When I first started going to yoga classes, I was usually the only guy in class. It’s often a running joke among men (and women) that men only go to class to meet women.
While I am certain those guys exist ( and I’m sure any female readers will be able to verify whether it’s true or not) there are those of us who enjoy the multiple benefits yoga has to offer.
However, little did I know that male celebrities like Robert Downey, Jr, Adam Levine, and Shaquille O’Neal regularly practice yoga.
I think we let our egos get in the way and scoff at yoga because it’s “just stretching” and convince ourself that yoga is too easy for men.
Let me roll my eyes for a minute because you couldn’t be more wrong.
Yoga will make you sweat, grunt, and excel all in one fell swoop, and there are plenty of benefits to be had besides snagging a bendy girlfriend.
Yoga may not involve chasing after a ball, tackling your competitors, or flying over a finish line, but you’ll still see some major gains in your strength and endurance.
Why Do Men Start Yoga?
There are too many reasons to count but at least in my circle of friends there are three common themes that pop up again and again:
To nurse an injury or alleviate some kind of pain. We’re a competitive species, and when men get competitive, we sometimes tend to get a little stupid.
Whether it’s lifting too heavy, running a distance we aren’t ready for, or getting a bit too into our football games, we’re prone to injuries.
I’ve seen quite a few gimpy men in yoga trying to get some form of exercise in without aggravating their hamstring, shoulder, or whatever body part they injured.
But even if it is “just” you back that is killing you after all those 10h days at your desk, yoga can be the perfect answer.
To get more fit & relaxed. Despite the idea that you think yoga is “just stretching”, yoga can build some serious muscle.
Yoga won’t make you bulky, but if you’re looking for lean muscles, then a yoga practice will definitely give you some.
I mean, you’ve seen the arms and shoulders on people who do yoga regularly, right? It’s hard to get that cut without lifting weights!
Also it will help you to destress after a long day at work. A 1h yoga session will do wonders in calming you down after a stressful meeting or call with annoying clients.
To meet girls. Yes, some of the guys I know go to yoga class because they’re jampacked with women in yoga pants and leggings.
The funny thing is that after a while I see them doing yoga at home or at work just for themselves.
Because it makes them feel better!
So whatever gets you motivated to join your first yoga class — you will quickly learn to appreciate the amazing benefits yoga has to offer.
9 Benefits that should make Yoga a No-Brainer Activity for men
Honestly, there is no reason why women should make up the majority of a yoga studio’s population. Women are naturally more flexible than men, and women definitely roll their eyes if you try to tell them you can’t do yoga because you aren’t flexible.
“That’s why you GO to yoga!”, they’ll spat in disgust.
While science has proven that men have tighter muscles, less flexibility, and tighter hips than women, there isn’t any reason why we have to be that guy who can’t touch the floor without groaning like an old man.
Here are some of the scientific ways yoga will help you get ahead in life (and these are all scientifically backed. No embellishing here).
#1 Boost Your Immune System
I used to be that guy who got sick every time somebody dragged their virus-ridden body into the office for work. Whether it was the flu, a lingering cold, or some other virus, it seemed like I was sick at least twice a month.
This is frustrating in a variety of ways, but it was really starting to cut into my gym time and my social life. Ladies, if you have a chronically sick man in your life, then you’re all too familiar with our whining.
Yoga is known for relieving stress, and with stress comes a hormone known as cortisol. Cortisol is known for wreaking havoc on the immune system and depleting its ability to fight off colds and viruses.
Have you ever noticed when you’re feeling really stressed that you often get a cold or some other bug within a few days? Blame the cortisol.
Yoga poses strengthen the systems that are responsible for keeping us healthy, like the respiratory tract and the lymphatic system. With better breathing comes more oxygen which makes all of your body’s organs function properly.
Certain yoga poses work to encourage the movement of lymphatic fluid which boosts your immune system. Your lymphatic system contains everything your body needs to make white blood cells (lymphocytes).
The lymph fluid is moved through its channels by the contraction of muscles, particularly in the legs and arms.
Pranayama (the practice of controlling your breath) is the salt to your potato chips when it comes to yoga.
The power of controlled breathing targets your bronchial passages where viruses like to hide out until they make you sick.
Pranayama breathing of all types gives your respiratory tract the ability to resist these lingering pests and keeps you from getting sick after every virus you’re exposed to.
#2 Increased Body Strength, Man
Lifting weights doesn’t work the entire body at once because we target certain muscle groups. That’s why we have leg day, shoulder day, core day, etcetera, when we lift weights regularly.
Some yoga poses definitely target a major muscle group, but your entire body works in every pose.
Your first month or so of yoga will be frustrating because there are so many body parts to engage.
When you’ve got your quads engaged in a warrior pose, you might let your core or shoulders go, and on and on it goes.
A good teacher will notice where you’re lacking, and soon enough your entire body is shaking in a pose that you thought only worked your thighs. Welcome to yoga, bud.
A 2013 study looked at the benefits of regular Bikram yoga practice and the effects it had on the participants’ overall strength.
At the end of the study, participants were able to deadlift more weight than they could at the beginning of the study.
If you’re a devote weight lifter, you know how important muscle recovery is to building strength. Muscles that don’t get adequate blood and oxygen supply don’t heal as quickly, in turn making them less effective during your next workout.
Yoga lengthens and relaxes your muscles, speeding up the recovery of your muscles to improve your next workout.
Yoga also improves your range of motion. Range of motion can make or break how effective your lifting is.
It helps you dip lower, step wider, and put more power behind your movements for a much more effective workout.
Weights and cardio shorted the muscles, decreasing your range of motion, but yoga lengthens those muscles and protects the integrity of your muscles and your movements.
#3 Prevent Injuries
As I mentioned above, we often let our egos rule a lot of our life, and it’s often our ego that gets us in trouble.
We let it get in the way of communicating effectively with our partners, during anything related to sports, and definitely in the gym.
When we think we’re stronger than we really are, we push our bodies too hard and end up injured.
It’s always been hard for me to admit adding an extra 25 pounds on the rack probably isn’t a good idea, but I do it anyways.
One of the first things you’ll learn in yoga is to “honor your body”. Don’t roll your eyes. It sounds fluffy and girly, but it’s just good sense, and we all know men need more of that.
If we were able to admit when we’ve reached our threshold and not push beyond that, we would learn to optimize our workout and push our boundaries without breaking them.
It takes a few classes to learn how to check in with your muscles and joints and know when to stop pushing, but once it clicks, you’ll find yourself being much more reasonable with your limits.
I think the biggest lesson I’ve taken away from yoga is there’s a huge difference between being uncomfortable and in pain. Whether it’s yoga or running, nothing should ever hurt.
Sure, you’re taught as a man that you can handle any pain, but really, bro, is the ego necessary? Even if you can handle excruciating pain, why do you want to?
On top of training your mind, your muscles become less prone to injury. Flexible muscles are far less likely to become injured during other activities.
If you do end up getting hurt, your muscles will heal and rebound much more quickly than if they were tight and inflexible.
#4 Gain Flexibility
I’m not going to reiterate that yoga makes your more flexible.
You get that. But why is it important to be flexible?
A study performed by the New Jersey Medical School wanted to see how flexible competitive athletes were and how it correlated to any injuries they experienced during their competition season.
In men, the risk of being injured decreased as they got more flexibility in their connective tissues. On a 10-point ligament flexibility scale, the risk of injury went down by 15 percent.
For every point a man went up on muscle tightness, their risk of injury went up by 20 percent.
If you play a lot of sports or you’re prone to injuries, you might want to take a look at your flexibility.
Being flexible also makes you faster, more likely to recover from injuries, reduces back pain, and promote heart health.
#5 Muscle Sculpting
Consider how much you weigh, and then imagine putting that on the rack at the gym.
Sure, it’s possible you’ll be able to benchpress more than your body weight at some point, but that’s going to take a ton of muscle building.
When you start doing yoga, you’re going immediately into higher weights simply using your own bodyweight.
Even without the heavy weights, you’re going to get the same muscle-building benefits with every yoga pose, but especially in chaturanga, inversions, and warrior poses.
Yoga will help you bulk up to a certain point, but it’s mostly going to chisel existing muscles and help build a ton of strength you won’t get using weights. Your buds are spending hours at the gym, but you get the same results with a 10 minute savasana at the end.
#6 Better Digestion
Have you been battling poor digestion for years? Unless you’re a sworn vegan, it’s likeyl your digestion leaves a few things to be desired.
Yoga naturally gets the digestive system moving smoothly and effectively. Did you know that Americans spend over $725 million dollars every year on laxatives?
Maybe it’s just me, but I find that number to be a bit unsettling.
The Standard American Diet is a big contributing factor (too many burgers, not enough greens), but there’s evidence that yoga makes a huge impact on the workings of your gut--even when it’s more of a beer belly than anything else.
How does yoga stimulate the digestive system?
- Twists work as a massage for the internal organs. Much like you rub your hands together when they’re cold, massaging your digestive organs helps improve the circulation.
- Research has shown that yoga is a great way to treat digestive issues caused by stress.
Reducing your stress works magic on digestive upsets, so if you’re having the opposite of constipation, reducing stress and regulating your digestive system can work wonders on how many bathroom breaks you need at work
#7 Better Endurance
Endurance has a lot to do with your lung capacity and your body’s ability to transport oxygen.
If you do a fair amount of cardio, then your lung capacity and endurance are probably fairly decent.
Are you a lifting machine? Then your endurance could use some work.
Studies have shown that the yoga poses and their accompanying breathing improves the lung capacity in healthy adults who practiced 90 minutes every day for 10 weeks.
Your lung capacity plays a huge role in how long you can run, hike, lift weights, and play your favorite sport.
And yes...it will improve your sex life. And did you know that you can do yoga with your partner?
#8 Stress Relief
We’re part of something known as “the burnt out generation”, and we go through our lives on autopilot until we’re numb to everything we used to enjoy.
A recent study showed that people working more than 40 hours a week are six times more likely than other people to suffer burn out syndrome.
Stress does a number on your body. It makes you irritable, lazy, and fat. While irritable and lazy sound about right, fat might surprise you.
A surprising number of extra pounds are packed on during times of stress because of the release of a hormone called cortisol.
Cortisol is released when you’re stressed and it’s designed to help you escape stress alive (yeah, your body doesn’t know you aren’t a caveman anymore).
When you’re stressed, your body releases cortisol for two reasons.
First, it burns existing fat to give you the energy to get through your stress (a thousand years ago, it was escaping marauders or some predator, probably).
But once your brains feels your life is safe again, the cortisol flips a switch and tells your body you need extra calories to replenish the body and prep for the next stressful experience.
But then...when was the last time you were chased by a dinosaur? Exactly!
As a modern man with an iPhone, a desk job, and a king-sized bed, it isn’t likely you’re actually burning calories during stress.
You aren’t running or fighting for your life, so when cortisol says you need more calories, it’s wrong. Yet there you are, working on another pizza as you watch the news in your underwear again.
What’s all this got to do with yoga? Yoga helps you manage stress in healthy ways. Yoga isn’t just about a great workout; while you’re sweating physically, the practice is making some changes inside, too.
A regular practice helps you access a place in your mind where you realize stress is inevitable but despite the existing chaos, you have the tools to escape it unscathed.
This isn’t saying yoga is going to eliminate every bit of stress in your life, but it’s going to help you manage it, resulting in lower cortisol levels and less fat accumulation in your belly.
#9 Increased Energy and Focus
When you’re tired, it’s hard to muster up the motivation to do much of anything but binge on Netflix or call it a night at 8 PM.
Having no motivation puts a huge dent in your ability to perform well at work, to invest fully in your relationships, and to enjoy your hobbies and interests.
Sometimes a lack of energy and focus is due to minor depresion caused by a drop in serotonin. A regular yoga practice has been shown to increase your serotonin.
A drop in serotonin doesn’t automatically mean you’re depressed; it’s definitely possible to have low levels of serotonin without being clinically depressed.
The deep breathing that goes along with yoga increases your blood flow and the amount of hemoglobin in your red blood cells, sending more oxygen to your cells and organs.
When your body gets the oxygen it needs, it flourishes because everything starts working the way it should.
Optimal body functions naturally enhance your energy, restoring your drive to accomplish the tasks life throws at you.
Finally, the restorative postures let your nervous system take a break. If your nervous system is constantly buzzing, it’s hard to fall asleep or stay alseep all night.
When you show your brain how to shut down temporarily, you get better quality sleep. Poor sleep is the number one factor in the inability to focus and stick to your goals.
I think it’s safe to say that yoga isn’t just for women. Society definitely promotes it as an activity that’s designed for people who don’t want an intense workout, but anyone who’s been in a yoga class knows their muscles usually feel like they got hit by a bus the next day.
It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to heal an injury, get stronger, or find a girlfriend.
Get a friend who could use a bit more yoga in his life? Click share on the left and tag your friend!