Man Up: Get Over The Idea That Yoga's Just For Women

As a 28 year-old guy from Wisconsin, I overlooked yoga my entire life. I didn't think of it as exercise, but merely a type of stretching ... for women. I stuck to weight lifting, soccer, jogging, hiking, boxing, and the occasional boot camp.

My friend (and also my coworker) Rob convinced me that I had no excuse to not at least try yoga and he swore that it would change my life.

Well, Rob was right. Yoga has changed my life.

Because of some false ideas I had about who should do yoga, I (almost) missed out on perhaps the best form of exercise to benefit my mind, body, and overall health for the first quarter of my life.

Here's to the rest of my yoga-filled life!

If you're a guy, don’t make the mistakes I did! I hope the following six reasons convince you to man-up and give it a try.

1. Don’t let the women scare you.

In yoga, in a room full of women, no man is an island. Yes, you are safe and secluded on your mat. Yoga, however, is a rather social experience. You and the ladies are all there together, trying to improve your health, and the energy is electric. If you're afraid the women will judge you on your lack of flexibility, or that you might fall down, ditch the anxiety.

The lights are dimmed, and at the end, everyone looks alike: you are all sweaty and nasty as hell, but united because you all took the same journey together. (Hopefully, your girlfriend will understand.) What matters is the positive energy that's created when practicing yoga in the company of others.

2. You'll finally take the time you need to stretch. 

The element missing from my workouts has always been stretching. I don't allot much time to it, and I hate to do it. Thanks to yoga, I have the opportunity to spend an entire hour on deep, solid stretching, packaged into a challenging type of exercise.

In this time, I hone in on all the stabilizer muscles typically not used when I weight lift with machines or jog during my workouts at lunch. I focus on what feels right and wrong in my body. The fatigued muscles created by my lunch workout also make my yoga feel more challenging, but nothing I can't handle.

3. Your hips will thank you for the pigeon pose. 

We carry a lot of stress in our hips, and the way to wash it all out is the pigeon pose. This single move is perhaps the foremost reason I enjoy yoga. It helps to release this stress and leaves you feeling euphoric after a practice. (No joke!)

4. You'll enjoy good beer and even better bowel movements. 

Yoga is no magic pill for healing our internal organs completely after a night of drinking beer and indulging on cold cuts. On the other hand, I know that yoga helps flush away the toxins in our body because of the blood flow to our organs created by the Yoga movements.

The Yoga twist is my favorite, in how much I know it’s aiding my body in the process of waste elimination. Yoga is helping the liver, kidneys, and abdominal organs say goodbye to the booze and hello to the oxygen and nutrients. Even better, coffee in the morning isn’t needed to trigger bathroom time; but it does help. Instead, a Yoga session the night before helps my bowel movements occur more consistently and, well, more smoothly. I feel much better. So: keep drinking beer; just be sure to do more Yoga.

5. You'll discover a new form of grunting: it’s called deep breathing.

In yoga, breathing isn't about grunting, but buzzing your lips or doing what my friend Rob calls ‘textured breathing’ – that is, the groans, ooos and aaas which accompany the exhale. Yoga breathing helps to create an increased flow of oxygen to your body parts – including the brain – and this has helped me to focus better overall in life. Forget about the grunting which accompanies my occasional last rep on bench press. For the first time, I actually can feel the air sink deep into my lower back during certain yoga stretches. Who knew my lungs went so deep in my body?

6. Know that you'll be able to do this your entire life.  I can see myself doing yoga as an old man. In fact, I can already tell the difference yoga has made in my body just five months after starting last year. What are the benefits it will bring to my body over my lifespan? My knees, joints, groin muscles, back, and ankles could use some healing.

Years of soccer, in particular, have really taken their toll on my ankles and groin muscles. While I still play in an urban men’s soccer league – 6 v. 6 – I know someday I’ll have to retire. Knowing that yoga is a much more low-impact exercise, yet just as challenging as any sport, I’m not worried about hanging up my cleats and replacing them with, well, nothing – just my bare feet and an old man sweater.

**

I guess I learned my lessons: Don't deny it till you try it, and listen to Rob.

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