August 13, 2015
A MAN’S PLACE IN YOGA
When people think of yoga, they generally think of a fit, 20-something year old woman in a tight ensemble doing splits and twisting her body into unthinkable shapes, right?
But with a 20% increase of yoga practitioners in the US from 2014 to 2015, this body-conscious routine has more men coming into the scene. In fact, most of the branches of yoga were founded by men.
Now, let’s deal with this fact: yoga is popular and it has gone far beyond the sex divide. Male athletes, celebrities, and “normal” people like you and me have found something appealing about yoga that has fit into our lifestyles.
So what is it with this females-only stigma behind yoga? For starters, 72.2% of yoga practitioners in the US are females. Maybe all these women are a reason for men to attend a class, or maybe it’s a source of intimidation. One thing is true: women dominate the yoga scene.
Women tend to be more flexible and as a result yoga may come more naturally to women than men. This is quite possibly a reason some men find it hard to succumb to the known benefits of yoga. Most men will have to work harder to become more flexible initially and that may be a turnoff for anyone – especially if this is something you’re trying out in your spare time. But the point is, men do yoga too. So let’s check out some of the men who have gotten over the initial hump and practice yoga.
THE MEN WHO DO YOGA
How about a good challenge? Within yoga, there are multitudes of different branches that may fit the lifestyle of a weightlifter, a runner, or a basketball player, to name a few. Which men do yoga that you’ve probably heard of?
For professional basketball players in the NBA, Kobe Bryant and the man who just attended the Team USA minicamp in Vegas, LeBron James, yoga isn’t just something that they have made a part of their routine, they even led a class at Nike’s Basketball Academy in LA.
There, they practiced yoga with the best up-and-coming athletes in high school and college. But it all makes perfect sense. The flexibility and body-awareness that is a central focus in yoga can make their on-court game better. With more flexibility there is a lower risk of sustaining an injury. And with more body awareness and a sense of mental toughness, they can navigate the court more effectively. Sprained an ankle? Yoga straps you with the skills to help you bounce back faster through rehabilitative stretches.
What’s wrong with just doing regular stretching? According to Claire Petretti, a RYT yoga instructor, NASM certified personal trainer, and certified pilates teacher:
Even if athletes stretch pre- or post-workout, they are usually just stretching the muscles in the same direction and plane of motion in which they will be exercising. Yoga goes beyond simple stretching by working the muscles and joints through all ranges of motion–activating the little-used muscles that support the primary movers.”
Not convinced yet? Entire football teams, like the Seattle Seahawks, have implemented yoga and meditation into their NFL training program.
In 2011, Head Coach Pete Carroll was more interested in winning, and if winning meant thinking out of the box, that’s what he was going to do. A meditation and yoga coach, Mike Gervais, was hired and sessions began as “attendance optional,” but after the success of the yoga class, Carroll decided to make yoga a mandatory part of training.
In 2013, Carroll had his best record since becoming the head coach and in 2014 Carroll led his team to win the Superbowl for the first time in franchise history. Not as lucky the next year, but still quite the feat, the Seahawks made it to the Superbowl for the second year in a row to lose to the New England Patriots in a close game of 28-24.
The idea? Happy players make a happy team and when a team is happy it shows up on the field. How ‘bout them apples?
There are plenty of male athletes who choose to do yoga to enhance their lives and their game. From MLB’s Evan Longoria, to NBA’s Blake Griffin, to retired soccer star David Beckham, they all enjoy the benefits of a healthy body and mind. Now we have professional male athletes who have not only adopted yoga as a personal practice, but are spreading the importance of yoga to their teammates and opponents alike.
The focus on flexibility, balance, and body consciousness has made yoga the yin to the sportsman’s yang. Practicing day in and day out can cause a lot of stress on the body of a professional athlete, whether they are in season or offseason. But with the benefits of yoga, athletes can take better care of their bodies and increase longevity within their personal careers.
What about some men who aren’t athletes? As you probably have guessed, yoga is definitely taking over the men of Hollywood. There are droves of actors who swear by yoga, like onscreen and offscreen Iron Man actor Robert Downey Jr.
But what makes Robert Downey’s experience a bit more relatable is that the superhero celeb credits practicing yoga with Vinnie Marino to helping him overcome his addictions. Now how’s that for inspiration?
Another type of yoga that is popular amongst these men of fame is Bikram yoga.
Men like George Clooney, Daniel Craig, and Matthew McConaughey, have made Bikram yoga their yoga of choice for its high-heat sweat factor. At higher temperatures, your body has the ability to be more flexible, so you can really see how far you can push yourself.
5 REASON MEN SHOULD PRACTICE YOGA
Plenty of men do yoga, why don’t you? Most of us aren’t training for the Olympics or getting ready for lead roles in the new Hollywood blockbuster. But most of us have jobs and want to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Why pick yoga over hitting the gym or going for a run? Well, your workout doesn’t necessarily need to be one over the other. As humans, variety is the spice of life, right? So how about a little yoga to balance out all those weights you pumped in the gym yesterday? Your muscles need a little break and could use some stretching without having to drop the challenge of pumping iron or running for time.
1. Yoga is a physical exercise. Just like anything else, yoga is what you make of it. There are new branches of yoga that are popping up everyday, like Power yoga, which comes from Ashtanga yoga. Power yoga is a more fluid and relatively new form of yoga that will make you break a major sweat.
Let’s get back to Claire Petretti on the benefits of yoga paired with other forms of exercise:
Many sports, such as cycling and running, have very repetitive movements usually in one direction and in one plane of motion. These sports can develop certain muscle groups while ignoring others. Over time, this process causes imbalances in the muscles and joints leading to overuse injuries. For instance, tight hamstrings and hip flexors will cause the body to recruit from other joints, joints not intended for bearing extra loads.”
2. Yoga defines and tones your muscles. Practicing yoga will also help with muscle tone. Unlike some other sports or workout routines, yoga employs the strength of a wider range of muscles than your normal workouts.
Think of planking – not the planking that people do all over the world on weird structures – but the static exercise that can be hard enough to even think about doing willingly. Basically, when you are trying different poses, think of it like planking your body in various positions. Of course, yoga is not completely static, but you do have to use a lot of discipline and inner control of the muscles to transition from one position to the next. This control of the muscles is what gives women and men alike that sexy muscle tone.
3. Yoga makes you happy. We all know that exercise sends neurotransmitters called endorphins to the brain telling us we are happy. Endorphins are directly connected to stress and pain. Let’s explore that brain to body connection through the practice of yoga. Whether you are at home, in a cubicle, or out in nature, yoga can transform you to a different place in just a couple of stretches. Yoga forces you to not only bend your body but also to bend your mind. There are times when you have to focus on one tiny aspect of your body and your entire body at the same time, while remaining calm.
But, if you lose that focus and calm, you may end up on your butt. Check out this funny video of one of our favorite male Instagram practitioners of Ashtanga yoga, Luke, @skywalkeriam, trying to make this pose work:
But, landing on your butt is a lesson within itself: laugh, and learn that yoga is fun and all about experimentation. Whether you’re engaged in a pose or a flow sequence, your mind has to be right there with your body. Being in the moment can bring you worlds away from what happened at work earlier that day.
It’s no surprise that yoga is growing in popularity in the eyes of male business owners. Having not only a body conscious exercise but a mind conscious exercise that will take your mind away from stressors at work may make you feel better than just pumping it out in the gym.
4. Yoga can help ease your mind and make you calm. The mind is exercised by the importance of breath, meditation, and patience. Breathing is as necessary in yoga as it is in running or other forms of exercise. Oxygen is essential to the brain and body when exercising. It is the source of our energy and enables fluid blood circulation, basically, so we don’t pass out.
When trying new poses for the first time you usually need to take smaller steps to get closer to your goal. Moving slowly while having to maintain your balance and breath is a meditation within itself. Trying riskier positions will teach you volumes about patience.
5. Yoga improves your sex life. Did I get your attention yet? Ok, it’s time get down to the brass tacks and make sure we don’t leave anything out. We’ve talked about flexibility, body awareness, and breathing, but one of the best parts about all of these aspects of yoga is that they can be applied directly to your sex life. The relationship between flexibility and a good time in the sack can be chalked up to this: more flexibility, more sexual positions to try out.
Flexibility is an important aspect to anyone’s life. With flexibility comes body awareness. The more flexible you are, the more likely you are to try new things in the bedroom. The practice that you gain on breathing can also help you last longer in the bedroom (or kitchen, bathroom, etc.) and impress your partner.
Better yet, practice yoga with your partner so you both can be on the same page. Yes, there is a yoga for that! Well, sort of…hear me out. Tantra yoga involves connecting to the energy within your own body and connecting it outwardly, let’s say, to another human being. The purpose of Tantra yoga is to get more in tune with yourself, help you achieve your goals, and if you are in a relationship, strengthen your connection and sexual life with your partner. Not so bad.
If you want your partner yoga to be more physical, there is Acro yoga which, put simply, involves both you and your partner building a tower of sorts. In order to accomplish this, you have to work off of one another’s strength and balance. It can be a fun and intimate way to play around and connect with your significant other – and possibly a great new date idea.
MEN DO YOGA BECAUSE IT BENEFITS THEIR LIVES
The men who do yoga have latched on to this form of exercise to help them improve their everyday lives. So here you have it guys, plenty of reasons to start taking yoga a bit more seriously. Men, be inspired to break out of those gender stereotypes and take care of your body, your mind, and even your sex life. #mendoyoga #menofyoga #yogadudes #yogamen #mensyoga
Find out which form of yoga works best for you here: