At Yoga.com, almost 20% of our subscribers are men. Yoga practice doesn’t discriminate. It builds strength, flexibility, focus, and will power for women as well as for men. Still, why are “yoga dudes” the minority? Dan Abramson, the owner of “Brogamats” – a small online retailer of yoga mats “for dudes”, shared his story:
“Yoga was the sport I never thought I'd get into - but turned out to be the antidote to my chronic back pain. When I went to class, it stretched the exact muscle that had clenched into a monkey-fist in my lower side back. Twists saved my life," Dan says.
The very first yoga class can be a daunting experience for guys.
“When first going to yoga classes, I was often the only dude,” Dan says. “I would stagger around like a drunken caveman with no balance, unable to do the same stretches that all of the gracefully flexible women could do. But over the years I've been seeing a change in the air – I now go to classes and there are significantly more dudes there. In fact, they often dominate in numbers. “
Dan is among many men who initially shunned the idea of yoga for dudes. In online discussion forums, anonymous male yoga devotees often mention how yoga doesn’t exactly hold the “manly” reputation, unlike, say, heavy lifting, or crossfit. One of such “yoga dudes” shared his story anonymously on Reddit:
“Who exactly questions your manliness? In my experience, it is only the 22-year old steroid gym types who have ever questioned my yoga practice in any way. I tend to acknowledge my feelings and my spirituality more and more as I get older. For me, yoga is a very spiritual activity, and spirituality is manly if you claim it as such. The calmness, control, and mastery of social situations I get from regular meditation are seen as very manly. Reframe it as "leadership" if you want.
There are situations where I don't push yoga and my spirituality, e.g., in my work as a researcher and scientist, since there is a lot of prejudice and it could impact my career if someone thinks I'm a hippie. Some of my relatives probably wouldn't understand it either, so I just don't talk about it in some situations. When I share rooms with someone on a conference, I tell them that I will be practicing every morning. It's no secret but that I prefer that they don't talk about it.
Starting out, I was not very open with my yoga practice with anyone but my closest friends and "yoga-enabled" people. I thought I would be seen as less intelligent, a hippie or a homosexual. None of this turned out to be true, though. Most people don't care very much. The ones who care are the macho dudes.
Much of the prejudice against yoga is against feelings and spirituality in general being "unmanly" qualities and therefore I would be less of a man if I acknowledge them. But then I decided that life is too short to care. Haters gonna hate.”
Dan Abramson admitted that he started making yoga mats for men “to get more dudes into yoga”. “The funny thing is that people are buying my products as gifts to convince their husbands and boyfriends to try yoga,” Dan says.
“There is still a stigma to overcome for men. I've been trying to get my male friends (and my dad) to give yoga a shot, but it is still often written off as a "chick sport" because women are the ones you usually see carrying the yoga mats. But the truth is it’s fantastic for both men and women. It's going to take those early adopter men to convince the rest of them that yoga is for everyone.”
How do you get a man to try yoga for himself? “The sell that usually works to getting them in the door,” advises Dan, “is calling yoga "a good stretch”.
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