This week’s blog entry is written by guest author Rene De los Santos. Rene is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program and a teacher at Whole Life Yoga. He teaches yoga for men as well as mixed gender classes. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There’s an old saying that we do not choose yoga; that yoga chooses us… perhaps from a previous life?
I first became curious about yoga in 2001 after observing yoga participants leave a class more tranquil and at ease than when I observed them going in. My first thought about yoga was “Someday I’ll do yoga- when I am old”. But yoga had called me and I quite couldn’t get that ringing out of my ear. My second thought about yoga was that I would only take classes for my own benefit but not teach it.
My misconceptions about yoga were mostly that it was for women and those either really flexible or really weird; rarely did I notice men leading a yoga class but when I did, and got to know them better, I realized that they were not particularly flexible and not at all weird. They were just like me. Normal.
This yoga journey lead me to teacher training at Whole Life Yoga, various workshops in Portland OR, San Francisco CA, Long Island NY and India to study (briefly) with TKV Desikachar, son and student of T Krishnamacharya and his son Kausthub Desikachar. Traveling to India was a life changing experience that continues to this day. It was a revelation to see that the senior teachers at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram were equally divided between men and women and that a great deal of respect was shown to each.
In India I learned that those who learn about yoga but do not share its teachings are like thieves.
My experience has shown me that most men (not ALL men) in our society have misconceptions concerning yoga; most of the men that I’ve spoken to do think yoga is for women, men with special powers or weird people. Most men new to yoga feel awkward walking into a room filled with women on the floor who they presume to be fit and flexible. Men tend to feel out of their league
Female yoga instructors can help ease the anxiety with new male students by not only welcoming them but also by asking if they have any questions or special concerns. Show them where everything is in the studio even if they are there with a friend who is a regular student.
When my women friends ask me how they can get their man into a yoga class, my response is simple: “Work on your own practice.” I believe strongly that yoga is ultimately about relationships- it ultimately transforms the practitioner, usually and hopefully for the better.
Yoga classes specifically for men only are gaining popularity. It gives men a chance to come together in a non-competitive environment and there’s something special about “man time” (sometimes knows as “me” time).
Men new to yoga tend to like “stronger” postures because of their natural strength; left to their own devices, my guess is that they would work more towards strength and less towards flexibility while women usually do the opposite! This can present a challenge for instructors wanting to create a challenging class with both men and women practicing together.
When my men friends ask me why I “do” yoga, my response is simple: “It makes me a better man.” The journey continues…
Rene De los Santos
Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle!