Yoga for Men
Yoga, for men? Surely you must be kidding.
Actually, we aren’t. Men and yoga go together like football and Sundays. Here’s why:
Benefits of Yoga for Men
Yoga can increase testosterone. Yoga, men, and high testosterone. A 2001 study found that holding Cobra pose for just 2 minutes improved free testosterone levels by up to 33% (i).
Yoga can improve sports-specific movements. There’s a reason why most professional sports teams have full time yoga instructors on staff. Regular yoga practice improves mobility, balance, and proprioception. Gains in these areas make it easier to intuit your body position in space, translating to improved sports performance for most men.
Yoga can make it easier to put on muscle. In addition to increasing free testosterone, studies indicate that yoga can make it easier to attain muscle hypertrophy and strength (ii).
Yoga is a potent prehab. Some forms of men’s yoga can help to prevent injuries. This is especially true for Vinyasa-style yoga, which stretches muscles and lubricates joints while challenging you to dynamically flow from one yoga pose to the next.
Yoga = better sex. Higher testosterone, better mobility, and Jedi-level breath control. Need we say more?
Manly Yoga Tips
As a male instructor who couldn’t touch his toes 10 years ago, I know firsthand how challenging (and intimidating) it can be to practice yoga. For men, yoga studios can be especially immasculating. Whether at home or at a studio, the following tips will help men practice yoga with confidence.
Let go. Men are naturally competitive. And when it comes to yoga, those natural competitive instincts can be dangerous. Avoid injuries—and embarassment— by actively letting go of expectations.
Focus inward. Rather than looking around, direct your focus inward. Take note of how your bones, muscles, and ligaments feel in various poses. In yoga, we call this inward focus Drishti. It keeps you relaxed, grounded, and responsive. It also builds your awareness for when to push deeper into a pose, and when to ease off.
Breathe “for reps”. Most men are familiar with counting reps and sets in the weight room. In yoga, think of your breaths as reps. Depending on the style of yoga, you might be instructed to hold poses for anywhere from 1 to 20 breaths or more. Thinking of breaths as “reps” tends to make things feel a little more comfortable and familiar. For less flexible men, steadily counting each breath can also ease the mind/body into more difficult postures for greater flexibility gains.
Think holistically. Men who are new to yoga should consider how the practice fits into life’s big picture. Consider how Power Yoga might be the best yoga for men who are endurance athletes, since it emphasizes static holds that build complementary strength and endurance. Alternatively, the slow and steady pace of Hatha Yoga might be best for men who need to renew and elongate muscles after heavy lifting, sprinting, or martial arts. For more on these styles of yoga for men, see the section below.
Practice at home. Finally, take time to practice yoga in the comfort of your own home. For many men, yoga practice yields two killer advantages. It improves muscle memory, which makes it easier to keep up in a public classes. Practice breeds confidence, which is a sure fire way to overcome any anxiety you might feel about being the only guy in your local yoga studio.
Styles of Yoga for Men
Hatha. Technically, hatha just refers to practicing yoga postures. In the West, Hatha Yoga is typically an entry-level class. This is a great yoga option for men who want to improve general flexibility, without much sweat.
Vinyasa. Vinyasa yoga classes flow from posture to posture, demanding both strength and balance. Sequences are customized by the instructor to focus on specific goals, like opening the hips or improving low back flexibility. This type of yoga is for men who want to build stability, mobility, and fluidity of movement.
Ashtanga. Like Vinyasa, Ashtanga focuses on flowing from posture to posture. However, an Ashtanga practice always includes the same postures, or flow, repeated one after the other.
Bikram. Also presented as Hot Yoga, Bikram is a yoga style that practices 26 specific postures in a room that is heated to over 100 degrees. Postures are typically repeated in the same sequence with a short break between each. For men, this yoga style can dramatically improve flexibility and mental toughness (first timers rarely finish a full 90 minute). Warning: Take a towel and lots of water.
Power Yoga. Popularized by Baron Baptiste, this style is a type of Vinyasa that emphasizes strength-building poses and sequences. Chaturangas (low pushups), core sculpting crunches, and leg burning poses make Power Yoga ideal for men who want a “workout” when they unroll their yoga mat.
Yoga for Men: Yogi Panda Classes
(i) Broad, William J. The Science of Yoga.
(ii) Tran, et al. Effects of Hatha Yoga Practice on Health-Related Aspects of Physical Fitness. URL: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11832673