Boys.CamelPose

It took me 15 minutes just to find this one photo, which is a pretty good indication of the popularity of yoga for boys.  Where, oh where, are the books, DVDs and inspiration out there encouraging our boys to try yoga?

It can take a big man to see past hot pink yoga mats and pretty smelling studios to attend a yoga class.  Is it any wonder that younger males, seeking to find their identity, while also working to fit in, may not be enticed by the idea of sitting still, stretching into potentially uncomfortable positions and ‘getting in touch’ with themselves?  Though traditional yoga was done only by males in India, the 2008 “Yoga in America Market Study” conducted by Yoga Journal, is reporting that of current yoga practitioners (at least in the U.S.), 73% are female and just 27% are male.

My own son, 7 years old, practiced some yoga with me in his younger years, but when he hit school age, it suddenly became very uncool to go to yoga class. At one point, I overhead Jack telling his friend that his Mom was a yoga teacher, to which his friend replied with horror, ‘Yuck…yoga?  That’s for GIRLS!’   Jack and I still sneak in some stretches, yoga breaths and some pratyahara exercises, one on one at home – but shhh, don’t tell him I told you!

With the rise in diagnoses of ADD and ADHD and the like (most prevalent in boys), and a culture that demands an overscheduled, competitive lifestyle, there is no better time to give our boys the same wonderful yoga tools (translate: life skills) that have been made so accessible for girls. But perhaps it needs to be framed a little differently for boys than girls?

Think about it.  If you tell a boy that yoga will help him stretch his muscles, calm his mind, get in touch with his inner wisdom, you will probably lose him faster than his fingers can move on a Nintendo DS.  But tell him that the Philadelphia Eagles practice yoga to help them improve their game and well, now you’re talking guy language.  The other stuff comes in time, but first we need to work on getting the boys to come and experience yoga for themselves.

There are so many amazing athletes and other male role models out there doing yoga, so I find it surprising that no one has put a DVD together or set up a yoga program specifically for boys.  Wouldn’t it be cool if one of the respected athletes, male celebrities or male yogis (like Baron Baptiste, who has done several of other projects for kids, like My Daddy is a Pretzel) put out a book and DVD for boys?  How about a coffee table book with awesome photos of famous athletes doing yoga with quotes of how yoga has impacted his life?  Now, that’s a yoga book boys would want to read and review.  How about a teacher training or workshop focused on teaching yoga to boys?  I know I would go to one – and perhaps the many great male yoga instructors out there would too, and then be empowered to head out to teach to the younger generation all that they wished they had learned earlier in their own lives.  (Interestingly, I just spoke with my friend and fellow yogi, Aaron M., a twenty-something avid surfer, if he’d be interested in teaming up with ChildLight Yoga to develop a boys program and workshop. Stay tuned!)

I had been thinking about this subject a lot when I received the following article from Shana Meyerson of mini yogis as one of her free subscription-based teaching tips (highly recommended). She kindly gave me permission to reprint it here.  Though it doesn’t specifically answer the question of how to encourage boys to give yoga try, it does provide some great tips on teaching to the boys you may already have in your classes:

Teaching yoga to boys is a bit different than teaching yoga to girls. Beyond simply changing fairy and ballerina poses into pirates and power rangers, it is important to understand the different sensibilities of the different genders. With very young kids, the differences aren’t quite so pronounced, but as children get older, their gender roles tend to diverge more dramatically.oys over, say, eight years old in particular tend to be pretty skeptical about yoga. They think it’s for girls. I like to make the point to them that many professional male athletes practice yoga these days, as it helps them with strength, flexibility, focus, and agility and improves their game overall.  (See the post titled, ‘How to Get Teens to Do Yoga’ for more on this…)

Here are some tips to keep in mind when teaching yoga to boys:

1)  When teaching boys, strength and balance poses tend to be the most successful gameplan. These poses give them a physical challenge and a sense of accomplishment that fulfills them and builds their confidence.

2)  Flexibility poses, while important, can be very frustrating for them, as they tend to be less flexible than girls. Don’t avoid these poses. Just be aware that boys will often need modifications in order to do stretches…be ready to provide them.

3)  Keep in mind when planning activities, that a boy’s threshold for what he perceives as juvenile is somewhat lower than that of a girl. Girls are more willing to sing songs and play make-believe in the older grade school years than boys are. Understand that boys will often find these types of activities to be “girly” and may resist participation.

4)  If you have boys (or even just one boy) in your class, try to keep the class a little more serious, a little more challenging, and you should be able to keep their attention.

Great tips Shana – thank you!

Our friend Aruna Humphreys of Young Yoga Masters, has a related article posted on her Teaching Kids Yoga Blog, titled ‘Yoga for Boys – Does Bribery Work or is it Silly?’ .  I absolutely love and agree with the idea of bringing playfulness into children’s yoga classes, especially when working with boys!  Keeping their interest and motivation by meeting them where they are, just as she did with the ‘mustard story’, is definitely the key to success.

More Kids Yoga Teaching Tips… on this Blog.

Do you know of some interesting or inspirational tools for working with boys?  Or ideas for encouraging boys to give yoga a try?  We’d love your comments and suggestions!