The old “where are all the men in yoga class” conversation is making a quiet return in the popular press and the blogosphere lately. Even the most casual observer of yoga culture would notice that women outnumber men in the average yoga class, despite the fact that many of the highest profile teachers in North America (and traditionally) are men.
As an article on Yoga Modern last week noted, women make up 72.2% of the 15.8 million people who practice yoga in the US and thus the yoga community feels a need to reach out to men. The title of the article asked, Does marketing yoga to men reinforce gender stereotypes? “Surely there is a way for the yoga community to be inclusive without falling into reductive and overgeneralizing gender stereotypes. After all, are men and women so different that they can’t practice yoga together?” Staying true to the name of the website, the article gives a historical overview of women’s place in the world of yoga, and cites “the non-dualistic philosophies of Vedanta, Yoga, and Tantra.”
A post on Teachasana, 6 Ways to Bring Men to the Mat, lists the reasons why men may be uncomfortable with yoga, with suggestions to remove the barriers. Written by a co-founder of a new brand of yoga, Broga (which is awesome, actually) addresses marketing that targets women and offers tips to create a class “vibe” and sequencing that appeal to men. While the author admits that his generalizations are just generalizations, there are a lot of assumptions: men don’t like to look like fools, men want a workout, men think yoga is for women, men don’t want “mushy” language in class…
And then there was an article in the Canadian national paper, The Globe & Mail, a few days ago, ‘I’m a guy and I practise yoga.’ A regular guy – not a teacher or marketer or somebody trying to reach out to the male masses – wrote a reflective and thoughtful essay publicly declaring his love of yoga and the subtle changes that he’s seen in himself since he’s practiced, along with his often unsuccessful efforts to persuade the men in his life to try it out. “A door opened to a previously inconceivable reality. Before long, I was breathing release into my hips, thighs and chest… My yoga time became sacred; my mat was my sanctuary. Clichéd or not, I was living and breathing the lingo and I loved it.”
Perhaps this is what’s needed: not marketing, not a trademarked style or special classes or different languaging/sequencing/branding. But men who are courageous enough to tell their stories and share their experiences.