Why men should do yoga

Michael James Wong, founder of the no-nonsense yoga collective Boys of Yoga, tells us why men should do yoga. 

May 4, 2017

Do men still have a mental barrier with yoga?
Yeah, it's huge. It's 2017 but the reality is that there is still a stigma and stereotype.

What's the problem?
The biggest issue guys have with yoga isn't the practice but the word itself. The word conjures the stereotypes, but not the practice. As yoga entered the western world of modern yoga in the 1970s and 1980s women took it on and the community formed. But ironically yoga was created by men for men thousands of years ago. 

What gripe do you hear men say about yoga?
The main thing I hear is, 'I'm not flexible enough to do yoga.' Which is kind of like saying I'm too hungry to go the fridge or I'm too dirty to take a shower. There's a sweet irony in that. Men think yoga is a waste of their time when they could be doing weights, going to the gym, or running. 

But yoga can help with that stuff, right?
Right, yoga is complimentary. Yesterday I was wake surfing in Dubai for two hours and pretty much everything I was doing was yoga but on a board. All the body awareness I learned from yoga about how to stand and transfer my weight came in really handy. Finding those points of connection and the rhythm with whatever you're doing is the essence of yoga.

What would you say to a guy who's thinking about signing up for a yoga class?
Stop thinking about it and do it. Get involved and the benefits will come to you. People have a tendency to talk themselves in or out of things. They come up with all the fears and the limitations and stigmas in the brain, not the body. 

What type of yoga is good for a novice man?
Vinyasa is the most popular modern style of yoga. It's connected to breathing as you move which for men will give you strength and a workout, but also a consciousness of breath. 

What questions should we ask the studio before signing up?
The length of a class is important. Most classes are 60 minutes, some are 45. Classes that are 60-75 minutes long are probably most beneficial for guys because it gives you enough time to do the strong stuff and the soft stuff, the slow stuff and the fast stuff. Shorter classes try to pack too many things in. 

What mistakes do men make in their first class?
The main one guys make is trying to do what everyone else is doing - don't compare yourself to the person who can put their foot behind their head. Or guys will burn themselves out too early, they go hard and miss the best parts of the class. Just go slow and take what you need, leave what you don't. 

What if we're nervous?
Everyone looks as ridiculous as you do, so just focus on yourself.

What reaction do you see in guys after their first yoga class?
Nine out of ten times guys say things like, 'Whoah I wasn't expecting that. Wow, I feel great, that was amazing, I've never felt this in my body. I never realised I could feel this calm in a chaotic city.' 

For a guy who's reading this story on his phone, what simple things can he do right now to improve his posture?
First, put the phone down. Secondly, it's like your mum taught you when you were a kid: sit up straight, don't hunch. Draw your shoulders up back and down to create space between the neck and shoulders. 

How about a quick fix to calm us down?
If you're tired, anxious, stressed, or have a headache, lie on your back with your legs up the wall in an L shape for three to five minutes. It changes the direction flow of the blood. 

Last chance to convince us: why should men do yoga?
Carve out an hour of your day to spend some time by yourself, in the body and mind. 

Boys of Yoga are running classes and workshops in Dubai between May 4-6 at Urban Yoga in Business Bay.