No matter how unconventional a new workout or exercise seems, chances are you’ll try it if you can envision the results it provides. Until recently, the same couldn’t be said about yoga. Between 2012 and 2016, the number of men doing yoga grew by 50 percent. In that time, the amount of men practicing yoga more than doubled from four million to 10 million, according to The Good Body.
Your favorite athlete? Chances are they’re now practicing yoga. Even with its growth, accessibility, and popularity at their highest, there are still men who have the typical assumptions that many used to have of the practice: it’s expensive, it doesn’t help build strength, it’s too quiet, and the list goes on.
Anthony Chavez is Core director of personal transformation and mindful leadership, and he’s been teaching yoga.for 10 years. He was once one of those men who bought into the myths of what yoga was and scoffed at the thought that it could bring him any true benefit. But he quickly discovered that the benefits served him on and off the mat.
We reached out to Chavez to talk about some of his own prior misconceptions about yoga, how it’s gone mainstream in recent years, and why yoga will more than likely kick your ass like any other workout. Here, he gives his take on some common misconceptions surrounding yoga for men and the benefits they’re missing out on.
I grew up playing baseball and basketball. I played in college, and stretching was always the last thing I ever wanted to do—only if the coach was watching, and for half a minute. That’s always what I thought yoga was. When I started to practice, what I personally noticed was that 90 percent of the poses are weight-bearing, so it’s not even a ton of stretching. But the big thing was that after I stopped playing baseball, I became an ultra endurance athlete.
As an athlete growing up and being around a bunch of dudes, yoga was actually what we were searching for, especially once in college and beyond. Our initial impression of what we thought it was started to change when we found out that athletes like Kobe Bryant did yoga or when Stephen Curry was photographed meditating before games. Even when the Seahawks won the Super Bowl, that was the year they also instituted a regular yoga practice. Fast-forward to today, and Nike released a yoga line for men.
The short answer is that all of the people and athletes we grew up idolizing are now utilizing yoga, which makes it more OK for dudes to drop in. Before, it was mostly women, and the misconception was that yoga was just about stretching, but we missed the fact that there’s a mental performance aspect to it. I say this because, for me, what yoga unlocked was on the inside—my ability to stay calm or to drop into the zone. Through regular practice, I was able to tap into that pretty regularly.
Yoga once had a weirdness about it, and it just wasn’t mainstream. Back then, Lululemon didn’t really exist—they were just a baby company. CorePower was started 16 years ago, and we were pioneers in yoga. We added music and made a yoga sculpt class, which made yoga more accessible to people—less fringe-y and more current. I’ll teach and have Rihanna playing in my class, versus chimes and nature sounds.
Once it became more accessible, people started to show up. Part of it was a lot of women who would bring their husbands and male friends. Once they saw what it was, they started to commit. I think the second part of that was once they were in and they started to practice, they began to realize the benefits of yoga reached far beyond the hour spent in the studio. There’s flexibility, it’s a full-body workout, it deepens your breath, and there’s the meditative aspect. What they notice is that they’re better able to perform on the field and in the boardroom because of the equanimity inside of their mind.
The first thing you should know is that yoga is for everybody. Inside of the studio, everyone is accepted and allowed, and nobody is judged. Regardless of your fitness or “yogi” level, it’s all good. You should be able to work at your own level and move through the practice at your own pace. I think that’s a big selling point. Not all forms of yoga are easy. Some are really hard and require years of experience, so if you’re super fit and experienced, it has something for you as well.