The misconception is that yoga is a lighter form of fitness training, better suited to women, may cause some men to miss out on the health benefits. One reason for this misconception is that yoga has become associated with flexibility rather than strength. However, evidence shows that the mind-body practice can also be very effective in increasing overall strength and building muscle, making it a valuable part of any man's fitness routine.
If yoga is not part of your exercise routine, consider this:
1. Yoga builds muscles evenly.
Men tend to work at building muscles on specific parts of their body, focusing, for example, on biceps, quads, and shoulders, whereas yoga builds muscles evenly over the whole body and increases flexibility. Regular attempts at bodybuilding might ignore some muscle groups while yoga is effective for overall general conditioning.
2. Yoga increases deadlift strength.
A 2013 study showed that men who followed 12 weeks of a yoga program exhibited increased deadlift strength as well as substantially increasing lower back/hamstring flexibility and shoulder flexibility.
3. More flexibility means fewer injuries.
The controlled moves of yoga offer opportunities to safely and efficiently exercise parts of the body that men don't normally use and strengthen those parts they do. As a result, muscles learn to cooperate more harmoniously.
4. Improved stamina means better workouts all around.
Another recent study found that yoga practice improves respiratory and cardiovascular function, as well as building muscle strength. The combined stamina with improved flexibility provided by yoga leads to potentially better workouts in other physical disciplines, such as running, tennis, and bicycling.
5. Yoga counters the negative effects of other physical activities favored by men.
For example, when playing racquetball and golf, the spine tends to consistently turn in one direction. Yoga helps balance this disparity, using postures that keep the spine supple. It also counters the effects of gravity experienced by runners.
6. Yoga promotes weight loss and tones up muscles.
In a study by the Journal of Alternative Medicine, overweight men who practiced yoga lost four pounds in 10 days. Yoga lowers levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that prompts your body to collect belly fat. By using natural body weight and resistance, the discipline also helps build lean muscle and creates definition.
7. Yoga can alleviate chronic low-back pain.
If you work at a desk job, sitting all day can have a negative effect on your back. Underutilized muscles may be causing the problem. For example, when hip muscles or hamstrings are tight, lower back muscles may try to compensate, leading to pain. Several studies found yoga not only alleviates lower back pain but also helps with fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, and other kinds of chronic pain.
8. Better posture provides a boost of confidence.
Yoga can help men look more confident, especially as they age. Better overall muscle tone and increased flexibility help improve posture, and better posture means looking more confident. Yoga includes many twists and bends to keep your spinal disks supple and improve your balance.
9. Yoga reduces stress and anxiety.
The mind-body technique uses a combination of physical poses, controlled breathing, and relaxation techniques that has been shown to lower blood pressure and heart rate, both of which help modulate the stress response. It's been proven that yoga can also help with anxiety and depression.
10. Yoga leads to better sex.
Both increased libido and improved sexual performance have been linked to regular yoga practice. In a 2010 study of men ages 24 to 60, yoga was shown to improve all domains of sexual function in men. The breathing techniques and concentration taught in yoga can help men better channel their sexual energy. Better stamina leads to increased sexual endurance.
Flexibility can also improve sex. Combining these benefits with increased awareness of breath and mindfulness not only improves performance and endurance, but the control achieved through yoga can be used to make the experience more intense.
11. Yoga can help men become more mindful of what they eat
According to a 2014 study, a steady yoga practice has been tied to healthier eating habits.
12. People who practice yoga have lower medical bills.
People who practice yoga could reduce their need for health care services by 43 percent. That's almost half as many doctor visits and fewer doctor bills. While this is true for both men and women, men tend to have more cardiovascular problems as they age. More than one in three adult men have cardiovascular disease.
Since yoga improves cardiovascular health, a regular yoga practice can cut down on those doctor visits, not to mention the dangerous results of being in poor cardiovascular health.
What are you waiting for, guys? Get out there and do some yoga.