The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.
~ Chinese Proverb
Why men could choose to do yoga.
The operative word here is “choose”; it’s always about choice in everything we do. We try to make karmically correct choices when we hold a conscious perceived value in what we do. This is distinctly different than the many unconscious habits (choices) we rationalize with a variety of intellectualisations that would not pass our own scrutiny if and when we are brave and honest with ourselves. Yoga is not the only path to a more conscious and vibrant life but one that I am sufficiently familiar with, and confident enough to make the following statements.
1. Yoga is for everybody, for every body. If you can breathe you can do yoga. Any confusion around this statement has more to do with misinformation and preconceived ideas about what yoga is and isn’t.
2. The disproportionate number of men not choosing yoga is a reflection of point #1.
3. Yoga today is very much a market driven phenomenon focused primarily on women, vanity, weight loss and other superficial benefits that fly in the face of ancient yoga traditions. Yoga has withstood the test of time, its efficacy is proven and what we see in yoga infused advertising is distorted and profit driven opportunism. Business like free flowing water always finds the points of least resistance. Consequently the optics from a male perspective is that yoga is “primarily” a gender based (female) activity and somehow unmanly. Mass media (like guilt) can be a powerful force when inflicted properly.
4. As recently as the mid 19th century yoga was only taught to men. Only when yoga arrived on western shores in the 60’s (thanks to B.K.S. Iyengar) did many women embrace yoga and now hold (on average) a 75% to 25% ratio over men.
5. Flexibility and strength training is only one aspect of yoga and clearly present tangible benefits but in the bigger picture is a small and arguably not the most important consideration. This is not unlike saying that tennis is all about serving. Clearly serving is a pivotal part of the game but by no means the whole picture. That said regular yoga practice can be specifically beneficial for men with postures that maintain and improve prostate health.
6. Yoga has psychological benefits that enhance experiential and perceived quality of life. This manifests as meaningful and valid understandings of happiness and a reduction of “normal” life induced stress that is accepted as a given part of our results oriented and often chaotic world.
7. Men are (generally) socialized differently than women and this is evident throughout our lives from boyhood into adult “manliness”. Obviously men and women are different in many respects and these inherent differences need to be recognized, honored and supported. There are however many outmoded and destructive social conditioning norms that are profoundly flawed in logic and ultimately handicap us as men in the bigger picture of life. This is not about blame or finger pointing but compassionately applying the awareness we now have to not merely improve our own quality of life but to make this world a more peaceful and equitable place. The proverbial ball has come across the net; as men we must hit it back and get into this game. We can do this if we choose.
~ Henri Ferguson ERYT-500
Copyright © Henri Ferguson 2013