonial reveals:
“When I step onto my Manduka, I am stepping onto my sacred space. The place where my body and mind are free to become one. With each breathe, asana, and drop of sweat I learn to let my heart soar & my spirit blossom…all while on my Manduka.”
I think maybe she’s also entered into a delirious state after peering into the gigantic hole blossoming in her bank account…
Again, men might just opt to hit the gym to work off their confusion and frustration with all the oddly named mats, see-through pants, and gigantic price tags…
A guy who’s dropped $100 on yoga gear is then faced with actually going to a yoga class.
Yoga is intimately tied to spirituality, no doubt. But somehow, in America and the West in general, spirituality often gets transformed from something sensible into an odd, cheesy New Age activity involving lotions and making other-worldly statements in an ethereal voice.
There’s stuff I’m pretty sure ancient Indian yoga instructors didn’t do, like what I experienced at one studio:
“I’m going to come by and spray some lavender essential oil on your wrist; if you prefer to opt out, gently put your hand across your heart.”
I gently put one hand across my heart and used the other to wipe away the tears I was shedding over what yoga had become.
Men can also get confused by what’s in store for them in yoga class by celebrities like Sting:
They might mistakenly think a heated yoga class involves a large fire and medieval musical instruments…
Buzzfeed has a whole list of ludicrous things said by modern yogis… here are a couple of my favorites:
“You hear the ice cream truck outside. Acknowledge it, then let it go”
“We store a lot of anger in our thighs”
…and from another personal experience:
“Now hold that pose and send yourself a cosmic voicemail…”
As I maintained my pose – a hybrid modern dance/yoga stance involving splayed legs and jazz hands (that I’m sure isn’t mentioned at all in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali) – listening to fruity yoga music/chanting in butchered Sanksrit – I sent myself the following message:
“Hey Hemu, it’s me Hemu. Just leaving a cosmic voicemail. Get the fuck out of this Yoga class as fast as possible and never come back!”
…this coming from a guy with years of practice and still totally receptive to yoga.
I can’t imagine what uninitiated men might think.
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