Look at any picture of ancient eastern yogis and you will undoubtedly be looking at a male guru. However, as yoga migrated west, the practice mostly caught the attention of the female population. Classes were predominately female with a few men sprinkled in between for good measure. That’s no longer the case as more and more men are rediscovering the wellrounded benefits of yoga.
As the practice becomes more mainstream, men are gaining on the women for mat space in studios, workshops are geared more toward men’s interests and there is an increase in men becoming yoga instructors.
Here are just some of benefits men can expect from yoga practice.
Flexibility and Physical Strength
Former athletes can regain their agility and balance with the body. Non-athletes can begin to build a solid foundation of long, lean muscles that they may not have used before. Through yoga and its various stretching and contracting of core muscle groups and secondary muscles, the body begins to sculpt and strengthen. Yoga is great for working through muscle stiffness as well.
Yoga helps flush the system of toxins through stretching and contraction of the body organs. Like the wringing of a sponge the body releases stored toxins and makes way for fresh blood and oxygen into the system. This allows the body to perform and function at a more optimal level. Yoga helps keep the pelvic floor supple and strong which improves the function of the prostate, sexual organs and elimination. Additionally, the spinal column is strengthened and the overall connective tissue of the fascia is reinvigorated each time a man steps on his mat.
The consistent practice of yoga once or twice a week will increase the mind’s ability to focus for longer periods of time. As a man’s responsibilities increase through life changes such as work (or lack of), home and caretaking, more concentration is needed to stay present in the moment and not become overwhelmed. Mental clarity is key for staying grounded. Yoga helps to increase mental function.
Finding Balance Everyone needs balance. Since many male dominated forms of fitness are competitive, men can counterbalance these with their inherent ability to connect with all facets of human nature such as compassion, patience and love. A well-rounded person is able to tap into all sides without losing their own integrity.
Yoga student David Brand puts it into perspective. “Since beginning yoga and stretching classes about 5 or 6 weeks ago, I have found that it is very relaxing and calming not only the body, but to the mind as well. Since the mind controls the body, I have found this approach to be an excellent complement to regular physical fitness.” Brand continues, “Make no mistake, it's not easy, but I would recommend it to anyone looking for a little balance and harmony in their lives.”
Where to Start
Beginners might want to start with a hatha yoga style class. Hatha is classic yoga at its best. Yoga postures are built from the ground up. Like a building, the alignment is defined and the poses are held for anywhere from 5 to 20 breaths depending on the class. Hatha allows for an education in the pose, its correct alignment and its main benefits. Once a student has a firm grasp on the foundations of yoga, they can take the practice wherever they want to go, either by staying with hatha or perhaps moving to a more flowing Vinyasa series. Other options include an introduction to yoga class, a stretch class or a beginner gentle class.
Allowing yoga into your realm doesn’t mean you need to become a vegetarian or give up your kick boxing class but it does mean allowing yourself to step on the mat and rediscover every facet of what makes a man strong and supple at the same time. Are you ready for that? Yes, you are.
Nancy Mahon is the owner of Sanctuary Yoga Studios located at 132 Park Avenue, New City. The studio offers a ‘Deep Stretch for Stiff Dudes’ class on Tuesdays. For more information, call 548-1090. or visit SanctuaryYogaStudios.com.