BREATHE DEEP: Russell Ritchings, yoga instructor Natalie Mann and Shane Stenhouse at a men's yoga class in Mundubbera. Photo: Alex Treacy
BREATHE DEEP: Russell Ritchings, yoga instructor Natalie Mann and Shane Stenhouse at a men's yoga class in Mundubbera. Photo: Alex Treacy

YOGA FOR BLOKES: Why this unique class is needed

EVERY Wednesday evening, the smell of incense fills the Mundubbera RSL Sub Branch Memorial Hall.

The hall is hosting a yoga class, but the room isn’t filled with women clad in Lorna Jane activewear – this class is for men only.

Each week, between six and eight tradies, farmers, truckies and pensioners arrive for a dose of exercise and reflection.

Farmer and tradesman Shane Stenhouse is one such attendee and has been there since close to the beginning.

He said the class is an “hour of me-time” which provides many benefits: exercise, relaxation, social time with other men, and a chance for him to get off his hay farm.

He said he does get stressed: “There’s a lot of uncertainty in that line of business (farming),” Mr Stenhouse said.

Russell Ritchings, yoga instructor Natalie Mann and Shane Stenhouse at a men's yoga class in Mundubbera. Photo: Alex Treacy
Russell Ritchings, yoga instructor Natalie Mann and Shane Stenhouse at a men's yoga class in Mundubbera. Photo: Alex Treacy

Another early attendee was disability support pensioner Russell Ritchings, who said he achieves a “peace of mind” at the class.

“I’ve always wanted to do yoga, but there was no one here in Mundubbera doing it until Natalie (Mann, instructor) showed up,” he said.

Mrs Mann began running the hour-long session shortly after establishing a regular yoga class about 18 months ago.

“I had two guys rock up to my first ever regular class, among 15 other women, and I could see they felt uncomfortable,” Mrs Mann said.

“And I didn’t want them to feel uncomfortable.”

For the first six weeks of her new men’s class, only a single attendee, Ken Jacobi, would arrive, but word of mouth spread, and “before I knew it,” Mrs Mann said, she had half a dozen regular men.

Mrs Mann said men’s yoga classes doesn’t appear to be an idea which has caught on elsewhere.

“I was doing a yoga training course recently with about 25 other women instructors, and not one of them did a men’s class,” she said.

Asked whether men are scared off from yoga because it’s viewed as a feminine activity, Mrs Mann said she didn’t believe that yoga was inherently feminine, but that female-dominated spaces such as yoga classes could be “intimidating” for men to try and fit into.

“If I went into a gym as the only female, I would feel self-conscious, so why would guys in a yoga class feel any differently?” she said.

“Here, they can relax and be themselves.

“Guys need something that’s theirs.”