The Benefits of Yoga for men.........
So often I hear from men that they are not flexible enough to do yoga and that they want to stick to going to the gym. Not to mention their perception that yoga is not really a macho form of exercise. Some think that it is easy and all we do is sit in circles, touch our toes and then meditate. I used to try and convert their way of thinking by regurgitating the sayings I learnt on my teacher training “Saying your too inflexible to do yoga is like saying you are too dirty to take a shower”. But now I smile and simply invite them to one of my classes. Occasionally sparking their ego’s by saying that I could do more press ups than them (thank you Chaturanga Dandasana), and although the practice yoga is non competitive and one that leaves the ego in the changing room, it’s sometimes a great tool to get men through the door. What happens after that to me is a little bit magic and often life changing.
Often these men who dominate the bench press at the gym find themselves in a growing pool of sweat on the mat pleasantly surprised at how hard their body is working in asanas (poses). They are also taken aback by how great it feels not only physically but mentally too. Power Vinyasa is a practice that essentially uses resistance training to bring awareness in the body. When we are focused on the body our minds are drawn to the present. All thoughts of ‘to do lists’ and the stresses of everyday life are suddenly turned down in volume and the breath overtakes, calming the mind. But before we start on the the spiritual effects of yoga though lets stick to the physical for you gym addicts out there.
A regular practice of yoga strengthens and tones the body, strengthens the immune system, boosts brain function, allows better quality of sleep, prevents injuries, relieves chronic back pain (because lets face it we all spend a lot of our days sitting for prolonged periods and our posture suffers), improves digestion, relieves stress and even improves your sex life! Sounds good right!
So how does it do all this? Put it like this, sports such as tennis and hockey only require fifteen percent of your muscles. Yoga challenges the entire body even working into your organs. Engaging the muscular, cardiovascular, endocrine and skeletal systems, it is the ultimate form of resistance training. When working your body you get your sweat on you flush the body of toxins and strengthen your immunity at a cellular level (if you do hot yoga especially, as you create a mock fever within the body which toughens the immune system).
We have all heard of cortisol, that stress hormone that so many us battle with increased level of due to stressful lifestyles. It causes high blood pressure, damages muscles tissues, causes inflammation, and harms thyroid function. When we are stressed like this we activate “fight or flight response”. Yoga activates the relaxation response - the parasympathetic nervous system which is the restorative counter balance. So yoga can help you manage stress, and study in India found that the practice of asana, pranayama (the breath), and meditation lowered levels of monoamine oxidise - two chemical linked to depression and raises level of serotonin (happy hormones). This has a knock on effect to other aspects of the body, for example comfort eating to deal with stress decreases which can benefit those gym goals you have.
Digestion is improved by twisting postures that massage into the internal organs, encouraging food digestion resulting in more effective absorption of nutrients and ultimately a boosted level of energy.
As for the improving of your sex life as a female I can only go on what I have read from published male yogis but yoga is reported to increase libido, improve sexual performance due to increased flexibility and upper body strength (men thank Chaturanga Dandasana). More mind body connection and the breathing techniques and concentration practiced in Yoga can help to channel sexual energy.
So there you go fella’s some food for thought. So many benefits for you lads but if you don't believe me then come to class and see for yourself...... I may even challenge you to some press ups!
Come and join me for my 'Power Hour' class at Unity Yoga Brighton, starting Wednesday 19th September 7:30am - 8:30am
For more info check out: http://www.being-in-unity.com