Getting into yoga is harder than it looks. A casual browse of Instagram can present you with rather caricatural depictions of yoga. Particularly for us gents. Take this 2014 BuzzFeed “Men Try Yoga For the First Time" sketch. Whilst we acknowledge that it is purely lighthearted jest, it does further enforce a negative stigma: that men are not made for yoga. As a beginner you might be intimidated and promptly decide that yoga is not for you - but first hear us out...
There is a clear dichotomy between yoga in the west and the east. Westerners, as a society, assumed for years that yoga was a woman’s world, whereas in the east it has, for centuries, been predominantly a man’s world (possibly for reprehensible reasons). We believe that those assumptions need to vanish. Practically speaking, this discrepancy between genders still exists and, though paradoxical, some men fear starting yoga because their masculinity will be challenged. We all know somebody that doesn’t think yoga is for dudes - in fact, we had the classic conversation in the pub this weekend - "I'm not flexible. It's just stretching. I'm embarrassed about my abilities in a room full of bendy women...". It's a real shame but a challenge we accept with open arms.
Let's be clear, although we are talking to men, we believe everyone should reap the benefits of a dedicated yoga or movement practice. For that reason, we hope the advice we offer here can help anyone - regardless of gender, age, culture or whatever else.
Here are 6 reasons to help you overcome social obstacles.
1. There is no yoga body
You’ve probably heard it by now: yoga is not for the flexible, for a certain body colour, shape or gender. Yoga promotes positivity and well-being. You should never be ashamed to want to feel better.
2. The more you practice, the less you care
No scientific facts here, just a statement that applies for most people practicing. The more you immerse yourself in your yoga practice, the less you will care. The mental and physical rewards will far outweigh any ridicule you might receive from your pals. Bring them along and see if you can change their mind.
3. Surround yourself with people you connect to
Yoga is a great way to meet awesome people and surround yourself with friends that will lift you up and could have a positive influence. Raw truth bombs here: you are as good as the people you surround yourself with. It might be time to let go of people that try to drag you down and make some space for new ones.
4. Confidence - the unexpected benefit
By being dedicated, you will not only find some peace of mind, you will get a stronger body. Your stamina will increase, your posture will get better and you will feel more confident, whatever your body type is.
5. It doesn't all have to be about yoga
Even though you will find people that only swear by yoga, it doesn’t have to turn into a way of life. Yoga is amazing to help you recover from other sports injuries or balance your journey as an athlete, a boxer, a musician,… as a man of the 21st century.
6. Get rid of the bullshit
One of the many great things about yoga is that it helps peel off the layers of ego that makes us overthink how we define ourselves into our society. As men, bringing ourselves to defy our conception of what masculinity is by practising yoga, is the first step to help society peel off the layers of bullshit that we were taught to believe. Masculinity is not machismo: practicing yoga does not make you less of a man, on the contrary - it makes physically more fit, strong and flexible. It can make you more serene, calm and help you tune in with your emotions. Overall yoga can help you become a well-rounded human being: we believe that’s what you should strive for.
Yoga may or may not work for you. But don’t let social obstacles be the reason. It takes a brave man to embrace the path he believes is the right one.
For more beginner based wisdom, check out:
Words by Karim Khouw Zegwaart (@wilddogyoga)