The idea that yoga is just for woman is a foreign concept to me. I grew up watching my dad practice yoga. My mom introduced yoga to the whole family back in the mid-sixties when it was relatively unknown. I remember watching my father practice yoga breathing techniques and poses as a young child. My dad is now an active, healthy 85year old man who practices yoga three times a week at his local Y. He admits he doesn’t enjoy it during class but loves the way he feels after.
Yoga originated in India where it has always been practiced and taught by men as well as women. So how did it become a “chick thing” in the west? My first serious yoga teachers were Sharon Gannon and David Life from Jivamukti Yoga in Manhattan. I loved taking David’s classes. I would sit transfixed through his spiritual talks and was in awe of his beautiful physical practice. Since then I have had many other male teachers and mentors. It has never occurred to me to wonder why they had chosen yoga as their life’s calling.
I teach men of all ages in my classes. A few of them were a bit intimidated at the beginning. Most of them felt they weren’t “flexible” enough. I always tell them ”You are very flexible, you are here taking a yoga class!” Some of my male students started yoga as a way to compliment and improve their favorite sports activities such as golf, running, basketball, etc. Then they found themselves really hooked on yoga and continued to practice it because they enjoyed it and not just as a means to an end. Not only have they seen an improvement in their chosen sports activities but it has also cut down on and prevented injuries. Today, I asked my student, Jorge, who has been studying with me for about four months now, what benefits he has gained from practicing yoga. He enthusiastically answered that it works every part of his body including his upper body and back. He also said that it helps him calm his mind, breath more deeply and sleep better.
So why do so many men in the west consider yoga a “chick thing”? Well, for one thing, women’s hips tend to be more open and they are a bit bendier in general than the fellows. This can be intimidating and frustrating for men especially if they have always played competitive sports. But once they realize that yoga is not about mastering the poses but about balancing, energizing and elevating mind, body and spirit that idea gets thrown out the window. On a positive note, men have the advantage of upper body strength, which serves them in many poses such as arm balances. Other men have mentioned that they feel a bit strange in a room full of spandex-clad women. They feel like the “yoga stalker guy” and worry that the women will think they are just there to hit on them. I have always had total admiration and respect for men who practice yoga. I believe most women who practice yoga also respect, support and even enjoy the presence of men in their classes. Still others don’t consider yoga a real workout. These men have never taken an astanga, bikram or power yoga class for sure!
Below I have listed a few excellent benefits of yoga for men. First, let’s dispel the myth that yoga is not a good workout
1. Yoga is a great workout that covers every muscle, joint, and organ. It works every system: cardiovascular, skeletal, muscular and endocrine. In sports such as hockey, tennis or football, you only utilize 10-15 percent of the body.
2. Yoga decreases muscle soreness. Yoga is a great way to alleviate muscle tension from other sports. It releases soreness by decreasing lactic acid build-up in the muscles. This helps performance and prevents injuries.
3. Yoga helps boost stamina. Instead of feeling depleted after you work out yoga actually increases your energy and revitalizes you. Stretching your muscles oxygenates your blood and deep breathing distributes oxygen throughout your body as energy.
4. Yoga relieves back pain and improves posture. After years of strenuous exercise tendons can shorten and eventually pull you out of alignment leading to chronic back pain. Yoga brings fluid back into stiff joints which helps correct alignment relieving back pain and even helps you appear taller by improving your posture!
5. Yoga reduces blood pressure. The deep extended breathing practiced in yoga helps reduce blood pressure. High blood pressure is one of the many causes of heart attack, and fatigue for many men.
6. Yoga helps you focus. Many famous athletes including NFL stars swear by yoga. It has helped them heighten their performance levels. By increasing mental clarity they became better athletes in their chosen sport.
7. Yoga detoxifies the body. Yoga helps flush the body of toxins. It stimulates digestion and enhances the immune system.
8. Yoga calms the mind. After practicing yoga you feel a deep sense of wellbeing. It greatly reduces stress levels enabling you to feel calmer and more grounded. With renewed energy and mental clarity all activities and areas of your life are sure to benefit!
Published On: June 18, 2010