Where are all the men???
Yoga tends to carry a stigma in the West that it is just for women. It’s interesting because in the East, yoga was originally just for men. There is a lot of speculation as to why more men don’t practice yoga. While doing research for this article one common concern I discovered was that some males fear they will be perceived as a pervert by going to a mostly female yoga class. The men, on one particular forum, felt that women would feel they came to class just to stare at their Lululemon enhanced behinds. If this belief is holding you back from trying yoga, fear not. Unless you blatantly stare at another being in the class, no one will think you are there to ogle. It is okay to look around in order to better understand the poses, just avoid awkwardly gawking at someone. This article will offer many reasons you should be practicing yoga and give you tips on how to be comfortable during your first class.
Yoga increases your performance abilities in other sports. Many professional sports teams have brought in yoga teachers to enhance physical training. Ricky Williams and Keith Mitchell, both former pro football players are now yoga teachers. The Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks, New York Giants and other teams practice yoga as part of their regular training. Yoga makes injuries less likely and when they do occur, recovery is quicker.
Flexibility - Many men claim that yoga will make them too flexible and they will lose muscle. This isn’t true. Yoga will indeed increase flexibility, increase strength and introduce you to muscles other than the ones you are typically using. I have also had men tell me that they can’t do yoga because they aren’t flexible enough…(hand to face) That is WHY you do yoga!
Strength - In yoga you use your own body weight to help build strength. Holding poses for long periods is another way yoga builds muscles. Warrior I works your quads, your core and your arms if you are doing it properly. Give Warrior I a try, paying close attention to your alignment and you should feel the areas mentioned above working. Stand with your feet hip width apart and about a legs length apart. Your front foot is facing directly forward while your back foot is angled at 45 degrees. Your feet are both grounding into the floor. Bend your front knee to a 90-degree angle. Your knee should be right over the ankle and not going past it. If you are having a hard time getting your knee over the ankle, you might need to step your back foot just a little closer to the front foot, decreasing only the length, not the width. Stand in front of a mirror if possible to double-check this alignment. Once you have the feet and legs figured out, contract your core, gently drawing the belly button in towards your spine. Reach your arms up towards the ceiling. The arms should be straight and strong. The muscles in your arms should be engaged. If your elbows are bent and the arms are not active you are not doing it right. To help draw the arms closer to the ears, the serratus anterior needs to be engaged helping you draw in and up. This brings the shoulders into play as well. Now, soften your shoulder so that they are not shrugging up next to the ears. Hopefully through all of this, you have been able to keep your front leg bent at 90 degrees and haven’t straightened it. Hold this pose for 5-10 deep breaths. You will feel your quad starting to burn as it holds the pose, muscles firing. The arms will start to get tired from the engagement of the biceps, triceps and serratus. I hope you are still gently drawing that belly button in to the spine as well. Keep it engaged.
Builds a solid foundation for weight training - Yoga helps to strengthen the muscles around the joints to help you find proper alignment for lifting and other weight training.
Injury prevention - By gaining flexibility, and better alignment, you reduce your risk for injury and are able to heal faster when an injury does occur.
Weight loss - You may find that you lose weight when practicing yoga. You may gain muscle as well. Yoga works the entire body and you will find that it helps you to be healthier in all body systems.
Heart health - Yoga helps strengthen the cardiovascular system and improves heart health.
Calm mind - Yoga helps you calm the mind and get rid of the restless and random thoughts that often bombard us throughout the day.
Poses where the body twists help to detox the body - As you practice more and more of these types of poses you will begin to find that your natural odor is much nicer. This is due to the release of toxins over time.
Improved sex life - Just another one of those natural side effects of yoga. As you learn to clear the mind, you are able to be more present in each moment. In addition it can improve stamina. It helps you prolong the best moments.
One pose offers multiples benefits vs. a machine that helps you train one muscle or group of muscles - In Downward Dog for example; you are stretching the hamstrings, calves and feet. At the same time, your shoulders are active and helping to push the torso towards the legs. Hands are grounded into the mat and the arms are externally rotating. The core is engaged. The whole body is working to complete this pose.
Don’t obsess over the poses that look super challenging - There are many basic poses that offer great benefits. Arm balances and inversions may intrigue you and they can be a goal to look forward to ultimately, but they should not be rushed into. Develop the supporting muscles first and gain flexibility where needed, then work towards these “fancy” poses if you so desire.
What to wear to be comfortable - Many companies are coming out with yoga clothes for men. You want shorts or pants that are not restricting. If you are choosing loose or short shorts, you may want to consider wearing some kind of tight short underneath to help keep everything in place. A tank style shirt or t-shirt is fine on top, whatever you feel comfortable in. I don’t recommend going shirtless. You will sweat in yoga and if you are not wearing a shirt, sweat will more easily travel from your body to your neighbors mat. In addition, many teachers offer hands on adjustments during class to help you find the proper alignment in a pose. Shirtless men may get passed over on a needed adjustment as some teachers may prefer not to touch the skin directly, especially sweaty skin.
What you need: an open mind and a mat.