by Evan Neufeld
Yoga has never been more popular in the country: according to the latest Yoga in America Study, released last month, 8.7 percent of U.S. adults, or 20.4 million people, practice yoga. However, somewhat buried in the same study is a far less impressive statistic: only 17.8 percent of yoga practitioners are men.
Admittedly, this is a case of numbers confirming what the eye already knows, and if you haven’t noticed the proportional lack of males in yoga classes (we’re 50% of the general population), take a look around. Often it seems that even 17.8 % is an optimistic number.
The relative lack of male participation in yoga is something that has been on the mind of the yoga community quite a lot of late, with a wide range of theories offered. Yoga Journal, asking the question “Where Are All the Men” highlighted several potential factors, including the “natural tightness” of men as well as the lack of a “macho”, competitive aesthetic in yoga classes. Noted yoga provocateur William Broad (The New York Times Yogi in Residence and author of the The Science of Yoga) recently added new fuel to the debate with an article, Wounded Warrior Pose, which suggests that yoga can be remarkably dangerous specifically for men, who he claims are much more susceptible (on a relative basis) to extreme yoga related injuries like nerve damage, fractures and dislocations.
Perhaps, I thought reading this, the reason there are so few men in yoga classes is that we’re all crippling ourselves with too many jump-backs and twists, wantonly dislocating out shoulders in chaturanga while pushing our tight, sad little hamstrings beyond their natural tightness, before hobbling off our mats, never to return.
The reality is that, outside of a general consensus that yoga offers a different type of environment for physical activity than most men are used to and that it puts more emphasis on flexibility, no one has anything like a definitive answer to this perplexing question.
In an attempt to address this issue is at the local level, I will be teaching a two-part mini series called Yoga For Guys in the later part of February. Combining asana and discussion, the class will help male practitioners of all levels develop the required tools and knowledge to build a safe, enjoyable practice that both plays to their natural strengths as well as safely develop assets such as flexibility and patience.
Discussion topics will include male anatomy and psychology, common injuries and how to avoid them, integrating yoga into a wider sports regimen, classroom etiquette, knowing your yoga equipment, and other questions participants have.
Regardless of whether you call it YoGuy, Broga, or Yoga for Dudes, this class is perfect for male practitioners of all levels who would like to spend some time understanding how their anatomy and psychology shape their practice. Any question on this class, or my personal theories about guys and yoga, feel free to contact me.
Evan came to yoga several years ago, his first class a gift from his wife as a way of helping him cope with several lingering injuries related to years of distance running. In his classes, Evan strives to share his passion for yoga in a way that is open, supportive, fun and accessible to all, proving a non-judgment, safe space for people to let their own practices unfold.