Why Men Should Practice Yoga, Too
Yoga is a female-dominated fitness activity. When men think of yoga, they likely picture twenty women at a yoga studio donned in sweatpants. Each performs impossible bends and twists, discussing abstract ideas of “energy” and “prana.” It is not something men are particularly drawn to, especially since many of the necessary skills are weak or even absent in males. These include flexibility, balance, and a willingness to explore spirituality. But, yoga has an incredible number of benefits that should spur men to explore it as a potential addition to their workout regimens.
The form of yoga most common in Western countries is Hatha yoga. Hatha yoga consists of several asanas, or poses, that stretch and work the muscles in various ways. These poses are then connected to form a session that can last anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour and a half. Some well-known asanas include downward-facing dog, child’s pose, and the warrior series.
The physical benefits of yoga are likely what most men are concerned with. Many might feel that, since it is female-dominated and lacks a particularly taxing appearance, it does not provide as intense of a workout as weightlifting or cardio training. In reality, yoga can be an effective way to tone muscles and develop strength. Because of its wide-ranging movement patterns, it works the muscular system in ways that a regular gym practice does not. The average weightlifting program lacks the all-around strengthening component and a variety of yoga.
Take, for example, a man’s typical gym workout. He works his chest muscles doing a flat bench press, his lower body with a back squat, and his arms doing various dumbbell curls and presses. How often, though, will he find himself balancing on one leg, as in tree pose, or twisting in a deep chair pose? This is the kind of benefit that yoga provides to men who exercise in a fixed and linear pattern, like at the gym. Yoga poses confuse the muscles and work parts of the body that weightlifting cannot target.
That is not to say men should abandon traditional strength training in favor of yoga. Rather, using yoga as a complement to weightlifting is the ideal solution. Workout performance will increase as those hidden muscles of the body become stronger. Flexibility will also improve, which will expand the range of motion and refine lifts that men may struggle with due to tight muscles, like bench press or squat.
While the psychological benefits of yoga may not be a priority for most men, it is the hidden gem of this ancient Vedic art. Regular yoga practice reduces stress and tension and encourages a greater sense of mindfulness. Mental well-being as a whole can improve, something that everyone could benefit from. What contributes to its calming effect is the emphasis placed on breathing. When practicing yoga, the intention is to synchronize each breath with a form of movement. An example would be a transition from plank pose to downward-facing dog, which is accompanied by an exhale. This habit encourages a sense of awareness of the body and its functions, which is, for many people, a relaxing sensation.
Considering its physical and mental benefits, it is clear why so many people choose to practice yoga. Men could stand to reap from its advantages as well, and it would be a valuable addition to any man’s fitness habits.