Heather Ashare has been a dedicated practitioner and instructor of Ashtanga yoga for several years. As the yoga expert at DietsInReview.com, she shares simple and effective ways to make yoga a part of your life for greater fitness and wellness. DietsInReview.com also provides healthy recipes, weight loss tools, nutrition and health guidance in the Diet Blog and reviews of nearly 700 diet plans.
Yoga for Men
When it comes to yoga, most men who spend their time weight-lifting at the gym shake their head and brush this five-thousand year-old tradition off as a woman’s or elderly form of physical activity. They equate yoga with soft-flowing movements, dimly-lit rooms, burning incense and maybe a few chanted “Oms.”
In reality, yoga can be a great resource for strength training, flexibility, and injury prevention, for both men and women.
And they may be right to some extent, but for anyone who sweat through an Ashtanga or power yoga class knows, yoga is not for the meek and weak. In fact, many weight-lifters are humbly surprised to find out after taking their first yoga class that while they can easily bench press one-hundred pounds, they can barely hold a strength-bearing yoga posture for five breaths.
For male gym-goers, who clock hours preparing for their next body-building competition, yoga can be a tremendous compliment to their usual workout. Here are a few things to think about before you give the thumb’s down to your downward-dog-loving friend’s invitation to a yoga class.
Increases Muscle Strength
In yoga, you rely on the strength of your own body to lift and move you through a series of standing and seating postures. Postures like upward dog, downward dog and plank pose build upper body strength, particularly as you hold these postures for a number of deep breaths. Postures like Warrior I and Warrior II build lower and upper body strength as they focus on the quadriceps, calves and hamstrings.
In addition, all yoga postures, when they are practiced correctly, build core strength.
By using your own body strength, you request the use of all the muscles in your body, even muscles you didn’t know you have in order to build strength, stamina and balance.
Yoga stretches the fascia, which is the protective connective tissue that covers all the muscles in your body. The more this fascia is stretched, as it is with yoga postures, the more opportunity there is for the muscle to grow and the more mobile it becomes.
At the gym, you lift an external object which over time tends to shorten the muscle rather than elongate it. Tight muscles, no matter how strong they are, make you at more risk for injuries like lower back pain and pulled muscles.
The dual-action of strength and flexion that is inherent in all yoga postures builds muscle while also lengthening the muscle fibers which make your body more flexible and pliable and consequently less prone to injury.
Choose the Right Style
Your best bet for being challenged in a yoga class is to try the Ashtanga, power or Vinyassa styles. Power yoga classes have their roots in the Ashtanga system which is one of the oldest systems of yoga. Its reliance of strength, flexibility, balance and deep breathing often gives it the name of being the athlete’s yoga. Bikram or hot yoga will also give you a workout with the rooms heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
If the thought of entering into a yoga class intimidates you, remind yourself that you will most likely meet a yoga friend on a nearby mat who also shares your inability to touch their toes: We all stiffen as we age.
Men come into yoga with much greater strength than women. While this is a benefit it can also be a hindrance. Strength without flexibility lends its way to pushing yourself too far, too quickly and ending up injured. To prevent this, move slowly and back off at the first signs of muscle resistance.
Find a Qualified Instructor
Also, seek out a highly qualified teacher who has been teaching for a few years and is well-respected in your local community for their anatomical knowledge of the body, their experience in working with a range of abilities and their integrity to the practice of yoga.
Lastly, while you may regard your usual gym routine with the utmost discipline and seriousness, remember to laugh at yourself if you fall over in a standing posture. Yoga is meant to lighten you, not weigh you down.
As a male who has been practicing yoga for going on 10 years now, I can attest to the health benefits of yoga. While weight lifting may give you the bulk that American culture finds aesthetically pleasing, yoga will tone and lengthen the muscles and improve your range of motion. Not to mention, the destressing, clarity of mind, and discipline that yoga brings.
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Thank you for this post. I’m a guy that’s been doing yoga for years. I know many yoga studio owners could increase their business if they tapped into the male market for yoga. For some odd reason yoga is perceived as a female pursuit, which is odd because as you say, some styles such as ashtanga require tremendous strength and can build strength, endurance, and of course flexibility.
I daresay men, even weight lifters (perhaps especially weightlifters) should embrace yoga because it increase range of motion in tight muscles. I weight lift as well as do yoga and yoga helps me stay limber.
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