If we trace back to the history and origin of Yoga, we will find that traditionally yoga had been practiced only by men. Fast forward to today, a typical yoga class will have more women than men. Your yoga teacher, too, is more likely to be a woman, although there are a lot of prominent male yoga teachers, including the pioneers of some of the most popular Yoga styles (read Iyengar Yoga, Bikram Yoga, and of course Ashtanga Yoga in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras).
It is safe to say, that sometime in yoga’s history, a gender shift occurred. Ironically, the shift has given rise to inhibitions and stereotypes like men can’t do yoga because men aren’t “naturally” flexible and that Yoga is not “masculine”. The fact is, men and human beings in general have a lot to gain from Yoga. It is a fountainhead of wisdom from which we have a lot to learn and imbibe.
If this quest for wisdom is not enough to set you on your yoga journey, read on to find out the many ways Yoga benefits men.
Build more Muscle
Yoga increases your range of motion and makes otherwise unreachable muscle fibres more accessible, allowing for more hypertrophy. Hypertrophy is when a muscle grows because its cells are enlarged. For example, the “boxer’s muscle” or serratus anterior located under your armpit is the base for building strong deltoids and pecs. And, you guessed it, Yoga helps access that muscle. Yoga uses your body weight as resistance to build muscle mass, lengthening the muscles and tissue, which improves blood flow. Better blood flow means more oxygen to the muscles, which helps in quicker muscle recovery and more growth. It is therefore wise to complement your weight-lifting routine with a couple of Yoga classes a week.
Get Better At Your Sport
Many tennis players complain of lower back pain due to repeatedly loading and unloading the spine while serving. One of yoga's major benefits is improving core strength, which results in more spinal support and less strain on the lower back. If you’re a swimmer, then you know the value of coordinating breath with movement for better performance. Breath (or Prana) is one of the tenets of Yoga practice; there are very specific breathing instructions to get in and transition out of a yoga asana. You can get more from your running workouts with a yoga practice that strengthens and lengthens your leg muscles and prevents injury. Regardless of the sport, focus on strength, flexibility, breathing, mental concentration and the mind-body connection in yoga helps athletes develop mental acuity and focus.
Working out after a stressful day at work, or when you mind is distracted can cause serious injuries. Yoga can help prevent those injuries in several ways. It improves flexibility making muscles more capable of handling stress and strain. Flexible, well-stretched muscles heal and recover quicker after working out. Yoga also makes you more aware of and mindful of your body so that you can quickly recognize subtle cues of pain. A lot of yoga classes begin with a prayer which serves as a reminder to honour your body’s capabilities and limits on that particular day. This basic ability to scan and assess yourself will help prevent injuries not only in yoga but other physical activities too.
Train Your Mind
In the midst of a hectic day, committing to the relaxed space of a yoga class might be the best way for men to slow down, unplug and breathe. Lifting heavy weights at the gym or punching through your kickboxing class can leave you feeling aggressive and tired. Yoga, on the other hand, employs a number of relaxation techniques, which can make you calmer overall. Yoga has been proven to relieve mild clinical depression and is known to help you sleep better and longer. Along with training your body, yoga trains your mind to see the bigger picture and to respond, not react in stressful situations.
Most importantly, Yoga teaches you to stop thinking about your self and your desires and helps you find internal metrics for determining your value, your self-worth, an invaluable tool in todays world that revolves around crowd-sourcing self esteem and validation.
As you can see, adding Yoga to your fitness routine is really a no-brainer. Unroll your Yoga mat now to take your fitness game to the next level!
P.S. in case you still need some motivation, check out our selection of Big Mats, specifically designed for men who do yoga.