Thanks to the predominance of estrogen in most New York City yoga studios-or any studio around the country, for that matter-I was pleasantly surprised when, during a recent class, I looked over and noticed a Lululemon-clad man to my right. With about as much ease as all the ladies around him, this anonymous gentleman up-dogged and down-dogged, cobra-posed and bridged with the best of us, even holding his headstand for far longer than my comparatively miniature biceps could muster.
All this got me thinking, why don't more men take part in yoga?
With a lighthearted attitude and a wealth of experience, Zeel Expert and SmarterBodies co-founder Melissa Gutierrez explains why many men shy away from the ancient practice and how to turn this outlook around.
They try too hard.
Men are often used to moving-in society and in their bodies-in a way that requires force, strength and extreme muscular effort. It's been my experience that I have to tell men all the time to stop trying so hard. Yoga is not to be practiced by pushing and muscling through the poses!
There's no reason to be panting and red-faced while in Warrior 1. Rather, the strength that allows for balance, stability and fluid movement (elements that can often characterize yoga) comes from a different place than, let's say, cycling or lifting weights.
It can be very difficult for men to not meet the challenge of unfamiliar movement with brute force, but that's what makes the practice all the more necessary.
They can't connect.
Yoga can increase the body-mind awareness in all people, but men tend to find it difficult to bridge the two entities. I suggest a breathing practice so that they have an easier time (and actual success) finding the kind of kinesthetic ability that yoga requires-and helps one to find.
It's a learning-as-you-go kind of process, but increased body-mind awareness can nevertheless ease the struggles one often thinks about while learning.
They can't stay awake!
No, seriously. Men tend to fall asleep in savasana in my classes more than women. Like, full-on snoring.
This is probably the "most difficult" asana in general. Most people who lie down and fall asleep do so because they are sleep deprived, over-worked, over-stressed or don't have the mental discipline to meditate. I'm not sure what the reason is for men specifically, but I would suggest simply learning to practice savasana with the explicit intent of not falling asleep.
The true art is in staying awake without exerting an intense effort to do so, since that's really the point of this pose for all of us. Don't let it turn into, "I've gotta stay focused on something so I don't fall asleep." In the beginning, that, along with focused breathing or repeating an internal matra, can help. Eventually, however, that overt activity should be moved away from as well.
Ultimately, you want savasana to become a time in which you can find a connection between the practice and the body. Check for a rigid tongue, tight jaw muscles or knotted eyebrows. They are indications that the savasana practice needs to be tweaked.