I don’t know if it was the mental image of the pair of them clad in Lycra, or the idea of their faces as they desperately attempted to hold the perfect ‘half lotus’, but when my boyfriend told me last weekend that he and his best mate were attending yoga classes together, I couldn’t help but laugh.
And I’m not the only one who finds the thought of ‘broga’ (bros doing yoga, geddit?!) a little unusual. The guys themselves must find it weird too: last year Babita Bahal of the British Wheel of Yoga estimated that just three per cent of her clients were men. They must be staying away for a reason.
It is, I’m told, a constant struggle to look as un-pervy as possible: men often stand at the back because they’re the tallest (that’s just good manners) but then have no idea where to look when presented with a row of lady posteriors during the ‘downward dog’ pose. Eye-contact or (shock horror) smiling should be avoided at all costs.
At least, the reasoning goes, if men attend in pairs they benefit from strength in numbers: it appears more of a legitimate social activity, rather than a sneaky way of ogling bendy women.
But why the instant suspicion? Why can’t a dude align his chakra in peace?
Perhaps women see the yoga class as an all-female space, safe from the macho chest-puffing of the gym, a haven to which they can escape from the sexual politics of the workplace and the everyday world.
But if as women we feel we should be able to enter what sadly remain male-dominated boardrooms and professions, surely in turn we should accept our brothers into more female spaces?
As we battle for a more equal society, be it the campaign for gender-neutral children’s toys, or the drive to channel more women into science and engineering, the last thing we want is to discourage men from breaking gender stereotypes.
This readiness to exclude men and jump to the worst possible conclusions about them can be seen throughout our society, and since the Jimmy Saville scandal and subsequent shocking allegations have hit the headlines, it runs the risk of worsening.
According to Department for Education data, last year just a fifth of people training to work in primary schools were men, and research carried out by Nottingham Trent and Bedfordshire universities found the men were put off the profession as a result of deeply ingrained gender stereotypes combined with fears that they would be falsely labelled as paedophiles.
In a world where increasing numbers of children grow up in the care of one parent, wouldn’t it be great to have a balance of male and female role models in their schools? Even better, male and female role models at nursery school, leading their ballet lessons, swimming lessons, cookery and arts and crafts clubs, so they grow up with an ingrained sense that whatever hobbies or careers they want to follow, their gender shouldn’t be a barrier?
As long as we continue to laugh when straight men (as we seem less threatened by gay men in mainly female environments) express an interest in, say, flower arranging, or raise mental alarm bells when they express an interest in working with children, we are perpetuating damaging and limiting attitudes to gender roles, and ultimately making people feel less free about choices they make. And who wants that?
So, next week, two guys will attempt to cross a social minefield together, brothers in arms, ready to fend off any accusatory glares from their female fellow yogis. I for one will be rooting for them.