TS Teacher Musings: Where Da Boys At?

As a single lady, this blog post could go in a completely different direction, but I’m here to talk about yoga. Annnnd men. The latest statistics from Yoga Journal show that the proportion of men taking yoga classes has been decreasing over the past few years (28% in 2008 dropped to 18% in 2012).

What’s going on?

And how can we encourage more of the menfolk to get into this amazing practice, philosophy, and path that is yoga?

In my experience, I’ve had many male friends express interest in yoga, but sometimes express reluctance to step into the classroom. In these situations, there is sometimes a worry about showing up for their first class and looking silly, because they haven’t mastered the poses. I can tell you, as a teacher, and as most of you know, there is no judgment about how people look doing poses (though certainly an eye for safety and right effort). But I can understand their dis-ease about their first class. Trying anything new can be scary, which is why the support of friends and friendly teachers can help.

Also, maybe because of the overwhelming amount of women in class, there is sometimes the misconception that yoga is for women. Yet, when we look into the history of yoga, the postural practice of Hatha yoga was first taught to young adolescent men at the Mysore Palace. In fact, there was even a little controversy over the first female student of Krishnamacharya (often considered the father of modern yoga). A woman named Indra Devi had to utilize her connections to Indian royalty and impose a bit to become his student. Since then, yoga has been through significant transformation in the West, and the gender proportions have clearly flipped.

So, how do we respond to these apprehensions, and help encourage our menfriends to try yoga? Here are a few ideas:

  • Treat them to their first class (if you’re able to), so there’s nothing at stake, and they can simply experience their first taste of yoga
  • Suggest a private yoga class as an introduction, so they can have some one-on-one time with a teacher and ask questions, share any concerns they might have, and perhaps afterwards feel more comfortable entering a group class.
  • Find out what about yoga interests them (is it flexibility? meditation? stress relief?) and then do some research to find a fitting yoga teacher and class for their interests, and share why you think they’d enjoy taking this class or workshop in particular.

I can’t tell you how often female students express to me how much they wish their husband/boyfriend/partner/friend would join them. Any other ideas or success stories to share? You can share your tales in the comments section below.

At a recent panel discussion on market opportunities in yoga (with panelists from MindBodyOnline, yoga business consultancy 99Monkeys, and my organization, Yoga Alliance), one of the greatest areas of opportunity everyone mentioned was the new-to-yoga segment. Yoga Journal statistics show that 44% of the US are “aspirational yogis,” meaning, interested but not yet practicing. These experts suggested that studios should develop programs that ease newcomers’ concerns, and provide them with support and encouragement to cultivate the habit of coming to yoga, so they stick with it.

We’re lucky at Tranquil Space to have some great offerings for newcomers, such as our newbie yogi workshops, our 21-day challenges, and special workshops on different topics that might be of interest to the men in your life. So, as long as you’re not dragging them in against their will, see what else you can do to gently nudge that man on your mind into their first yoga experience. And let us know how we, at Tranquil Space, might help!

Namaste,

Laura B.

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