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Myths about Men and Yoga

Myths about Men and Yoga: the Truth

One of the most common topics surrounding yoga practice are its benefits. And yet, with all that yoga has to offer, men are usually a minority in a yoga class, or they are not present at all! 

Social media is flooded with images of bendy women practicing yoga, and male practitioners fade into the background.

The reason men are reluctant to join a yoga class is often due to misconceptions that were never corrected. 

Let’s take a look at common myths surrounding yoga and men to determine if they ring true.

 

The myth: You have to be flexible to practice yoga

Flexibility Man

Where does this myth come from?

If you haven’t tried yoga before, your knowledge likely comes from seeing social media posts depicting people in poses that require extreme flexibility.

How much truth is in it?

Unfortunately, social media is responsible for our warped views on many subjects. It’s easy to forget that people tend to only show their best side on Instagram, and yoga is no exception. 

There is no shame in showing off a yoga pose you finally conquered, but it’s important to keep in mind that there is a lot of work that went into it behind the scenes. In fact, only a very small percentage of people are “naturally” flexible. For most yogis, it takes regular practice and long-term dedication to get to a point they can easily wrap themselves into a pretzel.

Flexibility is not a prerequisite for yoga, quite the opposite. Saying that you have to be flexible to practice yoga is like saying that you have to be clean to have a shower. 

Flexibility is one of many benefits that are associated with yoga practice, so if you are feeling stiff and inflexible, a yoga class will help you gain greater mobility.

 

The verdict: FALSE

The Myth: Men are naturally less flexible

Men are flexible

Where does this myth come from?

Generally speaking, men are often encouraged to take up activities that don’t include flexibility training and focus more on strength or speed.

How much truth is in it?

First, let’s address the notion that flexibility is a natural trait. Regardless of gender, most people’s flexibility is dependent on the amount of work invested into it. The longer you spend conditioning your body to stretch further, the more flexible you are. 

If you look at this concept through the gender lens, you’ll see that women seem more flexible only because they have been socially encouraged to be. From a very young age, boys are encouraged to play soccer or take up swimming, while girls are encouraged to dance or do gymnastics. 

And even when they grow up, women are guided towards physical activities like yoga and Pilates, as opposed to weightlifting or boxing. Furthermore, flexibility has to be maintained through regular practice, so even if you used to be flexible as a kid, doesn’t mean your body responds in the same way after many years. 

And so, if you’re a grown man who suddenly found himself unable to touch his toes, you’re not alone!

The second thing to address about men and flexibility is that there plenty of male dancers, gymnasts, circus performers, figure skaters, rock climbers, and of course, yoga instructors whose flexibility is well above average! 

They are living proof that flexibility does not directly correlate with gender, it just takes time and effort.

 

The verdict: FALSE

The myth: Some poses are not suited for men

Yoga pose flexible man

Where does this myth come from?

There are two reasons why people might think that. 

The first reason is simply that a pose looks uncomfortable or painful. The other reason is that they may have read this information from an unverified source and took it at face value.

 

How much truth is in it?

Here’s the thing. There are hundreds of yoga postures, and it would be unreasonable to expect that you’ll feel comfortable and confident in each one. Everybody is different, and every body is different. 

Some people have trouble balancing while excelling at arm balances. Some people struggle with hip flexibility but can perform a deep backbend. 

If your body doesn’t take well to a particular pose, you can either modify it to suit your body’s needs or change your practice. A good yoga teacher knows that the same pose can feel very different for people, regardless of gender, and they should be able to advise you on the best way to adapt your practice.

It’s also worth noting that the discipline of yoga was developed and popularized by men, including most of the yoga poses. 

Therefore, if you struggle with a specific pose (or type of poses), it’s not likely to be because you are male!

The verdict: FALSE

The myth: Yoga is too easy, men need something more challenging

Yoga is too easy for men

Where does this myth come from?

On the surface, yoga may look like a combination of breathing and stretching, which doesn’t sound particularly gruelling. 

It is also often defined as a low-impact exercise, which creates a certain idea in people’s minds.

How much truth is in it?

The first thing we need to establish is that not all yoga is the same. 

There are types of yoga that are mostly static, with emphasis on breathing and meditation. There are types of yoga that favour alignment and endurance. However, there are also physically demanding styles like Ashtanga Yoga, Vinyasa Flow, or Rocket Yoga. 

The aforementioned yoga types involve fast-paced transitions, repetition, and challenging poses like arm balances or inversions.

Secondly, the reason yoga is regarded as a low-impact exercise is because it is generally less taxing on the joints. However, yoga can still provide a quality cardio workout or make your muscles quake. If you tried yoga and thought it was too easy, perhaps you just haven’t found the style that suits you. 

Remember – there are many benefits that come with yoga practice, so why not give it another go?

The verdict: FALSE

The myth: Yoga is a complementary practice

Old man doing yoga

Where does this myth come from?

Yoga is steadily gaining popularity. 

In recent years, many professional athletes started including yoga as part of their training, which created a notion that yoga is only good in addition to other physical activities.

How much truth is in it?

The reason many professional athletes and exercise enthusiasts love yoga is because it can enhance their performance in other sports. 

It can relieve muscle pain after a tough workout, prevent injury going forward, help the body restore between training sessions, and more. 

Additionally, having an improved sense of balance, core strength and flexibility is an advantage for many other activities, including running, cycling, basketball, soccer, hockey, swimming, and powerlifting. 

That said, yoga has value beyond complementary training. It’s a great practice in its own right, and you don’t have to be an athlete to enjoy it.

The verdict: TRUE, but context matters!