Men are the New Face of the Yoga Boom: Yoga from a Guy's Perspective
Jun 09, 2014 07:10PM
By Simeon Darwick
If not for my quirky yoga teacher mom, for whom I served as a practice dummy from age eight until I left the house, I don’t know if yoga would have roped me in. After all, yoga was always portrayed in the media as a female-dominated activity. This was prior to the yoga boom that began around 2000, and it was clear to me that the message of yoga—peace of mind, health, vitality and joy—wasn’t attracting men in droves the way I saw women flock to my hometown yoga studio in Irvington, NY.
These days however, I’ve noticed a narrowing of the gender gap in my yoga classes. The ratio used to be 1 man to 10 women; now it’s 2 or more to 10. Especially in the Hudson Valley, men are on the cusp of flooding yoga, giving a new face and expression to the yoga boom.
I talked to several male yoga teachers and students in the Hudson Valley, and I would like to share some of their thoughts, plus a few of my own, about what men can expect and gain from the practice of yoga.
Expect to be challenged. Yoga can hit you like a ton of bricks and pull you around like Gumby—physically and mentally. It takes commitment and demands strength and flexibility, awareness of breath, and mental and emotional focus. August, a yoga student in Cold Spring, NY, says he found yoga challenging in ways he’d never imagined.
Ego is your best friend and your worst enemy. When I began my practice, I was in the prime of life, physically. I was also vain and self-conscious, constantly comparing myself to others. I felt pressure to produce high results and look good, especially because I was one of the few men in class. I learned that while ego could help me succeed in life, it also caused unnecessary suffering. Yoga allows us the space to stop performing and simply show up as we are.
You might change your life. Miles, a yoga student in Cold Spring, calls yoga “a system of repair.” He came into yoga wanting to repair his body and stay off cigarettes. Once he had achieved a certain level of health, he realized that yoga had other benefits. He started taking action in new areas of his life—purging unnecessary stuff, moving to a new apartment, joining a gym, painting, pursuing a relationship, and generally feeling more relaxed, joyful and energetic.
Yoga boosts confidence, courage and a sense of freedom. The ability to maintain challenging positions and stay present in yoga class translates into the courage to be in challenging positions in life—whether they involve work or personal relationships or physical or emotional pain—and not fight, freeze or run away. Julian, a yoga teacher from Beacon, NY, says the practice gives him a sense of freedom and empowerment. “Yoga creates space for me to think about life in new ways and not be brainwashed by societal influences,” he says.
Contentment breeds productivity. Yoga’s mood-boosting benefits may pay off on the job. A Harvard study revealed that businesses that prioritized happiness in the workplace as much as doubled their productivity.
Less stress means better health. Everybody is fighting some sort of stress, and yoga is a great solution. It enhances immunity and makes us more optimistic—two keys to physical and emotional health.
It’s not just about you. Yoga can help you improve and deepen your relationship with yourself and others. Jaime, a yoga teacher living in Bronxville, NY, says, “Yoga helps us to be more authentic with ourselves and therefore create clearer relationships with others.”
As more men in the Hudson Valley take up yoga as a source of empowerment and preventive health, more men’s yoga classes are becoming available. Check with your local studio in Natural Awakenings Magazine or area retreat centers like Omega in Rhinebeck, NY, and Kripalu in Stockbridge, MA, and ask about men’s yoga groups, yoga conferences and weekly yoga classes.
Simeon Darwick lives in Putnam Valley, NY. Since 2007 he has dedicated himself to health based experiential education using life coaching, laughter and yoga to help others thrive. His customized one-on-one and group workshops focus less on talking about health and happiness and more on embodying them. Contact him at 914.419.7552 and visit simeon.darwick.com.