Dudes, do yoga. It’s not just for women.
The first impression of the practice of yoga to a dude might be that it seems like an activity for bendy, flexible women wearing tight, bright clothes. We might not admit it, but that can be an intimidating scene to walk into. We see people bending like pretzels and think that to be “good” at yoga we need to fold, twist, and bend like we see others—but ultimately, that’s not what yoga is all about. In fact, the physical aspect is only one part of the practice of yoga.
Over the last several years yoga has grown in popularity and we’ve seen the numbers of male practitioners and teachers rise. This includes teachers like Matt Giordano, who are leading the way in showing men their power in the practice of yoga and speaking to them directly to cater not only to our mentality (with language and specific verbal cues), but to our physical structure as well.
While at Wanderlust Stratton I had the pleasure of taking two of Matt’s very celebrated classes: “Fire of the Heart: Backbends for Dudes,” and “Hips Are Not Just for Chicks: Hip Openers for Dudes.” In these classes he outlined the differences between the physical structures of male and female anatomy and explained how to utilize the strength we have in practice. He also shared several modifications to help us unlock our full potential as men in the practice of yoga. After an insightful and powerful class atop Stratton Mountain, I sat down with Matt for a brief chat about “Yoga for Dudes.”
From your perspective, how has the “yoga scene” changed with male participation in the practice over the last several years?
It has definitely become more accepted as the years go along. It’s becoming more accessible for guys because guys are practicing it more. It’s like a snowball effect. It just takes one guy who is into the gym, fitness, and working out who finds his way into yoga and he tells all of his friends, and they go out and talk about it and so on and so forth.
It’s really nice to see that guys are willing to dive into a practice that on the outside might seem like a feminine practice. In many aspects it is a feminine practice in that we’re introspective and we are trying to gain a sense of softness and tap into the beautiful parts of life—which for many guys is vulnerable and something we are generally not willing to approach. So I feel that it becomes a really strong and powerful practice for dudes just to even step into the yoga room. When a guy steps into his first class it really shows that he’s reached a level of strength in his emotional body and his mind that he’s open enough to try something where there’s a lot of women around.
I think it’s going to continue to snowball. As men we really search for drive and purpose and the practice of yoga really drives and connects us to clarity of what we really want.
How does the physical practice differ most from men to women?
Physically, our bone structure is completely different, from the shape of our pelvis to the shoulder girdle. Our “design” is such that we have the capacity to hold a lot of strength and power, and what we often see in a class is women who have this intense flexibility because of their bone structure (which is meant to open up in the pelvis to deliver a baby). But obviously we as men don’t have that type of an experience, especially in the hips. So, what I would encourage is—that because we have such fierce strength, power, and musculature—that we place that strength and fire of the practice in the appropriate spaces that allow the bone structure to have freedom, which means stability as well.
What I see often in guys is the tenancy to stretch the muscle itself, so there’s a push effect. They try to push really hard into a hamstring stretch until the body shakes, and that mentality is a very male mentality, very masculine. “If I push myself a bit further, maybe I’ll get a bit more flexible.” What I try to bring into Yoga For Dudes here at Wanderlust is the idea that you have to let your body feel like it’s being mothered, loved, and safe. So you draw the musculature shorter, bring the bones deeper into the sockets, and, once the bones are deeper in the sockets and muscles are shortened and relaxed (even though they’re engaged and in a relaxed position), then you can expand out. Only then can you elongate the bone structure, and then you can create space where space is needed.
It’s a very patient practice and as guys, patience is not always our strong suit. We always want to push through things. So creating a patient practice creates balance in our lives—and that’s really what enhances the emotional and mental practice for dudes.
What’s one piece of advice for new dudes looking to step into the practice of yoga for the first time?
I wouldn’t push anybody into something until they’re wanting and ready to.
If you’re on the fence because it’s a pride thing, because of the vulnerability of jumping into something you think is only for women, then I say get stronger and just give it a try. What’s the worst that could happen? If you don’t like it you don’t have to go back again.
What I recommend is trying something three times, especially if people are raving about something. You know that typical mentality in humanity that if someone raves about something we get turned off and don’t want to do it? Well there’s a reason people are raving about it. It’s not because of an external fad, but because people are feeling something internally, and if you want to feel a sense of empowerment and strength in your body and mind to really do anything, then this is one of the practices that can get you there. So,why not give it a shot?
I gained a lot from my classes and conversations with Matt. As men we have enormous strength and power. The practice of yoga is an incredible opportunity for men to not only utilize this power in a physical practice, but learn how to harness the power and strength we embody and direct it into areas of our body and life for deeper meaning, clarity, and softness. Plus, let’s be honest: Women dig dudes who do yoga, so step into your strength and give it a shot if you haven’t already.
This piece was originally published on wanderlust.com on June 24, 2013.
Tony Felgueiras is a yogi, photographer, and videographer. He’s a lover of music, film, people, and life—and on a mission to capture it all in images from his unique perspective. Tony is hungry for adventure, a collector of experiences, and a fan of extra-long hugs. Find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.