Most people who think about yoga often associate it with women. For some men, the idea of going to yoga class is right up there with going to see the latest chick flick! Should this be the case? Does yoga have benefits for guys?
There is no doubt that yoga is a full body workout (but not in the sense that most guys think). No, it’s not all about sitting, meditating, chanting, or talking about feelings! Studies do show that yoga can certainly build strength, increase flexibility, and improve balance, stability, sleep, and relaxation.
Still think that yoga is too girlie? Try saying that to the numerous NFL players who now have incorporated yoga into their workout routines. For the rest of us who are not professional athletes and settle for weekend warrior status, yoga can help with muscle soreness while improving focus and boosting overall energy level.
A recent Yoga Journal survey found that only about 18% of the over 20 million people who practice yoga are men. Has this always been the case? Well, no–not if you go way back into the historical archives. Evidence suggests that yoga originated in India approximately 5,000 years ago and was originally designed to be practiced by men. So why the disconnect now? Due to the myths and stereotypes about yoga, many men claim that yoga is too touchy-feely, too feminine, or too New Age.
In addition to the above-mentioned stereotypes, some men don’t consider the stretching, poses, and deep breathing exercises as a real workout. What they fail to realize is that yoga is a different style of exercise than they’re used to. Not every workout has to resemble boot camp or CrossFit classes. The focus and intention of yoga is different–it’s all about the connection between body and mind. Yoga enthusiasts go to class to shift their energy and find their inner peace. Does that mean you won’t break a sweat? Not in the least! With yoga you build power and heat while flowing (aka moving thru a series of poses). You discover strength in warrior and plank poses, and you challenge yourself with balancing, inversions, and other body-contorting advanced poses. And all that is performed with mindfulness, a sense of stability, and a deeper connection with yourself.
It is common for men to avoid yoga because they claim to lack flexibility. That’s analogous to saying that you don’t want to lift weights because you don’t have big muscles or you don’t exercise because you’re overweight! Even if the first couple of classes are a little challenging, lack of experience is no reason to avoid doing a downward dog. Just like any other new form of exercise, becoming confident with yoga takes time, effort, patience, and plenty of practice!
Still not convinced, guys? Let’s look at the scientific evidence. Research has shown that practicing yoga can lower heart rate and blood pressure, relieve anxiety, depression, and insomnia, as well as improve overall strength and flexibility.
And I have long been a proponent of practicing yoga for reducing lower back discomfort…
Want more benefits, guys? Yoga can be an outlet to release mental and physical tension, especially for those men who have a tendency to internalize stress and anxiety. It can also help stretch tight hamstrings and hip flexors, areas where anyone (not just men) unaccustomed to stretching often have tightness. Yoga can be an excellent complement to a fitness and mental health regimen–for everyone. So guys, don’t get intimidated or put off by the Lulu-clad ladies filing into your yoga class. Anyone can practice yoga and reap the benefits, even from the first pose.
And as always, if you or someone you know needs some guidance in how to start an exercise program, progress one to stay active, or just where to begin to get physical activity into your daily routine, call me at (302)691-9055 or visit my website at www.wildermanphysicaltherapy.com to schedule your FREE 30 minute Discovery Visit to see how Physical Therapy can help. Don’t delay–schedule now!