In my quest to inspire more people to give yoga a chance, it occurred to me that yoga is seen as almost an exclusively female activity.
For as long as I’ve done yoga, regardless of where I am, there are rarely, if ever, any men in the classes. I don’t blame dudes for not participating based on the general perceptions of yoga.
However, I’m going to try to shift those perceptions a little bit because I think that guys could really benefit from yoga, regardless of how fit they are or aspire to be.
Also, before I dive into my reasons for thinking guys should try yoga, I think it’s worth mentioning that yoga was originally created and practiced by men. In fact, up until relatively modern times, women didn’t practice yoga at all.
Myth: Yoga is too easy to be a workout.
This is a common misconception that is actually incorrect on a few different fronts.
First, the original intention of yoga was to help the men who were practicing it increase their physical strength, stamina and endurance. Even though there is a much broader scope for yoga now, the original intent still remains in all but the most relaxed classes.
That being said, even if you’re in generally good shape, you might be surprised by how challenging it can be to maintain the correct forms. Yoga engages a lot of muscles that you likely don’t use very often, even if you strength train, and it engages them in ways that are much different than other types of workouts.
You might not feel as amped up as you do after an intense weights session, but you’ll definitely feel like you worked hard.
Second, keep in mind that there are a lot of different styles of yoga, and some of these classes can be pretty intense. For example, hot yoga is performed in sauna-like temperatures, which adds a unique level of difficulty. There are also things like “power vinyasa” that are structured to get your heart rate up and challenge you, and mixed classes like Les Mills BodyPump that combine yoga, tai chi and Pilates in intense sequences.
I’ve mentioned this in previous posts too, but one of my favorite “workout” yogas is DDP Yoga, and his slogan is (accurately!) “not your mama’s yoga.” It’s hard, and it’s not New Age-y or feminine in ANY way. Seriously, just follow that link and read what he has to say. You’ll laugh, and you’ll probably be interested in what he says.
Myth: Yoga can’t really help with strength or cardio training.
Believe it or not, rotating yoga into your training schedule has at least three clear benefits that I can think of offhand.
- It changes your breathing.
Whether you’re a runner, athlete or bodybuilder, you know that how you breathe is an important part of how you train. You might think that your breathing patterns are working just fine, but it might surprise you to know that you can refine your technique quite a bit when you add yoga to the mix.
A HUGE part of any yoga practice is breathwork. Even if you aren’t doing specific breath exercises, moving through pose sequences places a lot of emphasis on paying attention to how and when you breathe. This can not only expand your lung capacity, but it also helps to train your body to oxygenate itself better.
- It works your stabilizer muscles.
Even if you have a well-developed physique and a solid workout plan, it’s incredibly common to have relatively weak or under-developed stabilizers. Being able to hold correct, balanced forms in yoga requires strong stabilizer muscles as well as patience and focus, and these gains can directly translate to the rest of your workouts.
- It improves your range of motion.
Unless you actively work on rehabbing tight muscle groups in addition to your regular training, you’re probably not working with a full range of motion. This seriously limits your ability to increase your gains, and it also limits your general ability to move functionally in everyday life.
Being flexible isn’t the same as having a full range of motion, either. For example, my hips are incredibly flexible and very open. However, my glutes tend to be tight (heheh), so I don’t always have a full range of motion despite the fact that my hips are flexible enough to move freely. I’m limited by the tightness in my glutes, and yoga can help to fix that.
So, are you interested yet?
Yoga is for men of all fitness levels just as much as it is for women and kids. On the surface, it might not seem like a tough or beneficial workout, and I get that. Honestly, there are some classes that aren’t meant as a workout, and that’s okay.
The point doesn’t have to be to end the session dripping sweat. Instead, the point can be to make yourself more well-rounded by working on small things like breathing, stabilizers, tight muscles and overall focus and discipline.
If you’re like me, sometimes you still want to feel like you’ve gotten a tough workout in. There are still plenty of options like the ones I mentioned earlier that will give you all the benefits of yoga while also making you sweat.
What do you think? Do you have any other preconceived ideas about yoga that I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments!