While more women participate in and practice yoga, than men, it is not at all uncommon for males to enjoy the benefits of this ancient practice. You don’t need to be super bendy or wear tights in order to practice yoga — the point of this practice is to release stress, increase physical and mental stability, and yes, it can help significantly with your body’s flexibility and sports performance.
One misconception about yoga is that it is easy and all it is is women contorting themselves into crazy positions. Realistically, yoga is strength training — it builds lean muscle, increases mental strength and focus, aides in better lung health, assists in strengthening your cardio, and will get your blood circulating better.
Don’t Be Intimidated
Before you try yoga for the first time, you consider it — and many people can talk themselves out of it because they are intimidated by the people they’ve seen bending themselves into a ball. Don’t be intimidated — you don’t have to turn yourself into a pretzel — and in fact, most people don’t.
The most basic of postures are what provides you with a solid foundation that will increase your strength and flexibility that men like yourself can really benefit from. Whether you want to de-stress, get in shape, get your heart pumping, get in shape for sports, or another reason, yoga can do just that. And it doesn’t require you looking like Peter Pan in tights doing backflips. Trust me.
5 Good Reasons to Practice Yoga
1. Relieve Stress
Life is stressful. Some guys get amped up and hit some punching bags or lift dumbbells. This can make you more aggressive or tired rather than relaxed and energized.
Yoga helps to employ a number of energetic and relaxation techniques — these techniques, with regular practice, can calm the mind, tone your muscles, burn fat, boost your metabolism, and much more.
Along with training your body, yoga trains your mind and as a man, can help you keep calm, act with integrity, and find peace of mind when things get stressful. Unplug yourself from the internet, cell phone, and email while you practice yoga and you’ll see the difference in your stress levels in your daily life.
2. Increase Flexibility
Physical postures and poses in yoga are called “asanas.” Most series of asanas have one or more spinal twists that loosen the ton of joints that make up the spine. If you golf, play tennis, or are active in general, this can really improve your athleticism. It also helps with detoxifying your body and aids in better digestion.
These yoga poses are intended to twist your body in a way that purges toxins and loosens your joints and muscles.
3. Build Muscle
Speaking of muscles, if you think practicing yoga doesn’t build muscle, you’d be wrong. Yoga actually widens your range of motion and allows you to access more of your muscle fiber. This means more substantial and better quality hypertrophy in any muscle group. (Hypertrophy is essentially muscle growth on a cellular level — the muscle becomes enlarged because its cells become enlarged).
You don’t have to stop your regular lifting or exercise routines (nor do you have to add them to yoga) — if you supplement yoga with exercise, that is all the better. You can make up muscle gain in areas that are ignored when doing muscle-selective exercises, which are most types found in gyms.
If you run, you are ignoring many muscle groups that aren’t being activated; if you lift weights and don’t skip leg day, you are ignoring your cardio; and so on. Yoga stretches and builds muscles in your entire body. For example, the boxer’s muscle, the serratus anterior, is under your armpit and travels over the side of your ribs. While those with a developed serratus anterior certainly enjoy the benefits of looking ripped (even if they are lean in build), it also has a real, physical benefit — this muscle provides stability for your shoulders and is a base for developing one’s pectoral and deltoid muscles.
4. Prevent Workout Injuries
Yoga is a careful practice — most classes begin with reminders to honor the needs and limits of your body on any particular day. Having the ability and mindfulness to assess yourself as you practice yoga will help you to reduce the incidence of injury in other areas of your life as well. Running, playing sports, and working physical jobs.
Also, flexible and well-stretched yoga muscles are much quicker to recover and heal when strained, such as after working out.
5. Calm Your Mind
Daily life is stressful — work, family, recreation, and perhaps children or schooling can combine to take a toll on us all. Being able to commit to a relaxed space such as a yoga class (or your own home-based yoga studio) might be just what you need to slow down. Some guys (perhaps even yourself) even experience mild to severe clinical depression — this occurs to many people at some point throughout life.
Yoga has been proven to calm one’s mind through manipulating one’s parasympathetic nervous system through breaking exercises, meditating, oxygenation, blood circulation, and through other physical and mental means.
It also helps you sleep better and longer. A study in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health even found that 20 minutes of Hatha yoga actually stimulates brain function more than jogging or walking on a treadmill for the same 20 minutes of time.
Tips for Beginners
When starting yoga for the first time, you may be self-conscious, but don’t worry — nobody is watching you and nobody is judging you. Start off with a beginners course in yoga at a local studio. Remember — everybody is a beginner at some point and you will get the hang of it quickly.
1. Observe and Mimic from the Back Row
Until you get used to yoga and start perfecting your routine, you should focus on being present in your yoga classes. For the first few visits, try taking your mat to the back row so you can see what students around you are doing. This will help you learn correctly, keep you focused, and will let you learn at your own speed in a calm manner.
2. Stay Calm and Steady
Remember — don’t sweat it if yoga seems difficult when you first start — it’s not easy. If your athletic build is getting in the way of some of the poses and moves, keep at it at your own pace. Yoga is a practice of progress — it is supposed to be slow and steady, and the most challenging aspects of yoga are usually what your body needs most.
3. Focus on Breathing
A huge part of yoga is breathing — sounds simple, right? Well, many beginners are so focused on getting the poses right that they forget that mindfulness and breathing are most important to learn first.
Deep abdominal breathing is a large part of yoga, because it activates your parasympathetic nervous system. What it does is lowers your level of cortisol, which is a hormone that forces your body to hold onto belly fat.
As you practice yoga, you should start training in breathing deeply through certain yoga methods that are proven to reduce stress as well as those cortisol levels in your body for a difference that you will be able to see in your daily life.
Extra: What are the Best Beginner Poses for Men?
If you are not in a local studio (or even if you are), doing your homework on yoga positions first can be very helpful. Knowing which positions are the best to start with and are most effective for men are equally important.
Here are some of the best beginner yoga positions for men:
- Standing Forward Bend
- Warrior I
- Downward-Facing Dog
- High Lunge
- Reclining Big Toe Pose
Consider these tips when starting your journey into the ancient art of yoga. Build your muscles, de-stress a little, prevent injuries, become more flexible, and become a calmer you.
There are plenty of physical and mental reasons that trying yoga can benefit your everyday life in a way that simply working out at the gym can’t do.
The Leaf: An Innovative Activity, Sleep, Meditation, and Reproductive Health Monitor