Help! There’s A Man In My Yoga Class!

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.”

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    • Eileen

      It’s not just yoga – I know a lot of women who are uncomfortable working out in places where men are present, period.

    • MommyTheorist

      Okay, but I once went to co-ed NAKED yoga in Manhattan, and opted for women-only NAKED yoga after that. I can’t unsee what I saw!!!!!

    • Bridget

      In 2011 people still think dudes should be lifting weights and yoga is for chicks?

      I’m actually more weirded out by “partner poses.” lord help me if I ever have to touch a stranger in yoga!

    • OG

      I’m disappointed that women would go out of their way to make a lone man in a yoga studio feel uncomfortable by moving their mats away from him. He probably felt uncomfortable enough as it was. My boyfriend enjoys yoga, it challenges him in a different way than cardio and weights do, and I would upset if he was discriminated against because of his gender.

      I’m often the only woman in the weight room. If that makes men feel uncomfortable, tough. I should be allowed to workout wherever I want without my intentions questioned or exercise choice judged. So should anyone else.

    • NimChimp

      The women who made their discomfort known — and the person who said that she always “assumes the worst” — should be ashamed of themselves. Sure, there are places where men go to hit on women or to make asses out of themselves, but yoga, really? I’ve been practicing yoga for 6 years, and I simply can’t imagine anyone entering that space for those purposes. I feel alone enough as a man in many of those classes. If you moved your mat away from me, I’d be much more uncomfortable than you.

      Of course I wasn’t there, and if a man really was acting creepy, I’d urge women to speak up and get him kicked out. But this sounds like it is a bias on the part of these women that has nothing to do with the men themselves. It’s their right to feel that way, but please don’t put it on the men. Just find a women-only class in your area (yes, there are plenty) and leave us well-meaning men alone.

    • J

      I wish more guys would realize the value of yoga and that it’s not “just for chicks” so that the whole stigma of men going to
      yoga would die. I’d love to see equal numbers of men and women in my classes.

      Unfortunately, there do exist guys who do come to meet girls and/or enjoy the view when they’re in down dog. I’ve actually seen suggestions in the media that men should go to yoga classes for these reasons. But I rarely encounter these guys in my classes–most of the men I do encounter are cool dudes who are in it for the yoga because they realize it’s awesome and not “girly.” When there is a guy with sketchy intentions, I can always tell right away.

    • Magdalena

      Well… I’m just going to be honest and although I’m not proud of this, I don’t like men in my yoga class. They always laugh in difficult poses (WHY?) often smell, make stupid noises, snore during the relaxation part (so irritating and not in the least relaxing for others having to listen to it) and breathe really,really heavily through their noses.

    • Albert Giesbrecht

      Chances are that a man in a Yoga class is gay.