• Health – Why more men should do yoga

    From macho man to humble warrior

    The popularity of yoga has increased exponentially since it first saw a revival in popularity in the 1980s. While it is not associated with esoteric barefoot hippies anymore, if you’re a guy you probably think that it is something for women who sit around chanting ‘ohmmm’ while stretching a bit – certainly not a very masculine activity. That can’t be further from the truth.

    Here are a couple of reasons why you should go from macho man to humble warrior:

    Astavakrasana this!
    Yoga can be challenging, very challenging. Some of the poses require immense core strength and balance, such as Astavakrasana, or Eight Angle Pose, which is kind of like doing a push-up, but with your legs in the air and to your side and one arm in-between.

    Even the so-called basic poses can  prove to be quite taxing, and most men I’ve spoken to said they were surprised at how challenging yoga actually was and that most had to be scraped off the studio floor afterwards, completely forgetting about the bendy model in lycra in front of them.

    Real men Chaturanga
    If you think that the guys I spoke to were half a chromosome away from being a girl, consider that guys like 11-time surfing world champion Kelly Slater, basketball behemoth Shaquille O’Neill, Red Hot Chili Peppers rocker Flea and Hollywood tough guy Woody Harrelson all regularly practice yoga. Oh, and did I mention the entire All Blacks rugby team?

    How now, sacred cow?
    In a post on MindBodyGreen, two-time Ultraman World Champion, Rich Roll, explained why yoga isn’t just for hot girls and middle-aged soccer moms and why he is a strong advocate for yoga among athletes.  Roll reiterates the most frequently cited benefits of yoga:

    1. Strength
    From core strength, to a focus on specific muscle groups through each pose, yoga focuses on developing those essential muscles that you might have overlooked, thereby easing up the pressure on your more heavily utilised muscles and providing the important balance that yoga instructors harp on about.

    2. Balance
    A strengthened core and more balanced muscle structure means that your coordination and general balance will improve, leading to better form and technique when playing sports.

    3. Flexibility
    Another thing exercise experts are continually encouraging people to do more is stretching. It is believed that flexible joints and muscles are less likely to be prone to over-use injury. With regular practise, yoga will have you go from barely being able to touch your knees to comfortably putting your palms flat on the ground.

    4. Mental Control
    One of the key focus areas of yoga is on the mental aspect of the practise. While a debate is raging whether yoga has religious connotations or not, the effect it has on mental strength is undeniable. The practice of yoga aims to create unity between mind, body and spirit, which in essence means a greater awareness and control over your body. Most yoga poses require a certain amount of focus, especially the balancing ones and the effect this has on activities outside of the yoga studio is quite remarkable, even at the office. We spend so much time taking care of the physical that we neglect our mental health, but in an angry and chaotic world of information overload, the mental strength gained from regular yoga practice becomes even more valuable.

    Admittedly, yoga can be intimidating. The fear that you’ll look like a complete fool in downward-facing dog, the embarrassment of having a pool of sweat around your mat when the Kate Moss look-a-like next to you looks as fresh as she did at the beginning of class, not to mention looking at yourself in the mirror and realising where all that craft beer has gone: it’s enough to fill a grown man with fear. However, yoga is intended to be non-judgemental and the focus is only on yourself and your own practice. After all, even the bendiest instructor started where you are, and if Shaq can do it…

    This article originally appeared on iafrica.com