Men, drop your mantras, you’ve been found out: You’re into yoga for the sex! Well, at least that’s what some people are claiming. It seems that yoga based gender bias has come full circle in the blogosphere. The days of see-through yoga pants is old news, but the topic of men practicing yoga—and it’s promise for a better sex life—is all the rage.
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The American stereotype of the sexy yogini has been going strong for at least a few decades, fortified by popular culture, instructors like Bikram Choudhury and Tara Stiles, and retailers that have built empires out of selling yoga clothing. While many instructors and practitioners speak out against these narrow views of what a yogi looks like, some people still seem to think yoga is all about physical appearance and getting and/or staying “hot.”
A recent article, written for men (by a woman), listed a number of reasons why men should start practicing yoga. It stands to be noted that each reason listed was a reason for any human to consider doing yoga, but this article elaborated on each point by explaining how yoga would improve their sex life. While there may be merit to some of the points made—and while there is nothing wrong with taking an interest in improving your health and quality of your intimate relations—the tone of this piece hardly read as supportive of men establishing a serious yoga practice. This narrow carrot and stick view of yoga is interesting only in that it treats men as so many articles, books, movies, TV shows and advertisements have often treated women: as if they are inadequate on their own and this special space will make everything better. Or, that they are not smart enough to think on their own, so they need something explained to them in very simple terms, with shiny rewards at the end in order to motivate them to action.
It’s tempting to find this role reversal humorous, except that these techniques really aren’t a good way to speak to either gender. We know all too well that body image issues are associated with constant exposure to these types of media fantasies. In addition to all the physical and mental health benefits that can be gained from a regular practice, research supports yoga as an effective tool for several predominantly male populated groups such as athletes, veterans suffering from PTSD and those who work in corporate office settings. Sadly, those who could benefit from this the most are often men who worry that yoga isn’t manly enough. Bribing them with a special treat doesn’t set them up for long term success in a practice that has it’s most profound impact in moments of inner, solitary, peace.
Ironically, yoga was developed by men and practiced nearly exclusively by men for centuries. It is only in recent western history that so many women have flocked to the practice. Still, many present day popular teachers and gurus are men.
In the end, a few insulting blog posts probably aren’t going to make a big difference one way or another in how men feel about yoga (especially if they are already reading yoga blogs). On the flip side, there are probably women out there who tried yoga because they heard it could improve their sexual experiences as well. There are certainly plenty of people who tried it because they wanted “yoga butt,” or some other variation of an idealized body type they thought yoga could provide.
Perhaps what ever gets you on the mat is good enough—once there, you really can’t control in what ways your life, health, or experiences improve. The truly beautiful thing is that they most likely will.
What do you think about using sex as a selling point to get men to try yoga?