Yoga’s Broader Appeal
Mention yoga to most men and visions of a studio full of mantra-humming women come to mind. However, the face of yoga is changing, and an increasing number of men are being drawn into the practice, not only for its stress-reducing benefits, but for its total fitness component. Yoga has become mainstream with classes being held in high schools, workplaces, gyms and dedicated yoga studios throughout the country and in Chattanooga.
By Linda Benton
Perry Birger, a male yoga instructor at North Shore Yoga, says he is seeing an increasing number of men of all ages in his classes. “Men are typically drawn to competitive sports when it comes to fitness,” says Perry. “However, with yoga, men don’t have the pressure of winning; instead they can focus on the activity itself.” Perry adds that the practice of yoga is great in tandem with competitive sports. Whether playing golf, tennis, or running, men can benefit from the stretching and core strength obtained through a regular yoga practice. For men with limited time to devote to fitness pursuits, Perry says yoga is a great choice as it is all-inclusive. “Yoga works the entire body, building strength, increasing flexibility, and energizing the system with increased blood flow and oxygen intake,” he adds.
“Core strength is a hot topic because of its importance in virtually every sport, and yoga is a great way for anyone to work on core strength without the need for specialized equipment,” says Dr. Brett Sanders, a physician at the Center for Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics. He says that the consistent practice of yoga provides strength in the hips, back and abdominal muscles – the foundation for strong, injury-free joints. Dr. Sanders says he is seeing more and more sports teams adopting yoga as a part of the team training program because of the mind/body connection of yoga. Sanders cautions individuals with specific medical conditions such as osteoporosis, glaucoma, and back and neck issues to clear yoga participation with their physician before beginning.
Dr. Will Smith, a board certified internal medicine and pediatric physician with the Galen Medical Group, says yoga is really more than just a fitness option. He encourages yoga because of its comprehensive focus on the body and the mind. While Western medicine is often compartmentalized, focusing on a select system or specialty, Eastern medicine focuses on the entire system of body, mind and spirit. This is the foundation of yoga. “I often see patients who are suffering from gastrointestinal issues, high blood pressure, asthma and even depression,” shares Dr. Smith. “Yoga is often part of the treatment plan.” In addition to improving the symptoms of certain conditions, Smith feels yoga is an empowering activity that gives patients a role in their own wellness. “As most men like to think of themselves as being highly efficient and in the ‘driver’s seat,’ the all-inclusive aspect of yoga is attracting more men to the practice,” adds Dr. Smith.
• Men have a tendency to strive for perfection – with yoga there is never a feeling of failure. Every practice produces a sense of satisfaction and success.
• Men are typically very tight and inflexible and often suffer from neck, back and shoulder pain as a result. Yoga concentrates on slow, controlled stretches that improve overall flexibility.
• Men often experience high levels of stress in the workplace. Yoga focuses on relaxation and deep breathing to improve mood and lower blood pressure.
• Men often have unpredictable work schedules. Yoga is a no or low cost fitness program that can be done anytime, anyplace, rain or shine, at home or on a business trip! No excuses for a missed workout.
Getting Started – Tips for Success
As with any exercise program, it is always advisable to check with your doctor before beginning a yoga program.
• Yoga, with its many poses and terminologies, will be like learning a new sport – always start in a beginner’s class to avoid frustration.
• Make sure to introduce yourself to your instructor. Letting your instructor know you are new to yoga will help them better assist you. Also make your instructor aware of any injuries or weaknesses so they may suggest alternative stretches or positions for your comfort.
• Go at your own pace. Remember, there is no prize for the best stretch or longest hold. As you increase your flexibility, strength and understanding of yoga, you can begin to challenge yourself.
• Try a variety of different classes. One class does not fit all. Depending on your objectives, one class may provide more stretching and relaxation, while another may provide more cardio and core strength. Talk to the instructors to understand the different yoga styles.
Physical and Emotional Benefits for Men
• Works out entire body, including your mind
• Oxygenates blood, creating a sense of renewed energy
• Can reduce blood pressure through relaxation components
• Aids in digestion by opening up abdominal cavity
• Improves posture and muscle tone
• Provides great cross-training and reduces muscle stiffness
• Reduces likelihood of sports injuries through greater flexibility and core strength
• Enhances sexual function through improved circulation and overall fitness
• Increases muscle mass and speeds metabolism for better weight control
• Allows men to enter a non-competitive state of being
• Slows heart and deepens breathing to improve the ability to focus on the present
• Inspirational words from the instructors often give participants renewed energy and focus
• Enhances sexual performance through the release of worry and stress
Looking for an at-home guided workout for yoga? Check out our feature on Jonathan Ellis, a local Chattanooga yoga educator who demonstrates 4 yoga poses that will help relieve stress.