Tag a friend who needs home help teaching yoga to men. We all know that there are a few instructors out there who could use some help.
Thanks to efforts of yoga companies to promote yoga for men (I think one of them is called Man Flow Yoga or something like that), the increased use of yoga in professional, collegiate, and youth sports to prevent injury and improve physical performance, and the medical community’s recognition of yoga as a major tool in rehabilitation efforts, alleviating lower back pain, and helping to lower stress, yoga practice amongst men is on the rise. For many yoga instructors (specifically women) this can be a challenge. You’re probably not used to instructing people who have muscle mass that prevent them from doing certain poses, or have such chronic shoulder tightness that they can’t reach their arms to their ears. Many of your go-to cues will not even be applicable to these types of guys. So, here are some tips for you to shore up your masculine teaching side.
1. TIGHT. SHOULDERS.
Men have tighter shoulders than women. This is easily apparent if you ask a dude to straighten his arms skyward. More likely than not, his back will arch and his chest will splay out as he extends. Tell the dude where he should feel the stretch, and explain that the goal is to feel the target areas of the pose, and not to replicate certain “goal points” of the pose that would only apply to someone who has the flexibility and strength to do so.
Men have tighter hips flexors than women do. Many men don’t actually know what part of their hips are tight, but they have been told by their trainers or physical therapists that they should do yoga to help open their hips. They’re probably not going to have a perfect Warrior 2 the first day, but at least make sure that they are on the right way by telling them where specifically they should be feeling the opening in their muscles happening.
This list is getting repetitive. But seriously – men have much tighter hamstrings than women do. Tight hamstrings mean that poses with straight legs (downdog, pyramid, triangle) can be very difficult. Always be sure to emphasize that the knee can bend so that the back can remain flat, and also that they can ease into the flexibility of the pose, rather than have their tighter-than-hipster-jeans-muscles tear.
4. Reliance on upper body strength.
Guys have more upper body strength than women, so they will try and use this to their advantage as much as they can. This means using arm muscles instead of core. It can also mean reverting to gym push-ups in place of chaturangas. A crappy crow pose is easy for a younger guy who has been working out consistently or playing sports for years. Acknowledging (and maybe even complimenting) this upper body strength is a good idea, but make sure to specify how the guy should also be using his lower body in order to make yoga the full-body workout that it is intended to be
5. “No pain, no gain” mentality.
Men are used to this mentality of pushing themselves through pain to get stronger. This becomes problematic in yoga, because when you are pushing your muscles to the brink of or past your flexibility limits, those muscles can strain or tear. Tell people what level of discomfort they should be feeling, and not to push beyond that point. “Moderate discomfort” is a good phrase to use to let people know how much they should push. Sharp pain or pinching should be avoided.
6. This is workout time. Please don’t tell me how to live my life.
The main reason why I started Man Flow Yoga was because I was sick of yoga instructors trying to tell me how I should live my life when I was just trying to get my workout in. My market research and years of experience in introducing yoga to men have taught me that men do not want to hear phrases such as, “And just sit there, and be”… “The only moment that matters is now”… “Let go of all the troubles in your life”… etc, etc, etc. If you see new guys in your class, maybe you can tone down the yoga talk a little bit. Otherwise they will be halfway through class, standing on one foot, and wondering to themselves, “What the actual f*** am I doing here?”
The main point of these six tips is to empathize with the men in your class. Try and understand why they are in your class and teach accordingly. Even go up to them before class starts and ask them about what they are hoping to gain from attending your class. Remember – men are from mars, and women are from venus. Men’s bodies and minds are different from those of women, which means that your yoga approach with them should be different as well.