Yoga for Men – Why Men Should Try It
With the increase in rates of obesity and chronic illnesses, the topic of getting enough exercise seems to dominate media headlines on an almost daily basis. The direct health benefits of regular exercise are obvious enough, but even the indirect benefits, once obscure, now seem legion. I can no longer keep track of the number of my friends who regularly drop “endorphins” into everyday conversation.
When it comes to exercise, most of my guy friends are pretty active, playing for work-sponsored softball teams and such, hitting the gym regularly and biking to work. Of late I’ve been trying to rope a couple of my friends into yoga, despite their tepid enthusiasm. Yoga practice has been growing steadily popular in recent years, beating out naysayers’ initial predictions that it was a fad. There are even small towns that now boast multiple yoga studios specializing in different disciplines. However, men, on the whole, haven’t been as quick to take up yoga as women. A 2012 Yoga in America Study (YIAS) found that women overwhelmingly account for the majority of US practitioners, with men making up only 17.8 percent.
I discovered yoga in college, through something of a side door. I was on the rowing team and suffered a back injury that put me out for the season. Yoga not only helped me recover, but continued to help me in other sports later on, like rock climbing and cycling. Most of my friends still can’t imagine making yoga the central tenet of their exercise regimen, but after I took them to a class they all agreed it was a great complement to their workout routines.
So, to the rest of you guys who haven’t tried yoga, I say it’s time to get down with downward-facing dog!
Benefits of Yoga for Men:
1. Build core strength
You can do all the crunches and ab workouts you want and still not achieve the kind of total core strengthening that yoga offers. Exercises and machines isolate muscle groups. That’s great for getting you a six-pack to show off in board shorts, but it won’t necessarily keep you safe from injury. True core strength comes from working your back and stomach muscles in tandem. I have friends who can do crunches with a 45-pound plate on their chest, but can’t hold a chaturanga plankt position for longer than a minute.
There’s a reason your coach made you stretch before taking the field. Yoga offers flexibility like no static stretch routines can. Greater flexibility means you can get your Weekend Warrior on with less chance of injury. For this reason alone, I would recommend yoga as a part of a robust cross-training program.
3. Reduce Stress
You might be able to take out some aggression on a speed bag or logging miles on an elliptical, but yoga can nurture a centeredness you can take with you throughout the work week. Stress is more than just a headache or a few knots in your shoulders. The biochemical effects of stress on the body are real. Stress can actually reduce your immune system’s ability to fight off illnesses. Numerous studies have shown that reducing stress contributes significantly to mental and physical well-being.
Finally, yoga is so easy to get into, it’s difficult to come up with an excuse why you shouldn’t. You don’t need anything more than a yoga mat and some comfortable clothes. Of course, you’ll need a quiet mind, but that will come with time. As the old sports adage goes, no pain no gain, right?
Have you given yoga a shot? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below!