Where are all the male yogis?
Yogasana is a practice that was designed by men, originally intended for men. But the undeniable absence of men in the yoga classes makes you wonder….. Why is it that in this new age, men share no interest in taking part in this amazing practice? Is it because, they identify emotions like aggression and competition with physical activity? Or is it because they simply haven’t understood the holistic nature of yoga practices? Are they not aware that these lessons stretch far beyond a body position — they transcend into life. Yoga has seven additional limbs, with asana as only one — the most popular. Are they not aware of the fact, some of the best athletes of today incorporate yoga into their everyday lives? Many celebrity men, not only from India but all over the world are following the path of yoga.
There have been many misrepresentations of yoga, especially now that it has been commercialized; many skinny women are seen advertising yoga. May be that is why, yoga is perceived to be a gentle form of physical activity for feminine, delicate bodies. These misconceptions are very common amongst those who don’t fully understand the practice.
For all men out here, let’s be clear… yoga does not make you dainty or feminine. It makes you strong and durable. It provides you with a constant challenge to become a better form of yourself, day in and day out. It teaches you how to find comfort and contentment in some of the most uncomfortable situations.
Is it not funny, when guys say, ‘I don’t think I should do yoga because I’m not flexible’? It’s like saying, ‘I’m too weak, so I can’t lift weights.’ Actually if one is not flexible, that’s the precise reason one should be stretching on the yoga mat.
Majority of the men, are naturally tight. Though boys and girls may be born equally flexible, by adolescence, boys generally lose flexibility faster than girls, and as boys become men, the differences in flexibility tend to grow. Researchers have noted this gap, although they can’t specifically link it to differences in hormones, musculature, or connective tissue. Whatever is to blame, the typical man’s pursuits and lifestyle, does not help them to retain the original flexibility.
While increasing your range of motion and flexibility, yoga postures enhance the aesthetic of the physique. It even enables you to lift heavier weight. Additionally, most yoga poses are held for longer durations than traditional exercises. This causes your muscles to have an isometric contraction which increases overall muscular endurance.
Lifting weights shortens muscle fibers, leading to reduced flexibility. Asanas like plank, cobra, up-dog and most inversions, help in building great scapular durability, which is a prerequisite for upper body strength training. Exercises like bench press, pull ups and seated row all depend on the serratus anterior, trapezius muscles, etc. in order to perform these exercises.
Most yoga classes begin with a reminder to honor your body’s particular needs and limits on that particular day. This basic ability to scan and assess yourself as you practice will help reduce the incidence of injury when running or playing other sports. Plus, flexible, well-stretched yoga muscles will heal and recover more quickly after working out or getting strained.
Men often suffer from tightness particularly in the hips, hamstrings, and shoulders that can lead to injury or weakness. Over-training in any one sport can cause repetitive stress and other more serious injuries.
Yoga is a full-body workout that creates both strength and flexibility. You need to have both. One without the other is a recipe for disaster. The yoga session for men should include the practices which stretch out guys’ tightest spots (like the shoulders, hips, and groin) and strengthen muscles that get no love during workouts (like the low back and knees).
Forward Bend : Padhastasana
Stretches hamstrings, calves, and hips; strengthens legs and knees
What’s good about it ? This is a great move to use as part of a warm-up for any workout. Sometimes it’s difficult to know that buildup of tension in head, neck and shoulders, and can create headaches, insomnia, poor circulation and decreased lung capacity. If you practice slow, steady breathing along with this pose, it can lower your blood pressure over time.
Downward-Facing Dog : Adhomukh shwanasana
Stretches feet, shoulders, hamstrings, and calves; strengthens arms, legs, and core
What’s good about it? Men often experience back pain due to chronic tightness in the hamstrings and hips. It’s also common for them to have very tight shoulders. Down Dog releases those areas, while building upper body strength. If you can do only one pose a day, start with Downward Dog.
Chair : Utkatasana
Stretches shoulders and chest; strengthens thighs, calves, spine, and ankles
What’s good about it? No gym necessary! Chair pose torches abdominal fat while strengthening the thighs and legs.
Crescent Lunge : Anjaneyasana
Loosens tight hips by stretching the groin; strengthens arms and legs
What’s good about it? Tight hips can cause lower back pain, knee strain, and injury, which can keep you out of the game, out of the gym, and in pain at your desk. Add Crescent Lunge to your pre-workout routine to open the hips
Warrior I : Veerbhadrasana I
Stretches shoulders and hips; strengthens upper and lower body
What’s good about it? Warrior increases space and mobility in areas where men need it most—shoulders, hips, and knees. It’s another pose that generates great stability in and around the knee, so increases stability for high-impact workouts.
Bridge pose : Setubandhasana
Stretches chest, neck, spine, and hips
What’s good about it? Many men are tight in the intercostals muscles and connective tissue surrounding the rib cage, which can limit lung capacity. Bridge pose opens the chest and releases those tight muscles, allowing for fuller, easier breaths. Over time, practicing this pose can improve performance in all physical activities and is helpful for relieving upper respiratory issues.
Bow Pose : Dhanurasana
Stretches hips, shoulders, and thighs; strengthens back
What’s good about it? One of the best stress-busting poses, Bow opens the chest to allow you to take in more oxygen. Strong abs are great, but can lead to injury if you don’t strengthen the back, too. Bow pose takes care of this, reducing your risk of injury due to muscular imbalance.
Boat Pose : Naukasana
Strengthens abs, spine, arms and hip flexors
What’s good about it? In addition to strengthening the core and back muscles, Boat promotes healthy prostate gland function.
Hero Pose : Virasana
Stretches knees, ankles and thighs
What’s good about it? Hero pose stabilizes and strengthens the vulnerable knee joints while lubricating the connective tissues in and around the knee with blood, oxygen, and fluid, making it an essential pose for runners.
Reclining Big Toe : Supta Padangusthasana
Stretches hips, thighs, hamstrings, groins, and calves; strengthens the knees
What’s good about it? This pose stimulates the prostate gland and improves digestion. Runners may find it useful for relieving sciatica caused by a tight piriformis.
Bringing yoagsana practice in the routine will make a man realize that the mat offers him a place to calm his nerves and breathe deeply. He returns to the office rejuvenated and relaxed, ready to work with a purpose.
Although the primary mission of yoga is balance (in both body and mind), it seriously challenges your strength and flexibility. There are a fair share of poses that put people—particularly men—to the test. Advanced yoga positions that every guy should strive to achieve are Chakrasana, Shirshasana, Sarvangasana and Halasana.
Even though yoga practices are safe (if done under able guidance), men also have to be more mindful about injuries. As some yoga teachers observe, men also are more likely to push into a position rather than relax into it or avoid it completely. As with anything, the baby-step approach helps. Developing your practice from simple to advance postures, understanding the ways to approach a posture and the non-competitive attitude helps!
Meditation—the ability to quiet your mind—is probably the biggest challenge! The ability to obtain focus and clarity is a tremendous advantage for everyone. The practice can also teach a guy who’s overwhelmed by his many responsibilities that the best way to get things done is by being present—focusing on one thing at a time. Meditation has vast benefits from improving your mental focus, clarity, lowering stress levels, to kick starting your immune system. Practice every day to settle the mind.
The countless benefits of yoga extend far beyond gender. Open up to possibility and indulge in opportunity. Be well!
BY SUJATA NERURKAR