If you’re a guy who won’t go near a yoga studio because you think it’s full of flexible, fit, slim, young women, that’s completely understandable. (Although I have male friends who would see that sentence as immediate motivation to rush to yoga quicker than you could say Om).
For thousands of years, yoga was taught and practiced mostly by men, in India. When it became popular in the West as a fitness craze for women in the 70s and 80s, it somehow also acquired a stigma of being a woman’s thing—of no use to men. You know, like macramé.
How ridiculous and how untrue! For decades, women have enjoyed the many yoga benefits of flexibility, strength, balance and peace of mind; while men continue to suffer from lower back pain, tight hamstrings, immobile hips and the endless stream of thoughts of a stressed-out, busy mind.
Whether it’s to supplement or replace a sweaty gym workout, or you’d just like to be able to pick up your grandchild without herniating a disc, you too can join the growing number of men in the US benefiting from yoga.
Gym dudes will see improved flexibility and increased muscular endurance from the long holds in yoga poses. Golfers will enjoy an easier swing, from more limber spine and hips.
Businessmen will discover improved concentration and focus, perhaps setting an intention for their work week with more clarity, after experiencing how using intention during yoga creates awareness and discipline.
With manic schedules and stressful responsibilities, that one hour or so of yoga may be the only time for some men to decompress, slow down, and breathe.
And don’t worry if you can only do 10 percent of what an ultra-bendy female next to you is doing. Choose instead to do 100 percent of what your body can do. That is more than enough. The general female tendency of more flexible hips makes way for the overall male tendency of more strength, so there will be poses most men can access more easily than most women—if that matters to you. You’ll know you’re really “doing yoga” when you don’t give two hoots about that kind of competition anyway, because you’re too busy enjoying how good you feel during and after yoga.
Almost convinced? Here’s a nudge that may motivate you … yoga improves your sex life. Yes, read that again. An NCBI study (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20646186) reveals yoga as “an effective method of improving all domains of sexual functions in men.”
Athletes, film stars, singers and business execs have turned to yoga; as a powerful anti-ageing tool for building stamina, improving concentration, and reducing anxiety and depression. LeBron James, Tom Brady, Sting, Adam Levine, Russell Simmons, Larry Brilliant, Robert Downey, Jr., Matthew McConaughey, Colin Farrell, Alec Baldwin and many more. That’s quite a diverse group of yoga guys; not to mention the less-famous, equally-fantastic men who practice at our local yoga studios.
There’s a yoga mat waiting for all men; it’s simply a matter of finding a yoga space where you feel comfortable. Do some research, perhaps try a class led by a male teacher, or go with a friend—male or female. It won’t be long before Warrior and Plank Pose become a casual part of your health and fitness conversation. Namaste.
Author Julie Murphy is South African and has been teaching yoga and meditation in the US since 2007. In a former life, she was a business exec in the high-tech industry. Julie is well known for her soothing Yoga Nidra work, and is energized by its positive impact. She is inspired by yoga as a way for anyone to reach their full potential—in body, mind and spirit. For info on Julie’s album recordings and yoga retreats, visit yogaressa.com.