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Diversity in Yoga: A Middle-Aged White Male’s Perspective

When it comes to “diversity,” the middle-aged white male is just about as standard as it gets (#basic).  That is, unless you were considering diversity in yoga- specifically in the western yoga community- and then I’m a small fish in a sea of sharks. While I’m a minority in yoga, it’s actually kind of ironic, as yoga was originally developed for men, by men.
Whether you want to believe it or not, the “cliché” of a yogi in America 2018 is a fit, flexible, young white woman in overpriced pants. As a yoga dude, I represent an outlier anytime I step into a yoga studio. The fact that I’m male is just the beginning.
Am I in my 20s or 30s?
Nope, I’m 51.
Am I wearing stylish workout clothing?
Do I have ripped abs and…
…I’m sorry, I couldn’t even finish typing that sentence with a straight face. Simply, no.
In my personal experience, I find that yogis are (mostly) kind and welcoming. However, if you’ve ever gotten the occasional side-eye or cold shoulder at a yoga studio because of how you look, believe it or not, this middle-aged white guy can relate (!).
I think part of being in the Bad Yogi community is embracing our outlier status, and sharing it with other like-minded individuals. However, I also think it’s important to be mindful of, and respectful to those who we might initially see as “clichéd.” Just as we wouldn’t want to be judged on our appearance, it’s not fair to immediately assume the worst about a woman in your class with the “perfect” body and trendy yoga attire.
For example, the six other students in my yoga teacher training program were all female, young, fit, and (for the most part) white. As it turned out, however, they were an incredibly diverse group, and I feel lucky to have met them.
I’m as much of a yogi as any of the people shown in the photo below (even though it was all females, haha). And I’m proud of what makes me different from other yogis, just as I celebrate what I believe we all have in common when we come to our mats – seeking self-improvement in mind, body, spirit, or some combination of all three.

Since Day 1, Bad Yogi has been been working to redefine yoga culture, removing the snobbery, pretense, and endless “prerequisites” to fit into this community.

We know that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ mold when it comes to being a yogi; in fact, we’re here to celebrate the DIVERSITY in yoga. 

Are you a yogi that definitely doesn’t fit into the stereotypical mold? Do you know someone? We want to hear from YOU. Share your photos, stories, and why YOU love yoga, or what you love about yoga, by emailing [Allison at Bad Yogi dot com] as we highlight all of the unique walks of life that show up on their mats to experience the vast benefits of yoga.

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    August 16, 2018 at 6:48 pm

    I’m male, 60, started yoga at 49. Never had any problems or was made to feel uncomfortable. Couple of relevant factors: 1) I’m in an outlying area (best yoga classes close to an hour away near Mid Hudson Valley, NY) and my “demographic” is pretty well represented; 2) I played sports for many years and am used to just showing up, doing one’s best and not getting hung up when people are “better”. I imagine things might be different at trendy urban yoga facilities.

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    September 5, 2018 at 4:37 pm

    I’m male, 46. I started my yoga practice with the Erin’s original 30 day challenge 6 years ago and never looked back. I am fortunate that I never felt uncomfortable. The studio I take classes and did my teacher training (me and 18 women, ages 26-56) has a decent male population of different backgrounds. Aside from aerial, there is usually one or two other men in any given class, sometimes five or six. I have never been treated as an outlier (or I am just oblivious, either way, no problem) There are actually a smaller percentage that fit the standard stereotypes of young, fit women. Most students are late 20’s – 40’s. Only one time did make a judgement that one girl in class (later teen’s or early 20’s , in shape and in a very coordinated outfit) of how she would do in class, and I was quite wrong happy to say. I appreciated this post. as there is little diversity in many facets of yoga in the West, there is definitely a smaller number of male writers about it

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    October 22, 2018 at 4:53 pm

    I remember when I started acroyoga, I was around 26. Most of the class was made of women around 20-22 years old, because the studio was close to a college campus. I have never felt so judged hahaha

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    January 31, 2019 at 8:52 am

    Thanks for this post! I know many middle age men friends who started to practice yoga this year. They are all very satisfied and disciplined! I’m so happy to see more men in the yoga industry, they are curious, want to try, and continue! They realize it’s really good for them, their health, concentration, focus.

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    Om Singh

    February 27, 2019 at 12:48 am

    It is the fact that modern-day yoga is not the same as it was in ancient time. Now, when yoga practitioner increased around the world, the meaning of yoga and the way it practiced is changed dramatically. Especially, in western countries. Well, very informative post!

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