6 Shameless Reasons Why More Men Should Do YogaMar 18, 2020
I still get a funny look when other guys find out I do yoga. In the West, we are conditioned to associate yoga with hot women in lycra. Yet yoga has added so much value to my life. Every class is in the highlights of my week!
Yes, I was a skeptic. As a former martial artist who grew up in a rougher area of London, I still do sadistic obstacle courses for fun. I used to subscribe to the old toxic idea of masculinity.
My body was ravaged by what I put it through though. I’ve torn practically every ligament and tendon in my knees and ankles. I take a bit of time off then go straight back in with high intensity.
One injury was particularly nasty and frustration at being unable to train led me to my first ever yoga class. I’ve missed out so much in trying to be macho all these years!
So here are my top six reasons why other men should join in and forget the haters.
#1. Positive Environment
I am naturally competitive and it put me off starting yoga. I didn’t want to be the worst in the class or to look stupid.
Every yoga class I’ve been to has emphasized this isn’t a competition. All classes, even advanced, have a wide range of abilities.
Some people appear as they’ve put in 10,000 hours and others are getting to grips with the basics.
I realized no one was paying any attention to how good I was at yoga. It was all in my head.
This freed me up to try and fail safely.
Yoga classes are full of people trying to look after themselves in their own way. Teachers will give different options for different abilities and people do what their body tells them.
After the class, you will see the yoga high on your classmates’ faces. Once you’ve gotten over the initial learning curve, you’ll feel the same.
I always leave with a smile on my face. I feel a bit better to know everyone else is leaving a little bit more uplifted too.
As men, sometimes we like to cover up our weaknesses. Yet often these perceived weaknesses aren’t the reality of our situation. You may thrive in some yoga postures, and need work in others. The beauty of yoga is that it may help you learn to accept this, too.
#2. Learning to breathe properly
We are supposedly at the pinnacle of human evolution yet we can’t even get breathing right!
Many of us live stressful lives and rush around, always busy. This can make us breathe faster and shallower than ideal.
I’m sure I don’t have to explain why oxygen is important. Long term poor breathing leaves us with low energy levels, higher heart rates, and higher blood pressures.
Getting enough oxygen to our brains improves our cognitive ability.
While I thought yoga was about holding impressive looking poses, I was wrong. Everything in yoga relies on breath.
It is an area I struggled with to begin with and would rely on stubbornness to get me through. It meant I was exhausted much earlier than everyone else.
By focusing on my breath, I’ve advanced in my practice massively. This has spilled over to other exercises I do and increased my stamina. I even feel more awake and need less coffee!
#3. Strong female role models
Let’s be real, when we think of yoga, most of us think of classes full of women. The data confirms this: a survey by the Yoga Journal showed 72% of U.S. practitioners were women in 2016.
I have trained with brilliant women in the past but yoga has challenged my old beliefs of fitness. Strength from yoga isn’t always immediately obvious with bulging muscles.
It is humbling to watch a woman achieve a feat of strength you know many men could not.
It is inspiring to see the rewards of their hard work and dedication. While we may consciously consider ourselves feminists, I still believe training alongside strong women in yoga classes challenges our subconscious biases.
At MoreYoga where I practice, only 22 of 143 instructors are men. I go to classes taught by 4 different women.
They are incredible teachers and emit confidence. I look up to them and hope to emulate them one day.
We know women are underrepresented in management positions in the US. I believe with being led by strong women through yoga classes could tackle underlying biases and improve our decision making.
One particular woman who inspires me is Karen Mattar who is powerful both in her practice and the way she runs her business. Shoutout to Mara Cimatoribus, Eithne Bryan, Annie Nicoll and Annie Parker who I am grateful for guiding me. I hope by promoting them I can give something back to them!
#4. Break a fixed mindset
How many guys go to the gym and do the same routine over and over again for years? I know I’ve fallen into that trap.
We find exercises we like and stick to them. But we stop challenging our minds when we train and live in our comfort zone.
With the right teacher, every yoga class can bring your body a challenge it has never encountered before. I love classes by Mara Cimbatorous for this reason. I fall over a lot but I also end up doing things I didn’t even know I could do!
Bounce by Matthew Syed explains how people can limit themselves with a fixed mindset. My friends who don’t do yoga commonly tell me they can’t because they aren’t flexible.
I am living proof an inflexible person can become more flexible.
We must challenge our ideas of innate talent. I believe anyone who works hard at something new can succeed. Everyone can do yoga so it’s a great way to build a habit of breaking mental barriers.
#5. Stress reduction
The media rarely covers the fact men are far more likely to commit suicide than women. Male depression and anxiety are real conditions and made more insidious because we are so likely to bury them.
There is still a stigma around showing weakness. As yoga is considered a feminist pursuit by many, it feeds into the idea of seeming unmanly.
As men, we need to start taking care of ourselves. Many studies, including from Harvard Medical School, have shown yoga practice can reduce anxiety. Yoga definitely works for me and it is a massive relief after a long day at work. I feel as if a weight is lifted off my shoulders after class.
I do think group yoga classes are better than solo yoga because of the value of the hive. In The Righteous Mind, Jonathon Haidt highlights how important being part of a group is. The simultaneous movements of yoga connect us to the people around us. This is something we are hardwired to enjoy and it has been scientifically shown to make us feel safe.
This is the most obvious benefit of yoga. Yet it’s more than getting your toe behind your head. Many of us have poor posture or sit too much in our daily lives.
Somehow humans have forgotten to sit properly.
Are your shoulders pulled back? Are both your feet on the floor? Is your back straight?
If so, well done. A quick look around any office shows you are an exception. Poor posture puts excess pressure all over the body. This can cause a wide variety of problems far beyond muscle stiffness.
It’s crazy how in the West we can’t hold the deep squat our ancestors used for millennia! The way we sit has shortened our ankle flexors, a problem less common in less sedentary cultures.
If nothing else, being more flexible is great for injury prevention. If your joints have a wider range of motion, you’re less likely to overextend.
I don’t know about you but when I’m old, I’d like to be active as long as possible!
There is absolutely no reason to be ashamed of doing yoga. Don’t allow the toxicity of other people’s opinions to stop you from taking care of yourself.
Here are my top six reasons why more men should do yoga:
- Self acceptance
- Learning to breathe properly
- Strong female role models
- Break a fixed mindset
- Stress reduction
I hope you enjoyed this article and have a great day!
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