It is fairly obvious that yoga in the Western world is a discipline dominated by women’s participation. So it may be surprising to learn that yoga was actually created by men and historically practiced by Indian warriors to strengthen themselves both physically and spiritually for battle. Sixteenth to 18th century India even saw some areas hire out bands of yogis as mercenaries (making Warrior Pose all the more aptly named).
Suddenly, the Seattle Seahawks’ mandated yoga practice as part of their football training doesn’t seem so hippy dippy anymore. In fact, men’s general participation in yoga has skyrocketed in the past few years, rising to 27 percent in 2013.
Part of this is due to the work of male yogis (women are actually called “yoginis”) such as Patrick Beach and Dylan Werner, who have helped show the world through their social media presences what yoga can be and how it is for everyone.
“When yoga came to America it was all stretching postures, so there was this huge stigma with it not being physically challenging, or not for people who lacked flexibility,” says Beach. For guys, the dissonance between expecting a yoga class to be “easy” and then struggling for an hour to hold poses can be a big deterrence.
Werner explains, “Having a lot of weight in the arms, like Warrior Two with the arms out, that’s hard for people. And then you take it with the girl who’s next to you who’s 100 pounds and can hold down-dog all day; sometimes it’s discouraging or emasculating.”
But yoga is all about balance. What men lack in “natural” flexibility, they make up for in strength. In fact, the advanced yoga poses Beach and Werner have become famous for are poses that many women cannot achieve in the same amount of time as men, due to natural differences in muscle mass.
Werner used to be a firefighter before making the switch to yoga instructor and “is an amazing athletic talent, he has moves that probably five people in the world can do,” says Beach of his fellow yogi. Werner and Beach recently worked together on an online yoga video series — one of the first of its kind — that covers advanced inversions and transitions. “There was a mutual respect for each other,” says Werner, of working with Patrick Beach for the first time. Continue reading >>