After having three different articles on the topic passed to one week, I headed out to a new Sunday yoga class I had just been invited to teach a few weeks prior. Having this idea stuck in my mind that men don’t do yoga, I was very pleasantly surprised that the entire class was all men, 9 students. Not only that, two of them had been gymnasts and when we tried out crow, one was able to push right up into hand stand! Not bad for the first class! After that class I thought about my other classes, I would say that 50-60% of my students are male. This may not be case in studios where I practice, but it is where I teach. So why is my experience so different and why do men come to my classes?
I would say that the biggest contribution is the type of facilities and students I serve. Most of my classes are at CrossFit gyms or are geared towards CrossFitters and serious athletes. In that, there are a few reasons why the classes are appealing to these students. One growing out of the CrossFit philosophy, that all training is functional. The athlete just doesn’t train to get stronger in the gym; they train to be more efficient in everyday day activities and overall health. With the Workout Of the Day (WOD) being different every day, there are constantly muscles that are being broke down and need to recover. So stretching and releasing some of the toxins that build up in the muscles, just simply, feels good. This also improves mobility that is sacrificed sometimes because muscles are tight or don’t have enough flexibility. Yoga helps regain some of that flexibility, allowing the athlete to get into better lifting positions, improving mechanics and performance. I love watching students progress form grunting and groaning trying to reach their shins to being able to touch their toes! Practicing proper alignment of bones and joints as well as breathing are also tools that the CrossFit utilizes off the mat, in the gym and in everyday tasks. These athletes are pretty driven folks, the balance of pushing themselves hard, then taking the time to relax and restore takes just as much a skill as it is a reward. Who couldn’t use some practice relaxing?!
All these happen naturally and are characteristics out of my control, the one thing I can control, and have gotten lots of positive feedback on, is the way in which the information is presented. During the practice I give consistent alignment queues and relate them to other movements as well as focus on poses that will be restorative for the athlete. I give lots of feel good adjustments, it’s almost as good as good getting a message; try to stay consistent with big flexibility poses ,like pigeon; and stay away from too many standing poses or long holds in those standing poses, since a lot of the time those leg muscles. are already pretty fatigued. The goal is to relax, become aware of our bodies and understand how to help them work efficiently.
I appreciate all of my students and the work they put in on the mat and in the gym. Yoga can be intimidating for anyone… I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone say, “I can’t get into those poses”, “I have the flexibility of a stick”, “I can’t stay still or quiet for that long”, or “That can’t be a good workout”. For many, even just walking into a yoga class can be intimidating whether you are a new or experienced yogi… How refreshing is it when a yoga teacher can lighten the mood with an engaging question or story to start off the class?! Introducing folks to what yoga is and it’s benefits as well as meeting the students where they are at on their mats and bringing a little lightness to the practice are some ways in which, I think, will make the practice more welcoming, to men (and women) who might otherwise not even give the opportunity a second thought. Personally, I enjoy watching the men progress through their practice and the vibe they bring to my classes. Just as (hopefully) we would encourage the girls to do the prescribed workouts and kick ass in the gym, we should encourage the boys to pamper themselves and take care of their bodies. Hope to see you all on the mat… or the river real soon!