As a wellness writer, practicing yogi and single woman, I'm going to let you all in on one of my "small talk" secrets.
If I'm chatting with a stranger of the opposite sex -- whether in a bar or the park or a small café -- I will mention my love of yoga for one of three reasons. 1) I find the person interesting and feel comfortable discussing something I consider important and quite personal. 2) I'm bored, not paying attention and just rattling off a list of my activities to answer the person's question. Or 3) I couldn't be any less interested, and I think that the negative yoga girl stereotypes will send the person running in the other direction without me having to do any of the work.
Now regardless of my intentions, it seems as though any man I mention my yoga practice to lately feels the need to retort with some sort of sexually driven comment:
"Your flexibility must come in handy outside of the studio..."
"You barely wear any clothes in hot yoga, right? I'd love to go with you sometime."
"I love yoga! I actually find that my lower body chakras feel blocked when I don't have sex every 10 days."
(I sure wish I made up that last one.)
Apparently my resulting facial expression doesn't fully expose how I really feel about these advances, so let me lay it out with words, boys: You're not being cute. You're not being funny or clever. In fact you're mildly nauseating. And I can almost guarantee you that I will not be standing here speaking to you five minutes from now.
Yoga-practicing ladies frequently receive these unwelcome advances from strange men, and every time it happens, they feel like they can't escape the conversations fast enough. And it's not because they're prudish or don't have a sense of humor or find the guy entirely creepy (well, not every time). Many of them found their love of yoga as a means of coping with emotional trauma, managing stress, rehabilitating a physical injury or simply searching for a way to be more mindful in their daily lives. Sure, yoga can boast some performance-enhancing benefits in the bedroom, but it's about far more than that.
It strengthens the body.
In addition to improving flexibility, a consistent yoga practice helps women (and men!) build better bone density, muscular strength, balance, range of motion and resistance to future injuries.
It protects against illness.
Since it is, at its roots, a form of physical activity, yoga helps reduce risk factors associated with chronic health problems like heart disease and high blood pressure.
It soothes the mind.
Many yogis use their practice as a means of stress reduction and management, but its mind-calming benefits can go a step further than that. Research reveals that it helps relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety, and can even relieve the pain felt by those who suffer from migraines.
It leads to a positive body image.
Many yoga forms not only teach proper form and breathing, but also promote self-love and acceptance -- imperfections and all. By focusing on the feeling of the movements rather than what they look like, women yogis of all shapes and sizes often experience higher levels of self-confidence.
Considering the numerous benefits of yoga that have nothing to do with sex, it's no wonder we look at these men with disgust. When did this mindful activity become synonymous with getting freaky in their hormone-ranging minds? If they think we are trying to spur an instantly sexual conversation within minutes of meeting by talking about yoga, they don't just seem like pigs -- they seem delusional.
Long story short for all the men out there: The next time a woman tells you she practices yoga and only sexual innuendos pop into that head of yours, just simply smile, nod and say, "That's nice." You'll end up with a far greater chance of getting lucky -- or at least seeing her in those fitted yoga pants you drool over so much.