In 2012, less than one in five people in any given yoga class in the United States was male, according to Yoga Journal’s Yoga in America survey of the same year. However, the number of men in yoga classes has been steadily on the rise, and yoga instructors everywhere are happy to have a better gender balance in their studios.
Just what are the benefits a guy can expect to get from practicing yoga regularly? We went to the source to find out. Here’s what Rick Hayman, a student at Yoga from the Heart, had to say:
Q: What brought you to your first yoga class? Said differently, why did you want to try yoga? And why did you want to take yoga classes at the Yoga from the Heart studio?
A: I have never much liked going to the gym, but I sit all day at work and that takes a toll on my body. I had low level lower back pain most of the time, and any time I did anything physical I always hurt the next day. After a weekend of assembling a friend’s IKEA furniture, I was so sore and achy that she suggested I try yoga. I chose Yoga from the Heart because from the minute I took my first drop-in class, Steve and Lynn were so welcoming and down to earth I felt right at home. It wasn’t like a gym and it wasn’t all “mystical and incense” either!
Q: Was your first class harder or easier than you’d thought it would be?
A: My first class was harder than I thought it would be, but it didn’t have to be. Even though I was urged not to—I pushed myself too hard.
Q: Do you think your yoga practice has made you stronger or more flexible…or both?
A: Definitely both. Because it is so enjoyable I have stuck with it for a year now, and I’ve noticed my arm and chest muscles are more defined. I feel stronger, have better balance, and best of all, am not experiencing any more nagging back aches. I even look forward to assembling IKEA furniture again!
Q: Has your hard work on the mat made life off the mat easier in any way?
A: Yes, it’s definitely made life off the mat better. I leave every class feeling ready to take on the day. I feel much freer to move when reaching high up for something or crawling under my desk to reconnect a cable for my computer.
Q: What is the biggest take-away lesson learned from your yoga journey so far?
A: If you try yoga and the emphasis is pushing and straining to get into the perfect position and it’s painful, try another studio. What I love about the classes at Yoga from the Heart is that the emphasis is on the journey, not the destination. I’m always hearing “if it hurts, you’re not doing yoga” and “if your breath is not coming easy, back off a little.” Part of the joy is seeing your own progress. I was so proud when I did my first headstand, but even more proud of all the patient, hard work I put in to get there.
Q: What would say to other men thinking about giving yoga a try?
A: To any guys thinking about trying yoga, I would say there is no downside. You’ll be more flexible and feel great. Be sure to choose a studio that will bring you along on a journey that honors your unique self, not one that takes a cookie cutter approach to instruction or expects instant perfection.
Thanks, Rick Hayman, for sharing your experience with yoga and Yoga from the Heart!
Writer: Dianne Ochiltree is a graduate of Yoga from the Heart’s Teacher Training Program, a 200-hour RYT with the Yoga Alliance, and has happily served as Lynn Burgess’s teaching assistant at weekly gentle yoga classes for Parkinson’s disease students. She is also a children’s author and freelance editor (www.dianneochiltree.com).