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Reframing Yoga to Appeal to Male Participants

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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

 

How do you get guys to take a yoga class? Market it as sports conditioning.

That's what Yoga Source did when it rolled out its first yoga series just for men this spring. The Carytown yoga studio put out a flier on its "sports conditioning for men" four-week series that started April 3.

And the guys showed up. Some of them were first-timers to yoga. Many admitted that the yoga-loving women in their lives talked them into it.

Matthew Pitera said his girlfriend persuaded him to try it.

"I'm not going to say I hate it," he said with a grin after finishing up the third session. He likes to play ice hockey, and he's a regular at the gym.

"They say you should change up your routine every three months or so. ...This is another way of doing that," Pitera said.

Peter Coleman, another participant in the specialty series, said he wouldn't have taken a yoga class when he was younger.

"I was more interested in skiing and surfing and more aggressive sports," he said. But those sports aren't realistic on a daily basis anymore.

"I knew there was yoga in my future," Coleman said.

Ironically, their instructor, Michael Evans, found yoga through his love of sports.

"I wanted to improve my golf game," Evans said. He started taking yoga about 12 years ago, and he took a liking to it. So much so, he's been teaching for four years now.

Evans jokes that he's not sure his golf game is much better than when he started, but his balance and flexibility have definitely improved.

This is Evans' first time teaching an all-male class.

"It's something I've always been interested in doing," he said. Although the number of men doing yoga worldwide is on the rise, men still represent just a fraction of the yoga population.

"The chanting and the Sanskrit is sometimes a turnoff," Evans said. The other deterrent is that men often lack flexibility, and they feel intimidated to try poses in front of women, whom they deem as more flexible.

Evans said this men-only class is a "stripped-down" version of a regular yoga class, in that he's taken out a lot of the parts that make men uncomfortable, and he's offered them alternative ways to do poses that require a lot of flexibility.

The first four-week series for men at Yoga Source ended last week. Another one starts Monday, May 1.

"Hopefully, when they move on from this, they'll feel free to go to a regular class," Evans said.

Tia Platte, co-owner of Yoga Source, said men are getting more acclimated to yoga.

"When we started here, we might have seen five men the whole month," she said. "Now, there are many more."

Older men, particularly, are coming to check out classes, Platte said. "They're curious," she said. "They know they need something, but they're not sure where to start."

She's hoping that offering the sports conditioning series will open the door to additional men who will see the benefits of yoga.

John Kemper, who was in the first series of classes, said he was glad he signed up because he felt good at the end of every class.

"My wife does it and she encouraged me to do this," he said. "I've seen what it's done for her."

As a teacher, Evans said he has enjoyed the all-male class environment.

"We can use language that we don't in other classes," he said with a laugh.

Maria Howard is a group exercise instructor for the YMCA of Greater Richmond and the University of Richmond Weinstein Center. Her column runs every other week in Sunday Flair.

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April 22, 2017
 
 
 

 

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