22 Jun Why More Men Should Try Yoga
Alright world! Let’s start with the one message we want you to take from this article…
If you think yoga is an exercise geared more towards females, you are WRONG!
Today, there are more yoga studios and classes than ever before, but still many people – particularly men – remain confused and scared about what happens inside those classes and how they feel about it.
If a guy mentions to his friends that he wants to try yoga, the chances are he’ll receive some weird looks in return. I mean it’s rare you’ll come across many men who are willing to break out in a Bharadvaja’s Twist for their group of friends. But like most common misconceptions, the weird looks stem from being uneducated.
The stigma of men and exercise
A lot of men are misinformed when it comes to exercise. The stigma around men and exercise has always been the “macho” look from the outset. As men, we want to be masculine and proud. We are all stereotyped into believing a gym’s purpose is to build muscle, become stronger, faster, fitter, and take mirror selfies – but we shouldn’t (especially the last one).
It’s no secret most men consider yoga or even Pilates as physical activities more suited to females – but can you blame them? It’s hard to not be influenced by social media these days, or even escape it. How many males do you see in the marketing for yoga? Not many… Until recently.
Nowadays, more men are finding the confidence to try new forms of movement, including yoga. More people are starting to choose exercises for themselves, not society. Men are beginning to realise the importance of yoga and the positive effects it has on their bodies.
What exactly is yoga?
Yoga is a 5,000-year-old lifestyle discipline from India, however, the yoga we commonly practice in Western culture is made up of movement, mindfulness, and breath control. Most classes include a series of poses, done either statically or dynamically, with a strong emphasis on the breath. Yoga offers the powerful benefits of movement and there’s many different styles, meaning anyone can do it, regardless of your age and fitness level.
All yoga styles can help balance your body, mind, and spirit, but they achieve it in various ways.
Some yoga styles are intense and vigorous. Others are relaxing and meditative. No matter which type you choose, yoga is a great way to stretch and strengthen your body, focus your mind, and relax your spirit.
It’s becoming a trend for everyone
As the world moves more towards balancing out gender gaps, we are seeing a lot more men grab a mat. Exercise is receiving a huge amount of support in the world right now, with everyone seeing the benefits it can have for people all ages, shapes, and sizes.
There hasn’t been a time where more information and research has been used to support experimenting with new forms of movement. More people are realising a gym’s purpose isn’t bicep curls, singlets, and squat racks.
Even professional athletes and teams have begun to incorporate things such as yoga and Pilates into their training program, which has been instrumental in showing the importance of other forms of physical activity for athletes.
How yoga benefits males
Males are commonly not as flexible as females. It can be argued that the benefits are increased for males, who generally have tighter muscle groups.
How many times have you gotten out of bed or up from your desk and thought to yourself, “wow I’m stiff as a board”? There is an easy solution to combat that and it’s yoga.
Here are a few benefits of yoga for men:
- Increases flexibility
- Improves balance
- Enhance strength through range of motion
- Injury prevention
- Relieve chronic pain (particularly lower back)
- Improves breathing
- It enhances your overall health
- It’s the ultimate stress reliever
This is what an expert had to say
Exercise Right thought there would be no better person to provide an insight into the benefits of yoga than Accredited Exercise Physiologist at Inform Health & Fitness Solutions, Jacinta Brinsley.
Jacinta combines her clinical exercise prescription with a holistic mind-body approach. She is currently completing a PhD exploring the benefits of mindfulness combined with movement (e.g., yoga) on mental and physical health. As such, her prescription has a strong focus on biomechanics, alignment, yoga and mental health.
We discussed with Jacinta her take on yoga and why more men should be trying it.
Why do you think more men should do yoga?
So many reasons! Firstly, from my clinical experience and popular school of thought is that men typically have less flexibility than females. Now this is partly due to hormones and skeletal structure, but greater flexibility is available to you! And why should you want greater flexibility?
Well, I assume you want to be able to tie your shoes when you’re 80 – which really depends on your hip mobility and hamstring length. More pressingly is that most of our aches and pains and sensations of tension or stress in our body are relieved when we lengthen and contract a tissue repetitively, hydrating the connective tissue, increasing blood flow to the area, and massaging things from the inside out.
Regardless of gender, if you’re a human being that has a body and experiences stress (stress presents itself in our body almost all of the time), then you should incorporate yoga or something of a similar effect into your life.
Is there a stigma around yoga being more female dominant?
A level of stigma has definitely existed and perhaps still prevails in some places. Although nowadays we see much more even gender splits in classes. Also, there’s now more male yoga teachers on the scene, demonstrating that there’s a huge masculine side to yoga.
I think yoga’s branding in our culture has been largely based on pictures of extreme flexibility which can be very off putting for men, who are typically less flexible than females, for anatomical reasons (rarely will someone post a photo of downward dog on Instagram, it’s always a one legged, side balancing, half twist pretzel demonstration).
Quite vigorous and athletic forms of yoga have recently gained popularity which may be why we’re seeing more men in classes. Some of the peak poses in a class, such as arm balances, are much easier for men who naturally have more upper body strength than females. Women who are naturally flexible develop strength and men who are naturally strong develop flexibility.
What’s your advice for a male wanting to try yoga but is afraid to?
- Take a friend.
- Try a one-on-one, although that could be more intimidating.
- Find an AEP or physio who has a yoga background.
- Try an online class: Alo Moves ($), Yoga with Adrienne (free), try a free Lululemon class – it’s challenging for the ego, but if there’s a level 1 class, do it.
Honestly, I think the most overwhelming thing about yoga as a beginner is that all the poses have Sanskrit names and some styles of yoga don’t explain how to get into the shape, so having a slightly slower class allows you to get familiar and learn what the poses should feel like in your body.
The biggest myth ever is that you have to be flexible to do yoga! I’m going to dispel this right now. If you think you can’t touch your toes because your hamstrings are too tight, I want you to bend your knees (maybe a lot) and try again. That’s what you do in yoga!
So blokes, what are you waiting for?
The physiological and mental benefits of yoga have been enormous. Yoga will make you stronger and more flexible. It’s a great way to stay limber and energetic. You’ll also feel more focused and alert and it can help you feel great and function better in your daily life.
Many studios, gyms, fitness clubs or community centres also offer free trials or sessions for beginners.
What are you waiting for? It’s time to give yoga a go and look after yourself.
UNSURE WHAT NEW EXERCISE IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
An Accredited Exercise Professional can assist you by guiding you through an individualised, safe and evidence-based exercise program to “bulletproof” your workouts. Get in touch with your local exercise expert today by clicking here.
Written by Exercise Right staff.
We have partnered with Nike Australia Pty Ltd for this article series.
The views expressed in this article, unless otherwise cited, are exclusively those of the author, Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA). ESSA is a professional organisation committed to establishing, promoting and defending the career paths of tertiary trained exercise and sports science practitioners.
Nike had no role in the collection, analysis, or interpretation of data or research or the writing of this article.