Yoga has become more prevelant in popular culture over the past few years, with many studios and yoga-related brands popping up. Yoga is now recommended by many physicians as a healthy practice for both men and women. However, when you look at the yoga community, it is disproportionately female. This may be because most men think it's only for women.
Some men may not be willing to try something unfamiliar, even if you have close friends or family members who are already practicing yoga. But challenging your body in a new way can improve your strength and flexibility, and ultimately increase your confidence. The more you understand yoga, the more likely you are to benefit by incorporating it into your fitness routine.
Here are 5 myths about yoga that you need to stop believing:
1.) Yoga is too feminine. When yoga is portrayed in the media, it often targets a female audience, with images of women wearing the latest fashion trends, performing backbends, and using colorful mats. This can empower women, but it can also deter men from embracing the practice of yoga as something that is for them. Since its inception, yoga has been taught and influenced by men. The practice of yoga emphasizes balance, including the balance of masculine and feminine energies within each individual. Many male athletes and celebrities are embracing this fact, helping yoga become more appealing for men. If these men can learn to embrace yoga, so can you: Tom Brady, Matthew McConaughey, Adam Levine, Lebron James, Russell Brand, Blake Griffin, Colin Farrell, Sting and Russell Wilson.
2. Yoga isn't real exercise. The western view of exercise is skewed. Many people believe that if you don't sweat and your heart doesn't increase by much, then it is not exercise. This is especially true for men. Unless exposed to other forms of eastern practices - such as martial arts - you may not be aware that your muscles can benefit from non-action or slight exertions. Yoga can help tone and strengthen all of your muscle groups. You can even pair yoga with other physical activities for optimal results.
3. Yoga goes against my beliefs. There is a common myth that yoga is tied to specific religions or belief systems. In truth, yogic philosophy can stand apart from matters of faith. Yoga is about bringing the mind, body and spirit into balance. While spirituality is included, there is no specific requirement of belief. If you're seeking the physical benefits, you can perform the asanas (poses) without any spiritual connotations. Replace concept of "spirit" with "breath" instead. Focus on your breath throughout your practice, and center yourself. Much like meditation, yoga is a tool that can be used successfully in a variety of settings.
4. I'm not flexible enough. Yoga is about starting where you are and progressing. Don't place so much pressure on your personal level of flexibility. This is your ego taking control, and it has no place in the practice of yoga. Just let go of the competitive nature or self-judgement. It is very likely that you won't be able to jump into a handstand or scorpion pose right away. If you're not even close to touching your toes, just reach towards the direction of your toes and start there, confidently. Stay consistent with a practice several days a week and you'll be surprised by the progress you will see over time.
5. I wouldn't fit in. Fitting in is a common concern for men who are just starting out in yoga. The thought of being the only man in a yoga class can be intimidating. Here are a few suggestions for ways to ease into yoga: A.) Find a "Beginners" class in your community. Learning the basics with others who are new can make it easier to create good habits regarding the physical form of the poses. Also, this may allow you to whisper a question to the instructor as needed. B.) Tell the instructor at the beginning of class that you are new to the practice of yoga. Also tell them if you have any physical limitations/injuries so they can help you modify your practice as appropriate. C.) Bring a buddy. It is sometimes easier to do something for the first time when you have a friend or family member there with you. Practicing yoga with a buddy can also add a level of accountability and help you get into a routine of practicing yoga regularly.
Remember that everyone has to start somewhere. With a little courage and patience, you can start your yoga journey and become a healthier, manlier you.
Milestone offers 30+ yoga classes per week. Be sure to check the group exercise class schedule for details. Milestone offers many "Beginners" classes (also referred to as Level 1) and even "Men's Only Yoga" so there are plenty of great options to start with if you are new to the practice of yoga.
*Sources: https://www.boston.com/sports/untagged/2014/12/12/namaste_tom_bradys_mind_body_and_soul_have_him_hop | DoYouYoga.com | www.thesportster.com/entertainment/top-15-athletes-who-do-yoga/ | www.chopra.com/articles/5-reasons-men-are-afraid-to-try-yoga-but-should