Walking into a yoga class full of women can be intimidating. Here are a few tips for men starting yoga to get you over that initial hump!
For some reason, yoga in the Western world is often associated with women, even though it is a practice with many benefits for those of every age and gender. (Interestingly enough, for thousands of years in the East, yoga was mainly practiced by men!)
In fact, yoga is highly beneficial for men, who often tend to have higher blood pressure, greater risk of heart disease, and other stress-related health risk factors. Yoga’s wonderful stress-relieving benefits provide a great way for men to release some of that harmful stress, and get back in touch with their inner selves.
That said, many men are hesitant to walk into a yoga class full of women, so with that in mind, here are a few tips to help you get started with this beneficial and life-affirming practice:
Embrace being the odd one out
Although it is becoming increasingly popular for men to practice yoga (at least in the western world), yoga is predominantly a female environment. From the way that classes are marketed to the vivid Lycra yoga pants, it can feel as though we are entering an exclusive club. This can be an uncomfortable experience – and that’s even before setting foot on a mat!
It’s easy to feel like the odd one out when you are surrounded by a room full of super supple women, breathing in sync while we are breathlessly struggling to touch our toes… Let go of focusing on those external factors (such as being the only man in a yoga class or being less flexible than other practitioners!), and instead focus on the benefits of being present on the mat and prioritizing your health and wellbeing.
Do not be afraid to be your true self
As men, we have a tendency to learn from an early age that revealing our vulnerabilities is a weakness if we are to succeed in a (downward) dog-eat-dog world where often only the strongest survive. The way we act can give an impression of a hard shell that does not necessarily reflect our true self beneath. Learning to let go of this image when we arrive on the mat can be such a powerful tool in transforming our lives. Being present in the class provides us with a platform to be truly who we are – and not who society perceives us to be. Embracing this opportunity to be authentic can be a liberating experience. A yoga practice provides the means for us to delve deep within ourselves, become consciously self-aware, and proud of who we truly are.
Play with your edge – and use props
When we consider male role models (particularly sportsmen), it’s often those who succeed at competitive sports that are most widely recognized. We learn that being competitive is the pathway to success. But this can be to our detriment. Pushing ourselves beyond our own limitations can put us at risk of injury – and this applies to a yoga practice, too. We can end up trying to do yoga poses that we believe we ought to be able to do, when our body is telling us differently.
Using a yoga practice to ‘tune-in’ with our own body and mind enables us to play with our ‘edge’. Framing our yoga practice to take account of our aches, tensions, medical conditions or injuries means that we are more likely to practice safely. A yoga studio will typically have yoga props such as blocks, straps and eye pillows for use. Do not be afraid to ask how to use them to deepen into and support your practice.
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