Actually (and somewhat unfortunately), yoga started its first several thousand years as men only. But once it came to the Western world with ground-breaking pioneers like Indra Devi, the first Woman of Yoga, it slowly became more female dominated in the U.S. The Father of Modern Yoga, Krishnamacharya, accepted Indra as a student and she spread the goodness to China, Hollywood USA, Mexico, and Argentina. But her promotion of yoga was out-shadowed in large part by colleagues like Pattabhi Jois, B.K.S. Iyengar, and T.K.V. Desikachar. If you read most texts like the Bhagavad Gita and other foundational yoga literature, it was a very male dominated arena. The last Century has seen major leaps and bounds with yoga, but mostly for women.
So, last night, I walk in to the studio and write down a few props on the sign-in sheet and I see 3 male names. Then, another man walks in for my class. I was like “hmmm, maybe I’ll have an all-male class for the first time ever.” The only other times I’ve had male dominated classes was when I offered karma yoga to the University of Illinois Army ROTC cadets and other Veterans programs. I would say that 100% of the time, I have mostly or all ladies in my classes.
In CrossFit, “mobility” reigns king in classes. And you see it in football and other athletics, but it doesn’t usually go by the name of “yoga.” The ideas of stretching and meditation go back 5,000 years with yoga, but somehow that moniker is frowned upon in certain circles. Maybe there is a male ego thing that prevents them from calling it something that is so female dominated in America. Images of designer leggings and brightly colored yoga mats don’t fit the jock mindset. Hopefully, those mental obstacles will change and we’ll find more acceptance in those communities. We find that history repeats itself over and over with these kinds of things.
When I first started running 5K and 10K races in the middle 1970’s, there weren’t many women runners. When a woman passed a man in a race, they say that you were “chicked”. It wasn’t super widely accepted to see women in races. You may recall images of the Boston Marathon where Roberta Gibb was denied acceptance to run in 1966 and was pulled from the course when she tried to jump in. It was a cultural thing that people (men) didn’t think women could run that far. Times have changed and we’ve even seen women like Pam Reed become the overall winner of the Badwater Ultramarathon in 2002, which is a 135 mile race across Death Valley in the middle of the Summer. But now, men struggle for the same acceptance in a woman’s world. Being completely confident in my manhood, I even ventured into other areas as well. I went to a pole dancing class a few weeks ago and was happily accepted among the 20 or so ladies that were in attendance. Nobody even looked twice at me. So I know how it feels to be in the minority.
Physically, men have more testosterone, on average weigh more, have bigger bone structures, and therefore more connective tissue and muscles. So it goes without saying that we need yoga so badly in our lives. I listen to many podcasts and read articles focusing on CrossFit, Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, and strongman sports where mobility is continually discussed. It aids muscle lengthening, recovery, and performance. But this need hasn’t translated to yoga as much as I’d like. It is that alpha male mentality that gets in the way. But the few men I’ve seen wander into studios, the attitude shift toward openness to try new things has been a bonus for their quality of life. And it never hurts to be around such beautiful people.
Try it, you’ll like it. Maybe you’ll even love it!