Often I drag Andrew to yoga classes, yoga clothing/accessory shopping, Coffee and Yoga meets and just assume that he will experience these events with the same comfort and ease that I do. Although both Andrew and I are firm feminists and the first to point out inequity in other situations (for example, buying tires for my car and having the dude *only* look and talk to Andrew...), I just don't recognize how there are barriers for men in yoga.
Yes, it's true that more men then ever are practicing yoga in western society, but barriers still exist and are very present in many ways we don't even consider. This post was actually inspired by a friend, K, who emailed me this week with an experience of his own.
He's recently discovered Moksha yoga and has become ecstatic with this style. K is a great advocate for yoga with his hockey team, with co-workers... with anyone really. While out at the gym, he decided it was time to check out some more official 'yoga' clothing that would wick away sweat and stretch well during a heated yoga class. Being a fantastic 'EcoYogi', he stepped into 'One Tooth', a yoga clothing company where their clothing is made in Canada. Unfortunately, the 'men' section for clothing is this tiny rack at the back of the store. I've seen it, looks like someone's discards. Plus, as he confirmed, the selection was a complete joke. Ugly pants, sweaters and a few shorts. He was completely discouraged and annoyed.
Barrier: lack of male yoga clothing selection, especially if you're looking for local and sustainably made.
Yoga clothing isn't just limited to lack of selection, but there are other subtleties that I had never thought of until Andrew pointed them out. Walking into a yoga store already has a ton of stigma if you're a man, top that off with almost no selection, foofy decorations and feminine staff... and you've got a few social barriers that pop up as a heterosexual male. Andrew: "Not only that, but it is much less acceptable for a man to pay over 60$ for a pair of yoga pants in our society".
Sure you could order online with more selection, but that's an unfair choice. If I'm going to pay that much money, I like to try on clothing to make sure it fits. Just because Andrew is a man doesn't mean he wouldn't prefer to try on his investments.
Since K was really referring to his attempts at purchasing responsibly made clothing, we are leaving Lululemon completely out of this (as we all know what "consciously formulated in Vancouver, Made in China" means).
Barrier: Stigma of a man attending a yoga class.
Ok, this one really is one of the most often mentioned. Yoga in the western world really has been marketed to women and is associated as a more "female" activity. Even though this is changing- how many classes have you attended with 50-50 ratio? I'm impressed if there are more than 3 in a 30 person class. Both Andrew and K have mentioned how intimidating it is to enter a class filled with women with the potential of having no effing clue what they were doing.
Barrier: Yoga postures are taught to the women in the room, not the men.
Imagine having an instructor describe the asana while making reference to tighter hamstrings or hips... or assuming a specific shoulder width and upper body strength, or adjustments for delicate lower body parts.... Seriously though. How often do I hear a sequence or asana taught making the assumption that most women have a certain level of flexibility in their hips or lack of crushables during upward bow. Andrew: "It's pretty obvious that yoga was practiced by young men who's testicles haven't dropped... or women". I'm not saying that classes should switch to being male-centric, avoid upward bow or locust... but do we really need to hear things like "lets all embrace our inner Goddess" or "Goddess pose- feel strong and beautiful everyone!"....
Andrew: "You know what I think would pull in more men? Yoga is really fucking hard. It's not easy. But you don't hear about it as being hard, you hear it as being liberating. People use flowers and foofy things to describe it, but really it just kicks you ass. Lots of guys who have done yoga that I know, have enjoyed it, but had no idea. You box, do karate and it's supposed to be hard, because the end result is you kicking someone's ass. But yoga's end result is to get in touch with yourself...."
I do believe yoga is changing and becoming more acceptable for men to practice. But I'm also extremely aware that there are invisible social barriers on how yoga as it is continues to deter more men from even trying. Sometimes these things are unconsciously done by the teachers, other students or companies. Acknowledging this is an important part of Change.
What do you think?
article copyright of EcoYogini at ecoyogini.blogspot.com
To finish: a fantastic video by "Radio Radio", an Acadian Hip Hop group, now based in Montreal (but from Nova Scotia) My current fav song- "Cargué dans ma chaise".
This song below, though, is perfect, since it's truly all about how stereotypes of "metrosexual", judging someone or pigeonholing them because of what they like/dress/do is ridiculous. You could say Yoga is a part of that list. :)