“Yoga Is Too Girly” And Other Macho Myths Debunked

As a man who is completely crazy about yoga myself, I can’t stop myself from trying to convince friends and relatives of the many benefits of yoga and how it can transform their lives. While I usually get the absolute attention of women when I explain what I do for a living, their male counterparts often demonstrate clear skepticism if not indifference to the idea that yoga could be exactly what they need.

Over the years I’ve heard all kinds of excuses from guys who won’t try their first yoga class. You’ll hear things like, “It’s too girly,” “I’m not flexible enough,” or my absolute favorite, “I prefer a real work out!” From inside the bubble that being a full-time yogi can put you in, these reasons seem silly, but the huge population of men who won’t try yoga means we should probably look at these excuses a little more closely.

Many professional male athletes have long recognized the unique benefits of yoga and adopted it as part of their training, but in the mainstream the image of yoga remains largely feminine. When we ask the average person about yoga, they automatically visualize the latest advert featuring a beautiful, thin woman doing stretches. No wonder the stigma is that yoga is only for women!

I know for a fact that yoga has got nothing to do with beautiful female bodies as adverts would like us to believe. I think it’s just a matter of time before men start to realize how great yoga is, and how manly, challenging and complete it can be! Here are a few common myths that get in the way of many men trying out yoga for the first time.

1.Yoga Isn’t Masculine

Jide Obi on Flickr.
Jide Obi on Flickr.

Many male professional athletes have already incorporated yoga and meditation into their practice, and it doesn’t seem to be hurting their masculinity. These include NBA basketball player LeBron James who credits his extraordinary stamina on the court to his yoga practice, Andy Murray, a Bikram Yoga enthusiast, and the world-famous New Zealand All Blacks — who happen to be the most feared rugby team in the world. Doing yoga.

Why did they choose yoga? Well, on a physical level yoga helps to prevent injuries, and the fewer injuries you get, the longer you can maintain a professional sports career. Another benefit is the positive impact it has on the mind: the improved clarity and focus you get after practising yoga could be the difference between winning and losing a game.

Many male celebrities including Collin Farrell, Matthew McConaughey, or even Robert Downey Jr. swear by yoga. Yoga helped Tony Stark turn his life around, going from his lowest point to become one of Hollywood’s best actors.

Still Not Convinced?

Here’s a fun fact for you: in addition to improving athletic performance, yoga also makes sex more satisfying. Boosting our performance in the bedroom is definitely something that should speak to us men!

Not only does yoga work on the physical level increasing things like endurance and general performance, but also — and most importantly — it increases awareness. Yoga teaches us to be more present, and in the bedroom this means things like increased sensitivity, deeper connection, more pleasure and eventually a more gratifying relationship.

Alpha on Flickr.
Alpha on Flickr.

2. I’ll Have To Be A Vegetarian

You might be one of those who see yoga as a practice reserved only for vegetarians and vegans. Let me tell you that this is a complete misconception. Yes, many people in the yoga community believe yoga to be a spiritual practice and therefore naturally turn to vegetarianism; but yoga is also a strong physical practice in itself! What you will be doing on the mat will transform you physically in many ways, whether you eat meat or not.

In our modern world, our body accumulates toxins everyday. Externally, from the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat, but also internally from our own created stress and tension. Yoga is a powerful natural cleanser that will release toxins, stimulate digestion and leave you feeling much better. Many poses work at a deep level, like twists that massage internal organs, and upside-down poses like shoulder stand that significantly boost metabolism. Best of all, you don’t need to be an adept vegetarian yogi to benefit from these poses and you can see some results almost immediately.

3. You Won’t Get Buff Doing Yoga

I recently met someone in India who exercises diligently under the guidance of a personal trainer who comes at home early mornings. His girlfriend had been asking him for a long time to come along to a yoga class and he kept refusing, saying, “Yoga is too easy!”

Seeing that his girlfriend would not give up easily, he finally agreed. He reluctantly went to his first class. What happened happens more often than you’d think: he barely managed to keep up with the class and had to stop half way through because it was simply too hard! Yoga requires as much strength and a lot more flexibility than what general gym training prepares you for.

What happens often is that once men do actually try yoga, they get face-to-face with the realization that women can be stronger albeit in different ways. It is not surprising then that we men would avoid stepping into a yoga class, and risk being unable to perform poses that are easy for women.

4. You Have To Pray And Be Still For Hours

Abhisek Sarda on Flickr.
Abhisek Sarda on Flickr.

Sitting crossed legged for long hours, reciting prayers with your eyes closed is not what yoga is all about. Yoga does not require you to do things you are not comfortable with. It is up to you to try things out and keep only what works for you.

What is important is to develop your awareness of what is going on inside. This can be done on the mat by practising holding poses for longer, drawing your attention inward, and synchronizing your breath. In the long run, yoga will help you on a deeper level working towards the balance between body, mind and soul. I’d go out on a limb and say men need that at least as much as women do, if not more!

Real Yoga Vs. Advertisements

Ultimately, yoga is a tool available to everyone who wishes to become a better human being, regardless of gender, religion, experience, strength or flexibility. It is not some easy practice that only girls do; yoga is a very challenging practice and has the potential to completely change your life.

These are only few of the reasons why men should do yoga and how the whole feminine image is just a marketing gimmick. If you’re a guy who’s tried yoga before, or a girl who knows one, do share your experience with us in the comments below — and maybe add a few reasons of your own!

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Zen Monkey, a sub-division of YogaLondon, is an online conduit for yoga students and teachers to share ideas and develop a catalogue of content that is informative, creative and fun. We are a community founded from the collection of writers and yogis we've mentored, worked with and been inspired by. Together, we are building a tribe that shares the tools, the inspiration and the motivation to lead a healthy, mindful and sustainable life.