Attention fellas and ladies who know fellas. It’s time we cleared the air about a commonly held, but rarely discussed, yoga myth. Contrary to popular belief, yoga is not just for ladies. Dudes need yoga, too. Don’t believe me? Just ask any one of the millions of men around the world enjoying the innumerable physical and mental benefits of yoga.
There’s actor Matthew McConaughey, who attributes his lean muscle mass to his yoga practice. Did you see those abs in Magic Mike? Or musician Sting who credits his 20-year practice for keeping him fit (with guns a blazin’ at 60, I might add) and stress-free. Oh and then there’s LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Sean Burke, Tom Brady and the entire roster of the Philadelphia Eagles who count yoga an essential part of their training regimens. And that’s just the beginning.
So what is it about this ancient discipline that keeps these real men saluting the sun? For starters, yoga:
• Improves athletic performance. The increased flexibility and range of motion generated through a regular yoga practice translates into greater efficiency in all athletic movements – from longer strides to higher jumps. As an added bonus, yoga teaches you to synch movement with breath, meaning a little less gasping and a little more working out.
• Reduces muscle cramps and tightness. Giving your muscles and joints a little TLC on the mat allows you to shorten and ease recovery time. Wouldn’t you like to stop saying “man, I just don’t bounce back the way I used to?”
• Builds strength. Just because you are using your body weight, doesn’t mean you aren’t building strength. Sure, big biceps and lats say “I pump iron,” but they aren’t necessarily a sign of total body strength and control. Yoga builds strength gradually and evenly, so you know how to activate the right muscles when you need them. In particular, yoga targets the often neglected core, which is an essential element of any athlete’s arsenal.
• Prevents injury. Looser muscles and lubricated joints mean your body is ready to combat whatever comes its way – whether that’s an unexpected tackle in a flag football game or one of those famous Brick Monster’s in Georgetown that have a way of sneaking up on you.
• Reduces stress. Whether it’s through meditation, pranayama breathing techniques or the postures themselves, yoga teaches you how to shut out the crazy world around you and take some time to chill.
• Improves mental focus. Yoga requires patience, discipline and your total concentration. A wandering mind during Handstand, for example, could be your invitation to an unwanted face plant. Regularly challenging your mind to shut out external stimuli and turn your focus inward is a hard earned skill that you can turn to again and again on and off the mat.
One thing is for sure. All of this goodness doesn’t come easy. Yoga can be tough – especially if you’ve lived a life of gym-going with little interest in stretching. I’ll be honest when I say that there is no one who breaks a sweat faster, breathes heavier or grimaces more often than the yogi who walks into his first yoga class. But, you know what they say: no pain, no gain. A little investment of your time now, can reap big rewards later. So the next time your wife, girlfriend, lady friend or significant other asks you to join her for a yoga session, remember: real men do yoga. Are you one of them?