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Male Participation in Yoga and Pilates

by Shirley Archer, JD, MA on Jul 09, 2014

While overall yoga and Pilates participation changes yearly, the ratio of men to women in yoga is holding fairly constant, while the percentage of Pilates practitioners who are men is increasing. Currently, of the estimated 23.3 million Americans who do yoga, approximately 26%, or 6.0 million, are male. Of the estimated 8.5 million Americans who practice Pilates, 16%, or close to 1.4 million, are male (Sports Marketing Surveys USA 2013a, 2013b). In 2009, 17.8 million Americans practiced yoga, and 25% of them were male; about 8.9 million Americans practiced Pilates, and 12% were male (Sports Marketing Surveys USA 2009a, 2009b). Participation ranged from once per year to weekly.

A 2012 Yoga Journal “Yoga in America Market Study” paints a slightly different picture by focusing on more dedicated enthusiasts, noting that 20.4 million Americans practiced yoga in 2012. Of those participants, 17.8% were men (Yoga Journal 2012). Longtime yoga professionals and veteran Pilates experts have observed these trends in their facilities.

“It seems the increasing demographic [in Pilates] is the 40+ male client, as well as a group of more athletically inclined men who use Pilates as an intelligent functional fitness training modality,” says Kevin Bowen, creator of The Prime Male in Denver.

Make your classes more male friendly with these sample sequences.

Sample Yoga Sequence for Men

"This sequence moves the spine in all directions and helps to release the psoas muscle, which is usually also tight in men with tight quads and hamstrings,” says Nicole DeAvilla, E-RYT-500, yoga therapist educator in San Francisco.

  • tadasana
  • warrior II
  • chair pose
  • side-angle pose
  • wide-stance half forward bend (Keep natural curves, and bend forward only enough to feel a stretch in the hamstrings. Do not go farther than where the spine is parallel to the floor.)
  • warrior I
  • dancer’s pose with strap—unless students can easily hold the foot or ankle with no stress to the knee (Stand near a wall as needed for balance.)

Now that participants have had some strength and balance challenges and their muscles are thoroughly warmed up, go to the floor for some deeper stretching:

  • windshield wipers with twist (Lie supine, knees bent, feet on the floor. Feet are mat distance apart. Gently rock the legs side to side like windshield wipers. The head can rock gently in the opposite direction as the legs move. Allow the legs to move to one side, head to the other, and hold in a twist. Repeat on opposite side.)
  • legs up the wall (Lie on the back and extend the legs up the wall. Use the core to get into the pose. Elevate the hips and/or move far enough away from the wall to allow the back to be completely supported and the legs to extend fully. Three variations:
  1. simple legs up
  2. piriformis stretch (Bend one knee and rest the opposite lower leg on top of the thigh.)
  3. butterfly stretch (Bring the soles of the feet together, and let the knees open to the sides.)
  • relaxation

Sample Pilates Sequence for Men

Michele Olson, PhD, FACSM, professor of exercise science at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama, designed the following Pilates sequence specifically for men. It addresses tight hip flexors, hamstrings and quads. "As students learn to do these exercises with full extension of the knees, the hamstrings get a nice, dynamic stretch throughout," she says. "It also helps men get in touch with their deeper abdominal muscles and provides a satisfying challenge. Men tend to enjoy mastering the moves, especially the advanced Pilates push-ups from a standing position, which is particularly difficult due to the higher center of gravity."

  • the hundred
  • prone extension
  • roll-up
  • roll-over
  • double-leg stretch
  • single-leg stretch
  • double-leg lift and lower
  • seated twist
  • saw
  • open leg rocker
  • advanced Pilates push-up

To read the full article which was published in the July-August 2014 issue of IDEA Fitness Journal click here.


Sports Marketing Surveys USA. 2009a. Single Sports Reports: 2009 Pilates Training. Washington, DC: Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association.

Sports Marketing Surveys USA. 2009b. Single Sports Reports: 2009 Yoga. Washington, DC: Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association.

Sports Marketing Surveys USA. 2013a. Pilates Training Single Sports Participation Report. Silver Spring, MD: Sports & Fitness Industry Association.

Sports Marketing Surveys USA. 2013b. Yoga Training Single Sports Participation Report. Silver Spring, MD: Sports & Fitness Industry Association.

Yoga Journal. 2012. Yoga in America study.; accessed May 9, 2014.

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About the Author

Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA IDEA Author/Presenter

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, was the 2008 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and is IDEA’s mind-body-spirit spokesperson. She is a certified yoga and Pilates teacher and an award-winning author base...