Although most beginner yoga classes are open to any person, regardless of their athletic ability or background, it seems like every class I take is all-female. And when I recently went into a class where there were fifteen women and one man, several women in the class were visibly uncomfortable by the guy’s presence, even moving their mats away from him so they wouldn’t get assigned to partner exercises with him. The guy did and said nothing to give a bad impression of himself, but it’s not the first time I’ve seen women get uncomfortable having a lone guy in the class. I polled a few yogis – male and female – to get their stories about guys in yoga studios.
WOMAN: I definitely don’t feel weird [about it]. There are quite a few guys who go to my yoga classes (including my hubby who usually practices with me). Adds some great dynamics and energy. Although, when some of the hotties take their shirts off, it can be quite distracting in my balance poses!
MAN: I always wanted to sleep with my yoga teacher. I always wondered if I had a shot with her, but I never made a move because I liked her class too much to make it awkward. I went to yoga class initially to gain more flexibility for skiing and to hopefully help with some wrist and elbow problems I have, and then I went after I broke my leg to regain flexibility. I just think people should know that guys go to yoga class for many reasons.
WOMAN: I’ve never thought it’s weird. It’s usually older men I see, though.
WOMAN: I always assume guys who take yoga are just trying to meet girls, otherwise they’d go to the gym. Even if a guy is really into his practice, I assume the worst. I know it’s stereotypical but I can’t help it.
MAN: All the women in my class are great. I like my [female] teacher a lot. But my [male] friends are another story. They clown me for going to yoga and say it’s just for chicks. They all lift weights.
I spoke to a man who is not at all a stranger to being the lone guy in a yoga class: Neal Pollack, author of Stretch: The Unlikely Making of a Yoga Dude. He dismisses the idea that a guy would take a yoga class just to meet girls. “There to pick up girls – that’s a sitcom premise. Yoga is for everyone, and one should assume the best intentions from people until they show otherwise.” Pollack also points out that while yoga in the United States is currently marketed as a lifestyle for women, until recently the majority of the world’s yoga practicioners were men.
As for his own experiences, Pollack is a veteran of countless classes, teacher training classes, and seminars. “I have spent a lot of time in close contact with women, many of whom are attractive, and have never had so much as a flirtation. When yoga practice goes well, it removes gender and lets you see people for who they really are.”