Men Only Yoga Classes. Is that the way to get more men doing Yoga?

Something great’s happened since the New Year.

More men have come to my yoga classes.

Yes really.

Granted the ratio of women to men is still 80/20 but  20% is a pretty good result.

Men Only Yoga Classes
photo credit: Gamma Man via photopin cc

There are usually only two reasons why men come to yoga classes. First it’s because their wives and girlfriends drag them in kicking and screaming. This group tends to start the class looking sullen with their arms crossed defiantly in front of them.

The second reason is that a doctor or physiotherapist recommends they attend to help  recovery from an injury.

Despite their initial reluctance I find that once a bloke has been to a yoga class the chances are he will come back again. Because he will feel the benefits of the strengthening and the stretching and how it compliments his pumping weights and his running. He will see the improvement in his flexibility and his posture almost immediately. For single guys there’s also the added bonus of the 80/20 ration in favour of the girls.

But let’s face it 20% men and 80% women is not really a fair balance. What can we do as yoga teachers to encourage more men to attend our classes? What can the yoga community do to overcome the perceptions some men have that yoga is a “fluffy” experience, full of easy exercises, chanting and lying about breathing.

In my recent Group Fitness Over Coffee podcast I spoke to Ann-See Yeoh who is an experienced yoga teacher and group fitness instructor , and asked her advice. She recommended two courses of action.

Firstly to run men only yoga classes. She did caveat this expressing disbelief that men wouldn’t flock to a class full of women wearing yoga pants. But in her experience men only classes are a good way to allow participants to relax, feel less intimidated, and to learn the basics before moving on to a mixed class. Also in a male only class you can de-emphasise some of the elements of yoga that some men feel is “fluff”.

And this was Ann-See’s second piece of advice.

Men Only Yoga Classes
photo credit: Gamma Man via photopin cc

Some of the vocabulary that we use as yoga teachers can seem quite flowery.

We speak about energy flowing from limb to limb. You hear talk about golden cords extending out above our heads straightening our spines. This imagery is lost on many male participants.

If you focus purely on describing the physical exercise they will feel more comfortable. This might go against some traditional yoga teaching thinking but is that a problem if more men ultimately come to our classes? It also means not using the yoga names for poses such as Warrior Two and its Sanskrit equivalent Virabhadrasana Two.

Whilst yoga’s made up of the eight limbs, focussing on three of them; the poses, breathing, and a little meditation, we can make it more accessible initially. The other five can follow on later.

By the end of 2014 I hope that my ratio is closer to 50/50.

Now it’s your turn: Are you a yoga instructor? What have you done to make yoga more attractive to your male participants?

If you are a man looking to start doing yoga, what are your concerns? What would you like to see done differently?

Please leave a comment and share your thoughts or link to your own blog.

If you disagree with what I’ve written please let me know why.

4 thoughts on “Men Only Yoga Classes. Is that the way to get more men doing Yoga?

  1. I’ve just recently started yoga and am really enjoying it. I’m surprised when other men say that they think it’s ‘girly’, the female/male imbalance doesn’t bother me (there are obviously lots of men that do yoga). It’s more the new-age/hippy angle that I feel a bit uncomfortable with, particularly the Oms!

    I think you’re right. Men tend to like to master skills, develop technique and get quite technical so focussing on the physical aspect of the stretching, how to get it right, align your body etc rather than the internal is perhaps a way to approach it at the start.

  2. If a bloke is only there to see women in yoga pants doing happy baby or to pick up, they may not be attending for the right reasons.
    I find it hard to find clothing that is not revealing and clingy and yet stays put in upside down poses and wide leg poses. Is it possible that the women to men ratio is confronting for men that have the same concerns? What DO men wear to yoga?

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