Monday, May 30, 2011

Why yoga classes are mostly female

Jason Ashley Wright (, 5/30/11)

Misconceptions keep classes heavily female, instructors say
Despite the threat of tornadoes and hail, Jerry Lamp made it to yoga. Sirens started blaring by the time he made it out of class, padding barefoot from the studio to a bench at Inner Peace Yoga, 7718 E. 91st St., Tulsa, OK.

"I was in pretty rough shape when I started," Lamp said of himself when he started taking yoga in February 2010. "Blood pressure was through the roof. Just generally unhealthy."

Now, 15 pounds lighter with more muscle tone and greater flexibility, Lamp can't get enough of it. "I feel like a deadbeat if I don't do at least one set in a day," Lamp said. "It just keeps getting better."

Yes, he's heard the stereotypes and misconceptions about yoga that "It's for sissies," said Meghan Donnelly, Inner Peace's owner and instructor, who sat on the bench next to Lamp.

"That's a big misconception, that yoga is not manly," she said while we waited between classes, the next one at 8:30 p.m. with five or six guys in their 40s and 50s.

One who braved the storm was Mark Meese. "I always thought of yoga, before I started doing it, as something for women and little weird East Indian guys," said Meese, a general surgeon with Surgical Associates of Tulsa.

He knew yoga had a stigma. "Real men wouldn't do that," he said.

Funny thing is, men invented yoga, Donnelly said -- in India, as many as 3,000, even 4,000 years ago. It's only been in the past few centuries, maybe even as recently as 100 years, that women have been allowed to practice it in public.

In the 1960s and '70s, when yoga started growing in America, most teachers were male, Donnelly said. Now, most are women. And most of those taking classes are female -- 70 percent of her classes. More