A friend of mine who teaches yoga blogged recently about an experience she had with her optometrist, when she invited him to her yoga class. In essence, he didn't see yoga as something that men did--or at least not straight men. Or, I presume he would say, "manly" men. And he seemed to think that it was a "hippy dippy" thing. There's a lot one could say about this reaction, but I'd like to focus on the perception of yoga today.
In the first place, I think yoga is becoming more mainstream. I don't have a hard and fast number on this, but I do know that some NFL teams and many individual NFL players practice yoga. We're talking about some of the greatest male athletes in the world, and they find something valuable in yoga. One of the hot workout regimens today is P90X. Maybe you've seen the infomercials, and if you have, you may very well have seen this guy:
The other positive for yoga's acceptance is the penetration it has in more rural areas. My hometown, a small town in Ohio, now has yoga classes at the local community center. Here in rural Indiana, we have classes at our local library an area fitness center, and at our school (though that's just for the school community). Not that long ago, yoga was primarily an east coast and west coast phenomenon, plus urban areas. Now, it seems, yoga is all over the place.
All that said, though, I recognize that it's not just a few eye doctors who are holding out. I go to almost every meeting of our once-a-week on-campus yoga class, and it's consistently 6-8 women and me. That class meets at 6 am, so that may have something to do with the attendance. There's another yoga class on campus at a time I can't attend, so I can't speak to its attendance. It has more people going overall, but I don't know how many men it's attracted.
And that thing that Tony Horton said about yoga? I gather he said that at least in part to resistance from some P90X enthusiasts to the yoga workout. In other words, he had to support yoga because a lot of people had some kind of negative impressions of it. I have a friend--a lady friend, I might add--who will follow me just about anywhere in the gym and do all kinds of workouts, some of which surely look goofy to any outside observer. But there's something about yoga--she completely avoids it.
A few months ago, I blogged about teaching my first and only yoga classes, back-to-back sessions for the girls swim team. It was very positively received, but I bet it would be a hard sell if I tried to take it to my boys tennis team. Or most any other team. Maybe the point is that I would have to sell it to them, whereas the girls just took it in stride, tried everything I put in front of them, and expressed positive feelings about it afterward (but hey, maybe their coach sold it to them before they even showed up).
And what about the charge of being "hippy dippy"? I suppose anything with a "spiritual" element that isn't mainstream Christianity will probably have a decent chance of drawing that label from a certain segment of folks. That is being countered somewhat by the various fitness programs or movements that are helping to bring yoga mainstream, though that circumstance, too, causes its own issues for many yoga practitioners, because, of course, there is a spiritual component to yoga. I heard someone once say that yoga without those spiritual aspects is just pilates. I've got my own thoughts on "what yoga means to me," but I'll save those for another time.
Perhaps far more fruitful than allowing myself to continue wandering through my own view of our culture, I should just open the floor for comments. How do you see yoga? What's your first association with the word and what is your more considered opinion about it?