Overcoming Barriers and Discovering Yoga
From a personal perspective it never occurred to me that being a man would be a barrier to attending a yoga class, and of course it didn’t. Yoga was not as popular then (2003) as it is now (2019) and there was still a choice of teachers and methods. I had never assumed that yoga was predominantly practiced by women and that being a man would somehow be unusual or intimidating. (Admittedly I was drawn to Ashtanga Vinyasa as it presented me with a challenge and was definitely the most obviously male-friendly option at the time.) There are many reasons that men find it difficult to practice yoga. Firstly, as mentioned above, there is the widespread perception, among some men, that it’s for women and therefore not sufficiently masculine as, say, weightlifting or football etc. Secondly, there is the initial discomfort of working with a stiff, tense body in the yoga postures. Especially a body that may have spent many years training in sports or through a general lack of postural awareness. This explains how guys who may be highly motivated and accomplished in another sport or discipline find the challenge of struggling through a yoga class humbling and it is this sense of humility that tones down the ego, an inevitable and necessary part of development in yoga.
Over the years teaching groups of mostly women, with the occasional stiff guy, it’s easy to understand how some men may find it embarrassing. As a naturally flexible, nimble and energetic person I have not directly experienced this problem. In fact it was quite the opposite. Yoga gave me a way to express myself in a peaceful creative way which was just as important as the physical and psychological benefits. With this sense of fulfilment in the practice I seemed to have found my true purpose in life and everything else fell into place.