What do Matthew McConaughey, Justin Trudeau and Shaquille O’Neal have in common? They all swear by yoga. Once the preserve of yogis and women, the ancient practice is becoming increasingly popular with men – famous or otherwise.
But not all men are convinced about the physical and mental benefits of yoga. Common misconceptions include:
• I’m not flexible enough.
• I’ll be the only man in class.
• It’ll make me skinny.
• It won’t make me muscly.
• I don’t know any yoga poses or jargon.
Ciara Watson, yoga instructor at The Yoga Mela London says, “A man came to my class the other day and said, ‘I’m not very flexible.’ But the thing is, you wouldn’t go to a French class expecting to already speak it fluently. So why would you go to a yoga class expecting to be super-flexible and know all the poses?
“Sure men can be a bit less flexible, but they tend to have more upper body and shoulder strength. For instance, there’s a big craze for headstands in yoga at the moment – and it’s usually easier for men to do them.
“I trained in India and have practiced yoga for years, but my boyfriend still got into a headstand before me. I was fuming – I just couldn’t understand it!” Ciara says with a giggle.
“Yoga can improve your strength by crazy amounts, make you more muscly, tone your body, increase your range of movements… I always say it can either give you a six-pack – or it’ll make you feel better about not having one.”
Yoga for sports stars
According to magazines like Men’s Fitness, more and more sports teams are using yoga to boost their performance. The New York Giants, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Cleveland Cavaliers. We could go on… We will go on… the New Zealand All Blacks, Manchester City, Manchester United. You get the idea.
Ciara says, “Yoga definitely helps you improve at any sport. Even if you play golf, if you do yoga as well it’ll improve the rotation of your spine and shoulders. And it’s different to a gym workout too. When men exercise down the gym, they’ll isolate body parts to bulk up, whereas yoga is about all the body parts working together. This really helps prevent sports injuries.
Yoga for executives and entrepreneurs
Yoga also helps men with demanding jobs, like executives and entrepreneurs. A stressful job can put a strain on your blood pressure and nervous system. In yoga you learn to control your breathing, which helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system. And this helps to calm your nerves and lower your blood pressure.
“Nowadays, we’re so over-stimulated. We live with phones in our hands, taking in too much information from adverts, being constantly distracted by social media. In yoga class, you turn away from all that and focus on the physical and the mental. The definition of yoga is union – it’s about uniting your body and your mind.”
Men’s Fitness and U.S. News report that spending time on the yoga mat has many positive effects on cognitive functions. They state that focus, productivity and creative insight are all improved by sun salutations, downward-facing dogs and other poses.
Convinced that yoga isn’t just for a bunch of women sporting the latest trends in ladies’ Lycra? Now you’re probably wondering just how to get started.
You might want to see if there are any classes in your local gym. Many yoga sessions are also offered by instructors from their home studio. Alternatively, you can always have lessons in the privacy of your own home. Just check your instructor is insured and has done at least 200 hours of teacher’s training first.
As Ciara says at the end of her yoga classes… “Namaste.”
This was originally featured on the blog for www.drink-lgnd.com