This is a topic that you always seem to hear the same amount of chatter about. Why don’t more men practice yoga? I have been practicing yoga now for about six years and the percentage of men in the classes has remained about the same. In a typical class 20% of the yogis are men.
With yoga being a multibillion dollar business I’m actually surprised there isn’t more push by some of the companies that are in the yoga business. It seems as though the market for women has tapped out and the prime area for growth are men. Even with this gold mine that we men represent however, I don’t really see anything changing within the industry. When I look at the fitness/workout industry as a whole, there are magazines that cater to men’s fitness exclusively and there are magazines that cater to women’s fitness only. Considering this it’s surprising to me that some savvy investor doesn’t start Yoga Men’s Journal.
You have fitness clubs, Curves for example, that cater exclusively to women. Some gyms, like Gold’s for example, have a harder edge that caters more towards men’s exercise interest. Within a mixed patronage gym like World Gym, there are rooms with more machine and pulley weight lifting devices that women tend to favor and then there are free-weight-rooms that men tend to favor. The weightlifting/fitness industry seems to have figured out that men and women have different interests when it comes to pursuing their fitness goals.
For all the articles I have read about this subject of men and yoga this simple point gets missed. Men and women have different goals and different approaches when it comes to exercise and yoga is no different. After practicing yoga for six years, my impression is that yoga is about 80% dominated by female interests which not surprisingly is the percentage of women is a yoga class.
Now, let me say, this is not a blog post about bashing women in the yoga industry. I remember attending a workplace training class on diversity and the instructor said something very interesting. His quote was, “Diversity in higher levels of workplace management is very important because ducks tend to favor ducks”. So that if you are Caucasian, you will subconsciously favor Caucasians over other races, if you are male you will subconsciously favor other males over females. You are not a bad person for doing this, but it is within our nature to favor those that resemble us. And that brings me to my point about yoga, the vast majority of yoga instructors are women and therefore subconsciously the yoga classes with the various routines are going to favor, guess who, women. Everything from yoga clothing, to the design and decoration of the studios to the music picked for the class is subconsciously dominated by women and therefore favors women.
So if you want more men performing yoga, yoga is going to have to introduce some type of affirmative action program to introduce more of a male presence into the industry. I think this has to start with more local yoga studios training male yoga teachers. Male yoga teachers will start teaching classes that will tend to favor male interests. In my mind it would be a class in which we didn’t do quite so many lunging poses like Warrior One, Warrior Two, Peaceful Warrior. Seriously male yogis don’t care about developing “yoga butt” to show off in a pair of $120 Lulemon see-through-yoga pants. As a male yogi my driver has always been poses like arm balances and inversions that develop upper-body strength. Finding a yoga class that focuses on arm balances and inversions is tough to come by. If you want an awesome male centered yoga workout then look to see if you can attend an arm balance and inversion workshop with Simon Park. That guy is awesome. I personally go to www.yogaglo.com for a lot of classes that I think favor male interests more with work on the upper body involving some very tough physical poses.
In conclusion, for you men reading my blog, if you want more of what you care about in a yoga practice, don’t be afraid to speak up when the teacher asks, “What does everybody want to work on today”. Get interested in teacher training so that in the future more men are leading yoga classes. For you women reading my blog, I know it’s very difficult to go against our nature as people, but try to think about a man’s perspective when you are choosing your routines. Try to think about what a man wants to get out of a yoga practice. I’ve spoken a lot about the differences between men and women here but putting things in perspective there is really not that much of a gulf between male and female yogis. We just need to get that 80/20 split closer to 50/50 and the yoga world will be much better for it.