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April 27, 2015
I just read an article by Faye Martins on the blog and wanted to rant about why there is a lack of male presence within many yoga schools in the west. Faye's article was great and it was about bringing more men into our studios and how yoga teachers can help.
Although Yoga has evolved since its introduction to the western world a few short generations ago, its practice is still dominated by women. This striking contrast to its humble beginnings in Indian culture thousands of years ago is difficult to understand and explain. Is it the way Yoga was marketed in the United States that makes this so, or is it just another by-product of a culture where emotions and spirituality are relegated to the feminine sectors of society?
There is some evidence, at least, to suggest that this phenomenon might not be limited to the west. In 1938, Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacarya, Indian scholar, teacher, and healer, made the following statement: "I think that if we do not encourage women, the great Indian traditions will die because the men are not following the Vedic rules and regulations. They are all becoming business people."
During the middle of the 20th century, American women often hosted Indian gurus who visited the United States, and some became followers. Did this introduction to a generation of baby boomers set the tone for future generations of Yoga students?
Whether this explains the transition of Yoga to the feminine realm is not clear, and others might argue that Yoga has become a business among many of them, as well. Purists complain that the practice has been watered down to a physical exercise routine that neglects the emphasis on the soul altogether. Perhaps the somewhat successful efforts of women to bring a combination of compassion and activism to the Yoga practice had the dual effect of limiting its acceptance by men.
There is no doubt that the advertising and sports fields in the United States have emphasized and catered to the macho characteristics of manhood. Spirituality and the expression of emotions has been discouraged and too often hidden or repressed. Is it any wonder that men feel uncomfortable walking into a Yoga studio with candlelight and chanting in the background? A class with beautiful women has its advantages, but they are likely to be less recognized that the fear of failing.
Recently there was a commercial featuring an attractive female in a Yoga class checking her text messages and adeptly bending herself into a pretzel while the man beside her awkwardly staggered in a bumbling effort to maintain his balance. Could scenes like these explain why some men want to stay as far away from the Yoga studio as possible?
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