" No Man ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man." - HERACLITUS
Takeaway: The reasons why men should practice yoga go well beyond just the physical benefits.
Last year I began a program just for men and what I found was just how much such a class was beneficial not only to the men, but to me as a teacher as well. While men have always attended my classes, most of the room is filled with women. Having a class tailored just to men allowed me to look at how men use their bodies, their minds and their breath and teach to those places where they may have never been before.
What I know to be true is that yoga builds incredible strength in areas of the body you don't access in the gym. In a room full of gentlemen, witnessing them discover that for themselves was very eye-opening in many regards.
From a physical standpoint, yoga will reveal how just using muscle alone will not help; but it is how the muscles are used that builds strength in a unique way. From an energetic perspective, to slow down and move mindfully from one position to the next is often very challenging when one has been used to more high impact/energy activities. Emotionally, when one begins to focus on the breath, how it moves in and out of the body and how the body then can move with the breath; a whole new world opens up!
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for the release of my "Yoga for Men" series on my AHW On Demand service. Here I will include prerecorded classes including everything from stretching to strengthening, breathwork and even meditation.
In the meantime, if you are a man who has been wondering if yoga is for you, here are a few reason you may consider getting on the mat with me...
1. Increase Your Lung Capacity
It’s no secret that deep breathing is a key component of a yoga class. Because humans don't have a user manual, most people don’t know how to breathe properly. Instead, many take shallow breaths up high in the chest. This restricts oxygen to the brain, muscles, and entire body.
Practicing yoga teaches you how to use your diaphragm, which is your breathing muscle. This, in turn, helps you to oxygenate your body. Breathing is a cleansing process, so deeper, slower breaths lead to increased immunity and longer life span.
2. Become More Flexible
Let’s face it: men are commonly perceived as being less flexible than women. Why not do something about it? Grab your buddy and head to your next yoga class to get a deep stretch on.
Target areas for men generally include tight shoulders and tight hamstrings. When you stretch regularly through yoga postures combined with deep breathing (to bring in more oxygen), this helps to prevent injury and increase a safe range of motion within the joints.
This is particularly helpful for men who are athletic or into sports. It can also help to improve posture, especially if you sit at a desk all day.
3. Expand Your Mind
For men who feel stuck in a rut with their workout regimen or perhaps just hitting a wall in any area of life, it can be time to try something new.
Perhaps you are dealing with stress or anxiety and deep down desire an all-natural alternative to help yourself. Social conditioning may tell men that being vulnerable or emotional is a weakness. In this case, emotions may become repressed.
Yoga is a healthy outlet that can expand your mind, encouraging you to try new things while preventing harm to yourself and others.
4. Put Your Muscles to Use
You may have muscles, but can you use them? Because men produce more testosterone, they tend to build muscle quickly and easily. However, our bodies were made to move and not just be defined as lumps of muscle. Can those core muscles hold you in crow pose? Can the strong shoulders help your headstand?
Beyond just the look of developed muscles that is the goal in other workouts, yoga challenges the body to move in a variety of ways, some of which are outside the normal range. This helps develop smaller stabilizer muscles so there is more harmony. Yoga helps you learn to test the boundaries of your body and develop body consciousness.
5. Challenge Yourself
When was the last you relaxed? Can you sit still for 10 minutes? It may sound boring but there is an entire world to explore on the inside. The practice of yoga not only strengthens your body through physical poses but also the mind through meditation.
Yoga also teaches you to calm down and lose the competitive edge. It’s not about how much weight you can lift at the gym, how long you can hold a chaturanga or even how long you can hold your breath (kumbhaka). Invite yourself to surrender, accept yourself, and release old patterns.
Yoga Poses for Men’s Target Areas
Cow Face Pose (gomukhasana) for the Shoulders and Hips
What is Cow Face Pose?
Cow face pose, or gomukhasana, is a seated posture in which the knees are stacked on top of one another. The hands are clasped behind the back, forming an infinity shape.
Cross one knee tightly on top of the other or simply cross the legs.
Keep the sitting bones even in the floor or elevate the hips on a cushion.
Reach one arm up and bend it down as the other arms reaches back.
Clasp the hands behind your back or use a strap if unable to reach.
Bound Angle Pose (baddha konasana) for the Hips
Bend the legs and bring the soles of the feet together.
Open the knees so legs make the shape of a diamond.
Take the feet further away from your hips if the knees are elevated.
Remain here or play with folding forward.
Feel free to use the support of blocks under the hips, knees, or head.
Sphinx Pose (salamba bhujangasana) for the Chest and Spine
Lay on the belly and bring the elbows under the shoulders, forearms parallel.
Press the arms down to lift the chest up.
Lift the belly muscles inward and gaze forward.
Warrior Two (virabhadrasana B) for the Inner Thighs
Take one leg forward and step the other back with the foot facing the side.
Bend the front knee to 90 degrees over the ankle (not past it) so the thigh drops parallel to the floor.
Sink the hips down and ensure the torso faces the side of the mat.
Open the arms wide to a T and gaze over the front hand.
Feel expansion through the thighs and chest.
Take advantage of the extra time at home and already being out of your normal routine to try or add something new to your routine.
Until we meet again, shine from within...
From my heart to yours, Namaste'