Yoga and Men

A Q&A with yogi Rodney Yee
“I want to teach men that it’s good to come up against obstacles, it’s good to be faced with what you see as your weaknesses.” ~Rodney Yee

 

Q. We hear so much about yoga for women. What do you think yoga has to offer men?

First of all, more men take yoga than you think. My classes are about 30 to 50 percent men. I do think yoga has a lot to offer men. I just think it’s harder for men to begin initially because of the male stereotypes in our society. Men are supposed to be strong and goal oriented and to identify physically and mentally with sports.

But what many men discover is that the stereotype of a strong, independent male is very isolating and doesn’t really work. They begin to look inward and begin to move toward relationships with themselves and with others. Yoga for men is all about relationships between the body and the breath, the muscles and the skeletal structure, your physical self and your emotions, your mind and your body, yourself and your community. It gives men permission to stop and listen to their inner voice.

Q. Many men prefer the rigors of contact or competitive sports. Can a yoga help them perform their chosen sport better? How?

I think so. Every sport has a unique vocabulary, and we often find it difficult to translate the kinesthetic language of one sport into another way of moving.

If we’ve trained for years to be a gymnast, for example, our body responds a certain way. Certain muscles are always contracted; others are loose. The body sets up particular neurological and neuromuscular patterns that stay the same and serve us in that sport. We breathe a certain way; we move a certain way. We often injure the same muscles or ligaments in the same way.

Yoga brings the body back into balance, into its natural alignment. Yoga, with its full spectrum of poses — prone, supine, backward bending, forward bending — can teach someone where imbalances and physical weaknesses are and can help strengthen the body. Yoga can help enhance an athlete’s performance in his sport by teaching how to breathe properly, how to relax and how to gain flexibility.

Q. What advice can you give men who may be interested in yoga but don’t know how to begin?

Taking a yoga class in a health club is a good way to start. I’d also tell them not to get discouraged. Most men are very competitive and have used their bodies that way all their lives. Suddenly they come into a yoga class and everyone can do the poses so much better than they can. They begin to compare themselves to everyone else, and it sometimes feels downright humiliating. Often their first inclination is to give up. Staying with it will not only be good for their body — giving strength, flexibility, and balance — but also good for balancing their mind and emotions.

I want to teach men that it’s good to come up against obstacles, it’s good to be faced with what you see as your weaknesses. By doing that, you not only begin to understand who you are, but you begin to develop a sense of compassion and acceptance.

Try yoga for men with Rodney Yee on GaiamTV.com!


Rodney Yee is a certified Iyengar yoga instructor and one of the world’s foremost yoga authorities. He has been a featured guest on “Oprah” and has created more than 30 Gaiam yoga DVDs. Rodney teaches yoga worldwide and works with the Urban Zen foundation to bring yoga therapy into hospitals and other clinical medical settings. Visit the Rodney Yee blog for more information.

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Comments

JAKABA
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As a male massage therapist and instructor I too have experienced the minority mindset of what mainstream men are challenged with. In my practice and in the classroom YOGA is advocated as the instrument for well being when you decide in a career in Massage Therapy. When men question the effects and validity of Yoga I describe to them imagine a system of "functional bodywork and development that applies directly to day to day living". It is the evolved practice of any strength training program that a traditional gym could offer you..

Dorothy422
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It's simple logic that Men are better at Yoga or any other health exercise because their body and their joints are stronger and built to take heavy loads.

Eric
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Dorothy, it is not true that Yoga and Meditation only meant for or gives better results to Men....It totally depends on your focused and well directed approach.

HTorrance
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People talk a lot about society's negative effects on women and women's self-esteem, but I think our attitudes are very damaging to men as well. Women are not the only ones who can be made to feel inadequate by our culture's stereotypes and expectations.

I went to a yoga class the other day that was half men. It was kind of cool. To me, that says the studio is doing something right, that men feel comfortable there. The uncomfortable atmosphere for men sometimes arises when a studio attempts to be women-friendly instead of just people-friendly. I support the idea of some studios being more woman-friendly or more man-friendly for those who need that, but I hope in the future the majority of studios will be simply everyone-friendly.

didgeplayer
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When I started Yoga (15 years ago) there were 3 men in the room myself. One other student and the teacher and there were 12 women and I ended up leaving because I was comparing myself to everyone else in the room and I started to feel real uncomfortable and pretty much like a big goof. 6 foot 1 inch tall, martial artist, and I was getting intimidated in a yoga class because I just could not get anything, other than Savasana, right.

Fast forward a few years (12) and a few more attempts to start yoga and I discovered a friend of mine, who is a woman, was a yoga teacher and therapist and she gave me private lessons and I did much better. Prior to that the best I did was following Rodney Yee’s yoga dvds at home.

I fully agree with the article because I pretty much lived it.

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