One glance at the latest Yoga Journal (and its ads) and it is obvious that the American yoga market is filled with women on mats. The recently released Yogawoman movie further discusses the connection between yoginis and the community that the practice has provided for woman yoga students and teachers alike. The Shakti boom has exploded and the women are Natarajasan-ing in it, big time!
But this recent trend begs the question: where are all the guys? Yoga was traditionally a male-only practice in India and most styles of Hatha yoga derive from the teachings of Krishnamacharya who was male. One only has to look at some of the biggest names in yoga to find men: Jois, Iyengar, Desikachar, Mittra and newer leaders Yee, Baptiste, Kest and the hottest head in yoga, Bikram. Yet, the current Yoga International magazine features its first ever male cover yogi – Los Angeles based Tommy Rosen – and Yoga Journal only recently had a male on the cover (the first one in almost as long). Sure, many teachers may have a Y chromosome, but where are the local studio mats filled with men?
Why aren’t more males doing yoga?
Many men see the growing popularity of yoga as something that is strictly for super bendy women. Yes, Gumby was a flexible green guy, but many male bodies do not move in a similar fashion. Additionally some men feel intimidated by attending a class that may be at best a 3:1 ratio of women to men. There are men that just cannot find a comfortable seated position on any mat in any studio because they feel the practice is one that is not right for them.
Enter the men of Broga, Robert Sidoti and Adam O’Neill. They have created a group of classes and a style of practice that is designed to directly address these issues for male students and bring them as a group back to their Mandukas. Sidoti teaches classes and workshops that are powerful, with an emphasis on strength rather than flexibility. O’Neill says:
“Each and every element of the Broga experience is designed to welcome men and to introduce them (in a bite-size, step-wise, fashion) to the big, amazingly beneficial, potential transformative world of yoga. When a student is ready for more intensity or more of a deeper yoga experience, Broga is right there and ready to help show the way.”
Is something called “Broga” just for guys?
According to Sidoti, many women also practice Broga because they like the approach he brings to his classes. O’Neill adds that the Broga bros are also not opposed to having female teachers, though he notes that some male “biases” may prevent students from greeting female teachers with open arms.
Offering male-only yoga retreats is a way for Will Duprey, a Los Angeles yoga teacher who recently moved to Florida, to connect with his male yoga students. Duprey who teaches Sadhana and offers both 200H and 500H trainings to both sexes, suggests that male-only retreats are a way for guys to connect and form a “collective.”
While Duprey admits such retreats may bring up visions of “cavemen and group hunting,” he offers that they are instead a way for men to “challenge one another intellectually and raise the consciousness of each other upward to create a more positive male image.” These retreats work to honor each man where he is at that moment, something many yoga classes do daily. A retreat, Duprey posits, is a way for them to connect as a unit and as individuals in a way a class with women cannot. He states:
“The name Sri which we use all the time was originally a male title. One in which indicated that he had control over kundalini. Similar to a shaman, he could bend nature or kiss the snake (sometimes physically) on top of the head without getting bit. Now, we are lucky if some men can wield a hammer, saw or tap into any creative skill that comes from within so how do we expect them to lead themselves or anyone else or even take the role of a leader. If we need both energies (masculine and feminine) to create that current then I am trying to create that balance. “
Studios across the country are watching this trend and stepping up with creative offerings to attract men to their collective sanghas. Carrboro Yoga Company in North Carolina has $6 Tuesday evening classes for men (sort of “men’s yoga happy hour”) and Lulu Bandha’s in Ojai, CA has a weekly “Stiff Guy Yoga” class.
Getting American men to realize that yoga is not only bendy, but also macho and male may be a challenge, but yoga teachers and studios are rising to it. They are infusing their classes with connection and heart and sometimes a bit of rock and roll to open the doors to the yogis out there who have been scared away in recent years. Whether it be attending a retreat to deepen their practice and connection to other yoga students with the likes of Duprey or to find a different approach on the mat where they feel at home with the Broga guys, men are returning to yoga.
Shiva shambo: let’s hear it for the boys!
Why Men Should Do Yoga [TheWellDaily]
Excerpt of poll results from YD post More Meat and Potatoes, Please! Is there Enough Dude Yoga? February 2011:
POLL still open if you care to share your opinion!