“In the beginning, only women came to yoga classes,” joked David Life at a Jivamukti event this past Friday. “And I was okay with that.” [Laughter erupted.] But what Life was hinting at was the simple fact that the era of classes full of women (often led by men) may, in fact, be coming to a close.
The number of men in yoga classes has been steadily increasing—in just the past few months jocks in triangle pose have appeared in the New York Times and Mind Body Green declared Men and Yoga a 2011 wellness trend. Adam Levine bared his naked yoga bod and Russell Simmons put his yogic lifestyle on reality television; yes, Y-chromosome yogis are everywhere.
Costello emphasizes that ultimately, the yogic path is the same for men and women. But there’s a different sense of limitation: “Particularly with the fast Vinyasa classes at Kula, men think, ‘I couldn’t do that,'” explains Costello. “This is an opportunity for them to build a solid foundation.”
There are also differences in movement. “I see a lot of success with men when we’re able to move in a way that addresses their strengths, where their center of gravity is, and how they move differently from women,” she explains. “It’s really about mechanics.”
So are “Just for Men” classes a good idea or just a passing fad? And should these macho classes be taught by women or men—or does it matter? We asked a handful of accomplished New York City male yogis for their take.
David Romanelli, AKA “Yeah Dave,” creator of Yoga for Foodies and author of Yeah Dave’s Guide to Livin’ the Moment
I think the more inviting yoga is, the better off yoga is. And I know some men prefer classes with other men so they don’t feel self-conscious. So in that sense, there’s absolutely a benefit to men only classes.
In terms of a male or female teacher, it depends on the man. Some men come to yoga with the intention to meet women. And there’s nothing wrong with that…as long as they’re not hitting on your wife. Most of those men would tell you they much prefer the class taught by a woman. But once somebody really gets yoga, and gets into it, they realize the effectiveness of the teacher is not based on their sex, but on their style of teaching, their pacing, their message, their music.
Mike Patton, owner of Yoga Vida NYC
I think what is helpful about these classes is that often guys (or gals) feel a bit embarrassed looking like a bit of a “fool” in front of other babes (or dudes), and this way they can develop some of the fundamental skills that will help them feel a bit more comfortable in a regular class setting. The benefit of doing yoga in a group is often the energy created and inspiration provided by having others around, joining in their struggles and pains, mutual realizations and moments of clarity.
Some men are more comfortable being instructed by a woman…. Physiologically, there is no reason a man can’t instruct a woman and vice versa.
Michael Taylor, Strala Yoga
Well, assuming we can decide that men are people (I know, occasionally debatable), I think variety is good for everyone, men and women alike. Some people will gravitate to women instructors, some to men….whatever yoga guide is best for them. Everyone has both feminine and masculine traits—from great sensitivity and intuition, to great strength and knowledge. I’ve seen more variation from person to person in these things than I have from women to men.
I’m remembering something the Dalai Lama said about it being a great thing there are so many religions in the world, because there is such a great variety of people. I think the same is true for yoga. So long as people aren’t chased away never to return, variation is a good thing! Yoga can be a very great whole health system (meaning our minds, bodies, spirituality = all one thing) for everyone. Giving people a good range of approachable options means more people will uncover this for themselves. —Lisa Elaine Held
Yoga for Dudes at Kula Yoga Project Tribeca with Nikki Costello (assisted by Kevin Courtney), Saturday 11AM–12:30PM. Kula Yoga Project Williamsburg with Jillian Turecki, Wednesday 9–10:05, www.kulayoga.com