Even though more than 70 percent of all yoga practitioners are women, men are becoming increasingly more visible at yoga classes all over the country. While the truth for the increased testosterone on yoga mats may have more to do with the attractive women yoga classes attract, we like to think that men are just as enticed by the physical, mental and emotional benefits of yoga.
The physical postures of yoga, called asanas, were created by men, Indian sages to be exact. In fact, thousands of years ago, women were not allowed to practice yoga; it was a discipline taught only by male gurus to male students.
Today, the picture looks quite different as women and men enjoy the numerous benefits that yoga has to offer.
So, if you’re a guy and your yoga curiosity has been peaked by a few of your buddies who swear that triangle pose has enhanced their golf swing, mellowed them out a bit and maybe even helped them drop a few pounds, here is what you need to know about yoga for men.
While the benefits are genderless, the practice does have very specific male attributes. Yoga can compliment any male workout routine, whether its building up strength in the weight room, perfecting a lay-up on the basketball court or getting more follow-through in a one-handed backhand on the tennis court, you can incorporate yoga into your existing fitness routine and not worry that it is going to take away from your performance.
The reason is that while yoga clearly makes you more flexible, it also improves strength by forcing you to use your own body weight, rather than an external force to build lean and toned muscle mass. In fact, Men’s Health magazine has a yoga center on their website, complete with a list of professional athletes who do yoga, the best yoga poses for men, a 30-day yoga challenge and much more.
In addition, yoga’s breath helps you deepen your focus, improve your concentration and reduce stress. What 21st century male doesn’t need that?
Even though there are no male-only yoga poses, here are few standout’s that will make any guy feel better, stronger and more centered.
Chair pose (Utkatasana): This intense posture will strengthen your upper and lower body while also stretching your shoulders and hips. Start by standing with your feet together. Bend your knees slightly and raise your arms over your head, palms together. Keep your chest open as you gaze upwards. Don’t allow your knees to bend over your toes and keep your shoulders moving down your back, away from your ears. Stay in the posture for at least five breaths.
Boat pose (Navasana): This posture builds a long and lean abdominal cavity while also strengthening your legs and arms. Start by sitting down on your mat with your knees gently bent and feet planted on the ground. On an inhale, lift your legs and arms together so that you’re balancing on your bottom. If you can, straighten your knees, toes pointed up and straighten your arms so that they are parallel with your legs, palms facing each other. Hold steady in this posture for a minimum of five breaths.
The best bit of advice any guy can follow while starting a yoga practice is to do what feels right. Also, be vocal with your instructor about any past or existing injuries and always seek out a teacher who not just looks solid in a pair of cute yoga shorts, but more importantly, who is solid in their teaching expertise.