Men and Yoga: Obstacles to Hitting the Mat?

mbg Founder & Co-CEO By Jason Wachob
mbg Founder & Co-CEO

Jason Wachob is the Founder and Co-CEO of mindbodygreen and the author of Wellth.

Many guys don't give yoga that important first shot. So what's the biggest obstacle to getting a man to take his first class?

MindBodyGreen: What's the biggest obstacle to getting a dude to hit the mat?

David Romanelli: The biggest obstacle is a dude feeling incompetent or intimidated by the learning curve. I have that issue with golf. I'm afraid to start golfing because it seems like such a steep, long learning curve. But yoga is different because you can have an epic experience your very first class. I remember one time Bryan Kest said he feels sorry for flexible people...because the tight people get the biggest high, the greatest release.

Bryan Kest: Them understanding just how important stretching is and what a great workout yoga can be.

Brock Cahill: Dudes' biggest obstacles to getting into practice are the stereotypes. As far as I am concerned, yoga is for everybody. There are so many blockages where people think... Yoga? That's for _____. Bullshit. Yoga is the catalyst toward becoming your most complete self, and living up to your fullest potential. Who doesn't want to do that? Well, I guess the peeps that find an excuse not to practice!

David Regelin: I think that most dudes approach yoga as they would a sport. You choose a sport based on your aptitude. Tall guys play basketball, burly guys play football, fast runners play soccer etc. So if you aren't flexible and have poor balance etc. So you might think yoga is not for you because you won't start off with any competitive advantage. But that's exactly why it is for you. You become flexible, balanced and strong as you practice. And you learn to be efficient. You actually learn a method by which you learn to engage/release muscles at will. You also start to gain control of your mind by controlling your breath.

Also If you show up to a yoga class as you would a sport, to compete, you're gonna be schooled by a bunch of women who have been doing it for years. You're gonna be the worst player on the field. So you have to be clear about your reasons for showing up. If you woke up one morning and couldn't turn your head in a certain direction, or couldn't straighten your arm all the way you would be concerned. You would seek help (or suffer, or try to ignore it depending on who you are). The stiffness you take for granted as being part of life is not actually. If you don't use it, you lose it. Yoga is a way to reclaim the range and ease you were designed to have. If your body is an instrument, or a machine, yoga is an excellent way to tune it.

I can now do postures that I used to see people doing and wonder why on earth they would want to. It happened gradually. I don't think the average person needs to go as far as I have with it. I sometimes get negative reactions from people when I practice outside -- in the form of gawking and snickering. Especially when i put my leg behind my head or do a deep backwards bend, it looks to some like a freakish contortion routine. When you develop something over many years as I have, you gain "extra"-ordinary abilities, but that takes time. You don't become a monkey overnight.

David Swenson: Don't worry what other people think! Get out there and have your own experience. If you then decide it is not for you then great. But don't let some other person's opinion be the deciding factor of your trying something new.

Michael Taylor: What if if I'm no good at it? I'll look dumb! I won't be the winner!! Well, it's true, you might not be the winner. But riding the perpetual motion machine (sorry, elliptical trainer) and lifting heavy objects repeatedly aren't exactly the coolest things in the world -- they're just familiar. And interestingly enough, if we ease off on winning and looking so accomplished all the time, we may wind up accomplishing even greater things with far less effort. Yoga has a way of strengthening our abilities across our whole lives. It's well worth putting aside a little control and giving yourself a shot.

Derek Beres: Sitting in a studio full of women that are going to be way more flexible and stronger than they are, in ways that they never even think of strength. Yoga is very yin -- the strength comes from a certain sense of softness that develops over time. It has nothing to do with large muscles; in fact, a healthy yogi's body has a little bit of love around the midsection. Asanas help the yogi become anatomically correct, not absurdly muscular. The inner strength is more important than any outward signs.

Sam Chase: Well, here I can only speak for myself, but I know in the beginning I just felt totally incompetent. Here I was in my first yoga class, being asked to use my body in a way I never had, to breathe in a way I never did, and to focus my mind in a way I wasn't used to, and to top it all off I was supposed to do it while listening to a bunch of sanskrit chanting. That's a pretty high bar for a lot of people--men or women. Everyone around me seemed to know exactly what was going on, and I couldn't tell my utkatasana from a hole in the ground. That first class takes a lot of courage and a lot of humility for anyone I think. But I walked away feeling so good I thought, "I have to figure out what the heck is going on here."

Rusty Wells: A big obstacle is that many guys initially tend to think that yoga won't be challenging enough for them. Pro athletes have long discovered that yoga provides the platform for endurance, concentration and fortitude.

Vinnie Marino: Guys assume this will be a waste of their time and not produce results.

Noah Mazé: Yoga, at least how it is practiced in contemporary times, is more feminine encoded. It is about listening to your body and heart, moving in the natural cycles of your breath, to the inner experience of fulfillment. Identity, when it is feminine encoded, is self generated and comes from the inside out. An example is that girls become women from the natural cycles of their own biology. For beings overly encoded feminine, it is a natural thing to "listen to your breath, move with your breath, feel your heart" etc. Yoga from the inside-out is more feminine encoded. In this way, there is no goal as an outer object.

The masculine code is to go outside to then receive the reflection back as the experience of identity. Men don't make themselves, as women do, we need other men. Competition, war, games with a goal, coaches and mentors, are all ways that we direct energy out to then receive back our self image. In yoga, we pursue and practice poses that have classical forms. This gives us objects to aspire to, to extend out into to receive back the image of oneself. Yoga from the outside-in is more masculine encoded. In this way, there is a goal; the successful attainment/performance of the form. 

Yoga moves us in both directions; inside-out AND outside-in. We all have masculine and feminine code, and gender is a slight preference of code in one direction. We all need both strategies, and yoga teaches us how to do both skillfully, even the strategy that feels less 'natural'. 

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