In my world and in my city, yoga is widespread. As a yogi, I notice it everywhere. It’s referenced on commercials and in movies often. It’s also offered in most big fitness gyms, and there are yoga studios that have popped up seemingly everywhere. But that is only true if you are aware of it like me.
Most average American males don’t have much exposure to yoga. I was touring in western Pennsylvania a few years ago and was looking for a yoga studio. The towns are pretty small in western PA and out of the five or six ones we went to, only one had a yoga studio in it. As a side note, I was looking for brie cheese too and couldn’t find it there.
Not finding much yoga in Pennsylvania was an eye-opener for me. I realized that most areas outside of big cities don’t have much access to yoga. That made me think. Am I not like the average American man? Are my views, opinions, and tolerances different from all those guys living somewhat in the country and the ones in the cities not doing yoga? Up until this point, I only figured guys like me didn’t do yoga because of what they thought it was. I thought most men probably thought it wasn’t for them as yoga is a religion or for women or was too easy. I sure as hell thought all three of those things before I got into yoga.
Maybe some guys, if they had access to a yoga class, would opt to go to it instead of doing some sport or lifting soulless weights. And maybe the dudes living in more populated areas would give it a try if they knew more about what yoga really is, and how it can benefit them.
WHY REAL MEN DON’T GO TO YOGA
First off, I am a real live American man, and I do yoga. A lot! I have worked a physically hard job outside for decades, been in a few fights, been married and divorced, don’t take much in the way of shit, wouldn’t have a small dog, and comfortably say “fuck” way more than I probably should. And I do the hell out of some yoga and love it. Here are a few reasons why guys like me don’t consider doing yoga:
1. Yoga is for women – A lot of guys like doing guy shit. They like playing and watching sports, going fishing, working on cars, drinking beer and eating barbecue, and talking about women. Those things are done with other men. Why would they go to an activity that is predominantly made up of women?
Guys don’t want to have to be around a bunch of women talking about silk flower arrangements, skin care, and dog clothes.
2. Yoga isn’t physically hard enough – There’s no “grunting” in yoga. There are no forty-five-pound plates to throw around or balls to hit and then chase. Yoga doesn’t require special shoes or pads or safety harnesses or helmets like the more macho activities need. Sitting around on only a mat and stretching a little while thinking about lavender and being reminded to breathe all the time can’t be hard.
Real men need tough and heavy activities for their work out that require anger induced focus in a competitive environment. Not a loving circle of chanters searching for their inner selves in flicking candlelight.
3. Yoga is a religion – The last thing a dude needs in his life is someone telling him how to think and what to believe in. He gets more than enough of that from his wife or girlfriend or still idealistic teenage kid.
And the average American man is happy with what he believes in, with whatever that is. He doesn’t have the time or mental energy for his thinking to be challenged by some weird religion where guys wear diapers and smell funny. Or worship a polluted river and allow cows to roam wherever they want untouched even though everyone is starving which is halfway around the world in some overpopulated and filthy country. No way! Jesus, guns, and red meat are all the average American male needs.
4. Yoga is for tree huggers – The average guy can’t do yoga. He doesn’t know what kombucha is, will never drive a Prius, and doesn’t really understand why hemp is a thing. I mean, it doesn’t even get you high. The only time a real man hugs a tree is when he is climbing up to a hunting stand with a 308. Rifle so he can kill and eat Bambi.
Non-tree huggers wear jeans that go all the way down, wouldn’t know how to wrap a man bun, use deodorants with aluminum, and own at least one good pair of work boots that makes a nice big steel-toed carbon footprint. They can’t possibly do yoga.
WHY REAL MEN SHOULD DO YOGA
Over the last eighteen years of me doing yoga, I’ve talked to a lot of guys about it. It’s been fun listening to the reasons why they won’t do it or have never considered it. I have to say that some guys will never try yoga. Their minds are just too closed.
Often, while doing work in someone’s backyard, I would be talking to the homeowner about whatever, and the topic of yoga would come up. As soon as I would reveal that I do yoga, they would either change the subject or go in the house. Me telling them I did yoga was the same as if I was a white shirt and tie wearing Jehovah’s witness knocking at their front door. My guess is that they would think I was going to try to talk them into some religion. That was hilarious, as the religion of yoga has nothing to do with my practice, and I would never try to or even give a shit about trying to impose my beliefs on someone else. I get it though. They don’t know anything about yoga. I’m sure it looks like some religious bullshit to some. If you’ve made it this far in this article, then allow me to explain, man to man, why I think yoga may be good for you. Even if you’ve never seen “The Notebook”.
1. Yoga is NOT just for women – Even though in the eighteen years that I’ve been doing yoga, there are a lot more men in class now, there are still many more women doing it than men. More and more athletes are discovering that they will be better at their sport if they do yoga on a regular basis. In short, yoga will make you physically better at whatever it is that you do.
Famous male athletes at the top of their game like Tom Brady and LeBron James do yoga. The list of famous guys in baseball, football, soccer, basketball, hockey, golf, and MMA that do yoga to enhance their sport is big, and growing every year.
If you have a physical job, yoga will help you to do it faster, get hurt less, be less fatigued, and do it at an older age. Guy jobs like electrician, plumber, roofer, carpenter, and masons just to name a few, will benefit greatly by doing yoga. And yoga class isn’t the “hen house” you might think it is. I have met some really cool dudes in yoga and made great life-long friends from it. I’m talking meat eating, pick-up driving, sports watching, and beer drinking types along with every other kind of guy.
Oh and there’s a major bonus, yoga is loaded with beautiful and positive women. How is that bad for a guy?
2. Yoga IS physically hard enough – It’s not only hard enough, but it’ll also kick your ass! One of my favorite things to see in yoga is when some muscle head takes a class for the first time. I’ll see him in there before class, sitting there, looking hard, and having a mild contempt for those around him. You can see that he thinks all these non-muscle bound dudes and women in the class are physically less than him. Then the class begins, and within ten minutes, his cocky confidence turns to fear and survival. In most cases, I never see Beefcake in yoga class ever again. His ego got way too bruised when he saw all those women around him being able to do the yoga while he sat there, tapped out and fighting back vomiting. It’s back to the weight pile, hangin’ with Hans and Frans for him. Some guys will enjoy the unexpected extreme challenge that yoga gave them, and they come back for more. And some of them (like me), will replace the activities they used to do with yoga and are physically better off.
3. Yoga is a religion. But only for some. – This is tricky to explain because yoga does have a religion attached to it. But you don’t have to adhere to it to do yoga. And nobody is going to impose this religion on you when you do yoga. That discovery will be left for your pursuit if you want to. I never have, BTW. I try to think of the religion of yoga as the religion of surfing. It’s the physical activity that can spark the religion, not the other way round. In the US, yoga is almost only focused on its physical part which is the postures and the breathing. It’s highly doubtful that anyone will talk about the religious aspect of yoga to you during class. You’ll have to look that stuff up for yourself. Personally, I have no use for the religious aspect of yoga, yet, I still love to do yoga and advance in it. For me and the vast majority of people who do yoga in the US, it is not a religion to them.
4. Yoga is NOT ONLY for tree huggers – I’ll admit that there are a lot of tree hugger types in yoga. It’s the perfect environment for the tree hugger though, and that’s why they are there. Yoga is partially about non-judgment though, so they will accept you if you are not like them. The tree huggers don’t run or are not the policy makers of yoga, so you don’t have to worry about them trying to change you. Sure, there’s the occasional zealot, but that is present no matter what group or activity it is.
There is maybe no type of person that I like less than those overly idealistic who only see and consider their way as the right one. I don’t fault anyone who wants a better or preserved earth or society, but if they try to tell me that my way of thinking is wrong while theirs is right, I will repel from them. If yoga was full of that kind of tree hugger, I would have left it about as quickly as the gym rat type does in the above story. Yoga allows you to be you, so don’t think it’s anything that is going to force some kind of streamlined concepts on you. Yoga is about you learning and discovering how to be a better you, whatever that is. Period. If you want anything more out of it than that, then that is your decision. Your man card will stay right where it is.