There's been a lot of talk recently about men who do yoga. More guys than ever are trying it for the first time — even Don Draper — and people are even calling it Broga (a new term I don't find particularly clever, but I suppose there are more important things in this world to complain about). Slowly, we are letting go of the hackneyed idea that yoga is just for women. With these changes also comes the rise of male instructors. It's not so uncommon anymore to see a male teacher leading your Saturday morning vinyasa flow class anymore.
But male yoga teachers still make up a fairly small percentage of a community that is dominated by females (80 percent of students are women), which makes them easy targets for stereotyping. Folks think they're all tattooed and vegan; tall, lean, and bendy. Having worked with lots of male teachers the past few years and having dated one for a while now, I know a bit about their crew. I've met some who fit that bill, but I've also learned that there's a lot more diversity amongst them than you would expect. They come from all walks of life and each one is just as different as the next.
Here are the top seven cliches that simply aren't usually true.
Stereotype #1: "He’s Probably Not Into Sports"
A lot of people see a guy teaching a series of sun salutations and automatically can't imagine him playing team sports on a regular basis. It's an unfair assumption, especially now that we're welcoming all kinds of athletes into our classes. Many of them are going on to teacher training after falling in love with the practice. Last year, I met a teacher from London who was a serious soccer player for most of his life. His athleticism is actually what brought him to hot yoga — his knees were damaged from the sport and he needed a restorative treatment.
Instructors like him inspire even the most unlikely of jocks to give yoga a shot. Plus, haven't you heard? The L.A. Lakers and the New York Giants are known for adding yoga into their practice routine. They say it's tough as nails, but nothing helps prevent injury and protect their joints more than yoga.
Stereotype #2: "He's Probably One Of The Girls"
I've heard from some male yogis, especially my boyfriend, that this is the most frustrating stereotype of all. As comical as it is to think about, they don't all enjoy sitting around on a Friday night watching chick flicks with my group of girlfriends. Every male instructor is different — you'll see some who have a strong network of female friends from work, while others simply have their own thing going on. They're not all experts on girl talk.
Don't immediately come to the conclusion that your instructor is keen to have Cosmopolitans with you after he's done teaching your weeknight class. He's around more females a day than the average dude, so he might want to decompress with his guy friends.
Stereotype #3: "He Must Know A Lot About The Female Anatomy"
I like to think they all know the basics, but that's not always the case. A guy who had been teaching for over five years overheard me tell a friend that I had menstrual cramps, and he suggested I eat less ice cream because "it can hurt the tummy." Sigh. Teacher training courses don't turn men into gynecologists overnight.
They may have a solid understanding of what stretches are best for relieving pain from scoliosis, but they are still chaps, after all, most of whom don't know much about your anatomy. This might come as a real letdown, especially if you were expecting him to be a genius in bed — sorry to disappoint. As much as I'd like it to be true, sexual enlightenment isn't a side effect of becoming a yoga teacher.
Stereotype #4: He's More Sensitive Than Most Men
All those backbends and heart-opening poses would soften even Jax Teller, right? While I've certainly met plenty of male yoga teachers who are sensitive, not all of them are exceptionally nice guys who are in touch with everyone's feelings. In fact, now that we're on the topic, don't convince yourself that the charming instructor you've been flirting with would make an excellent boyfriend just because he's a good ashtanga teacher.
Every guy is different, leaving you to find out for yourself if he's worthy of your trust and friendship. His personal attributes remain the same no matter how much yoga he does. A man is not a guru simply because he teaches yoga —not that you even need a guru, anyway.
Stereotype #5: He's Super Spiritual
Characters like Aldous Snow in Forgetting Sarah Marshall don't do these guys any favors. You might picture them meditating for hours a day and chatting about things like divine energy and chakra cleansing. But that image isn't always so accurate. They're not all dedicated to the spiritual side of the practice, and that's perfectly fine. They pay respects to its Indian origins and the Eight Limbs but they just stick to the physical asanas.
A teacher told me he was once approached by a student who asked him to teach her about tantra and its holistic worldview. She couldn't believe that he had no knowledge of it. To him, that kind of stuff is as foreign as rocket science. Before you presume he is an expert on those topics, respectfully inquire.
Stereotype #6: He's Broke
When I was teaching in Australia and a student asked why one of our teachers wasn't around, I told her that he was on vacation. She looked appalled and whispered with wide eyes, "Oh my, can he afford it?" Sure, it's no secret that teaching yoga doesn't exactly pay Wall Street salaries, but that doesn't mean these guys can't put food on the table.
Besides, there are all kinds of ways to earn a living in the yoga industry that take place outside of the classroom, such as founding a cool website or organizing retreats. Just because they're not pursuing careers that most men obsess over doesn't mean they're not serious about being successful.
Stereotype #7: He Was Always Really Good At Yoga
I'm embarrassed to admit that I used to think most of the male yogis instructing me were once dancers or at least naturally (and freakily) flexible. I couldn't fathom any other reason why they would be attracted to this profession. However, I've encountered countless guys since who claim to be hopeless in their first year of their practice, yet later find themselves training to become an instructor.
For example, my boyfriend has been teaching for almost ten years, but when he started, he was a stiff surfer who literally couldn't touch his toes. One of the reasons so many men these days are becoming instructors is because they have experienced how difficult the practice is and they want to lend a helping hand to the average dude who comes off the street with a bad back.
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