Yo-guys: Real men do the downward dog

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Despite it’s non-competitive nature, yoga is striking a pose with males in search of greater flexibility and relaxation, writes Deirdre Reynolds.

It’s sweaty, stretchy, and can slay up to 600 calories an hour — so just why aren’t more yogis yo-guys?

With a studio in virtually every town across the land, yoga has become one of the hottest workouts of the past decade, outstretching even rugby and weight-lifting in popularity, according to Sport Ireland’s most recent annual report.

Taking place next Monday to Friday at venues nationwide, Nourish #YogaFSTVSL (fstvlr.ie), Ireland’s first ever national yoga festival, shows that it’s here to namaste.

Despite proven health benefits including improved mental focus and increased flexibility, getting Irish men to give it a go can still be still difficult, according to instructors.

“Yoga is not competitive, which is why maybe men aren’t as attracted to it,” says Colm Walsh of Yoga Dublin (yogadublin.com), which has studios in Ranelagh, Rathmines, and Dundrum on the southside of the city.

“It’s not like doing a triathlon, where you compare how many miles you can run or how fast you can cycle. There’s no judgment — it’s your own practice at your own pace.

The main problem men have is that they think they’ll go along to a class, and it’s going to be just full of these Instagram girls who can do backbends on rocks by the sea, and it’s not the case at all

“In fact, both the main schools of yoga in India were led by men, BKS Iyengar, who died a few years ago, and K. Pattabhi Jois, who was a proponent of Ashtanga yoga, and they both came from a dynasty that trained under another man, called Tirumalai Krishnamacharya.

“Originally, it was mainly taught to boys of a higher caste, so it is funny how the West has inverted that over the years.”

Doing little to subvert the stereotype, while there’s now a ‘Yoga Teacher Barbie’, Mattel has yet to come out with a Ken doll whose signature pose is downward dog.

After turning to yoga while undergoing treatment for cancer, Eoin Kelly admits to finding the whole thing a bit woo-woo at first — until it completely transformed his mental and physical health.

“About five years ago, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and underwent two years of chemo,” says the 38-year-old from Mullingar. “By the middle of my treatment, I was down at below 60 kilos, and I’m 6ft 3”, so I was literally skin and bone.

“Call it intuition or whatever, but something told me to go and get a yoga mat. I started doing some meditation and yoga, and everything just went up — my weight, my strength, my attitude. I can confidently say it saved my life.

“Before I got sick, if someone mentioned yoga to me, I would have laughed in their face,” he confesses. “And that kind of macho attitude is pretty common among men, in my experience.

“Women are naturally a lot more mature than men. From an emotional intelligence point of view, I think what yoga gives men, more so than women, is the ability to cope a lot better.

For me, I found that yoga just helps you to slow down a bit and make better decisions. As a result, you feel a sense of empowerment because you’ve dealt with stuff on your own — you haven’t gone out drinking or abused yourself in some silly way.

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