The old-world macho view that “yoga is for girls”, or at the very least, only for blokes who are a “bit spiritual”, is history. Over the past months, we have seen an increase in the number of male practitioners inside the yoga room! The longer-running male students are enjoying the support in numbers, the women are enjoying the view, and the teachers are very proud! It’s been a slow process to up the male quota of students, but finally, men are starting to see the benefits of a regular yoga practice.
Admittedly feedback from this new younger population of male students is they aren’t in class to align the chakras, but rather, the draw card in to the practice has been to improve their flexibility, help back pain and heal injury, as well as to lose a few of the extra kilos accumulated over the Christmas season.
We asked one of these new recruits about his experience and he said, “It’s definitely not about lying around on a mat. It’s an intense physical workout. I’m a footy player and there’s a lot of weights involved in training plus intense, competitive action. In the past i’ve tended to neglect the flexibility aspect, which I now realise is very important to my game.” When men see the benefits of yoga, such as greater physical mobility, that’s when they persevere with it.
Dense muscle is notoriously inflexible but the benefits from yoga-style stretching are measurable. We did some research and found out the English rugby team now includes time ‘on-the-mat’ as a regular part of their training program, at the insistence of their Head of Performance Coach Mark Bitcon. He is quoted as saying, “We test various physiological aspects of our players, and one is range of flexibility. Through their yoga practice, we have seen as much as an extra couple of centimetres in areas like the hamstring. Any marginal improvement in an area like that can be very useful. We’re interested in prolonging careers.”
It must be said, although the stretching we do inside the yoga room appears to be purely physical, there’s also a flow on effect to the mind and emotions of students. Students – both men and women alike – are learning to concentrate, focus, relax and be calmer in their moods. Through their practice, they are perfecting their optimal state of health and balance in body and mind. While this may not interest our male practitioners (initially), it’s something both unavoidable and beneficial, just don’t tell them that.