• Man practices yoga on mat on a sports field.

    Yoga for men.

    Making the case for less prejudice and gender stereotyping about yoga.

    Text: Claudio Rimmele

Yoga for men is going viral.

Nic and Pancho are best friends, and they love yoga. They record their yoga sessions together and post them on YouTube. What’s so special about that? Nic is a grown-up man and Pancho is a little Chihuahua. They’ve become an internet sensation, bringing smiles to viewers all over the world.

The yoga positions they adopt together are the most natural thing in the world to them. Yet while dogs can stretch as much as they like, when it comes to men and yoga, people often shake their heads and deliver the put-down: yoga isn’t manly.

Man pushes bicycle.
Man does push-ups on the sports field.

Who says that yoga is not for men?

Statistically, around four out of five yoga students are women. At least in Europe and America. In India, on the other hand, where yoga originally comes from, it is still a male preserve. Why yoga is dominated in the west by women is the subject of controversial debate. Some believe the blame lies in the media portrayal of the yoga-posing model, thin as a rake, used to advertise fashion, beauty and other lifestyle products in the 80s and 90s. Other experts suggest the cause is associated with the history of yoga. In the United States, yoga became popular in the 1970s as part of a backlash against a self-improving, achievement-oriented society. People, mainly women, were going to the yoga studios in search of a new type of community. One that practised mindfulness in place of aerobics and exercises to fight the flab. Although more men are now trying yoga and even some famous actors (such as Daniel Craig) use yoga to help them prepare for the challenges involved in filming, many men remain quietly sceptical. This scepticism unfortunately prevents them from enjoying the positive aspects of yoga.

Yoga and football – a sporting love affair.

Since 2006, the German national football team has been practising yoga with one of Germany’s most famous yoga teachers, Patrick Broome. Along with improved focus, better concentration and coordination and reduced tension, the use of yoga in football training has another massive benefit: stabilising yoga exercises significantly reduce the players’ risk of being injured during matches. It’s no surprise then that yoga is not only being used by professional footballers – from the New Zealand rugby squad to many top American basketball teams, everyone is doing yoga. Athletes who control their bodies through yoga are much better able to cushion the impact of collisions with other players or when they hit the ground.

Man balances ball to toe.
Man stretches himself on sports field.

Why yoga is so good for you.

You don’t have to be a professional footballer to improve your health with yoga. Several studies have shown that yoga is important for correcting back problems in people who have to spend a lot of time sitting down at work. And it also helps combat high blood pressure and minimises the risk of a heart attack – both of which primarily affect men. The research shows generally that men and women who practise yoga regularly suffer less from everyday stress and depression. They report a greater sense of well-being and better sleep.

  • Man practices yoga on a football field.

Some tips for men getting started with yoga.

Despite all the good arguments it’s understandable that the first yoga lesson can be something of a test of courage for some men. Here are some suggestions to help overcome that initial reserve:

1. Discover the style that’s right for you: there are countless types of yoga. Some consist almost entirely of stretches while others actively help build up muscle, so it’s worth doing a little research before deciding which type of yoga to start with.

2. Find a teacher who’s right for you: a good yoga teacher can tell whether you feel comfortable and will help beginners especially to get off to a good start. It’s advisable to sound out friends and acquaintances for recommendations.

3. Find the right group: yoga is a great community sport. Every yoga studio has a different target group and its own community. The fact is that you will feel comfortable if the group suits you, whatever the gender balance.

Yoga is for everyone.

There are some men who just don’t get on with yoga. They can’t relax, they get bored out of their minds or they just don’t enjoy it. By the same token, there are women who would prefer to play football or basketball than go to a yoga class. So it’s about time we stopped taking about sports in terms of gender. Yoga is more than just a sport. It is a holistic health practice which can bring the body and mind into balance. Everyone can reap the rewards: men and women alike. And Chihuahuas, of course!

Man does pull-ups at football goal.