Photo by flo.yoga
Yoga offers a wide range of health benefits to all, yet for one reason or another, modern yoga has become pretty female-dominated. However, it may come as a surprise that throughout history, the majority of widely recognised teachers and pioneers in yoga were in fact male. This includes the famous Indian yoga teacher Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, who is often referred to as the father of modern yoga and is considered one of the most influential yoga teachers of the 20th century.
So, if men have played such a pivotal role in shaping yoga into the practice it is today, why are they often so outnumbered in modern yoga classes and communities? It’s a tough nut to crack, but men - if you’re having any doubts about whether to try your hand at yoga then keep reading, as below we list seven reasons why practising yoga is good for both your mental and physical health.
• Builds muscle strength
Whilst it may not involve any obvious weightlifting, yoga can provide an entire workout for the body, helping tone and strengthen each muscle group.
Some postures, particularly the more advanced ones such as handstand, firefly and crow, are impossible to master without large amounts of strength, particularly in the upper body. So, if you’re looking to bulk up and want a change from the gym, yoga could be your answer.
• Relieves back pain
The number of people suffering from back pain is rising sharply. A 2018 survey revealed 2.5 million people in the UK experience back pain every day, with one in five of individuals reporting they have been forced to give up their job or reduce their hours as a result of their condition.
Back pain is particularly common in jobs that require physical labour, such as builders and construction workers, and as men make up the majority of the workforce in these areas, they are often some of the most affected.
However, yoga is one of the best treatments when it comes to easing back pain. By gently stretching and lengthening the spine, you should feel a release of tension and tightness which will help you to move freely and get back to enjoying normal day-to-day activities.
You can also incorporate strengthening postures into your practice to develop the muscles supporting your spine, which will help improve your posture and prevent back problems from reoccurring in the future.
• Improves flexibility
Yoga is great for increasing flexibility, which will not only improve mobility, but can also help improve your performance across other sports and activities. And it doesn’t matter how flexible you are to begin with either.
On a physiological level, men tend to be less flexible than women which means women may find some postures more accessible, but don’t let this put you off. Poses can always be modified and made more accessible with the help of props such as yoga blocks or straps and with a little practice, you’ll quickly start seeing improvements.
• Prevents injuries
Yoga has also become a great tool for injury prevention among athletes. When you do any form of physical activity, for example running or weightlifting, this can cause your muscles to shorten and become tight.
If you repeat the same type of exercise again and again, without giving your muscles a chance to recover, this can lead to strains or tears. However, a restorative yoga practice is great for stretching out tired muscles, helping to improve recovery time and minimise your chances of developing an injury.
• Reduces stress
We all get stressed from time to time and it’s normal to feel a little anxious or irritable as a result. But if you’re regularly feeling stressed over a prolonged period, it can not only affect your mood and others around you but can also lead to more serious health problems.
When you’re stressed, your autonomic nervous system releases epinephrine and cortisol. These are stress hormones and when too much is produced, they can cause serious health problems such as high blood pressure, fatigue, digestive problems, weakening of the immune system and heart problems.
The good news is yoga can be an effective remedy for stress. Studies have shown that simple breathing and mindfulness techniques like those practised in yoga, can help relax your nervous system and actually reduce the production of stress hormones.
• Help reduce symptoms of depression
There’s lots of scientific evidence showing that physical exercise can ease symptoms of depression. This is due to an increase in endorphins and other “mood-boosting” hormones, such as serotonin and dopamine.
However, one particular study revealed yoga has a greater effect on mood compared to a metabolically matched walking exercise. The findings are thought to be a result of increased GABA levels caused by reactions in the brain, which have been associated with improved mood and decreased anxiety.
• Promotes better sleep
Finally, if you struggle to drift off or find it hard to maintain a good sleeping pattern, you may discover yoga helps. In a 2012 study, 55% of people who practised yoga regularly said it improved their quality of sleep.
Experts claim sleeping is one of the best things you can do for your health and the latest evidence suggests getting a good night’s sleep can significantly reduce the risk of illness such as heart disease and cancer, as well as strengthening your immune system and contributing to better productivity and concentration throughout the day.
So, why is yoga such a powerful tool for helping you nod off? Well, deep breathing is a relaxation technique that has been proven to relax the nervous system and induce sleep, and yoga incorporates both breath awareness and regulation. It’s also a form of physical exercise, which is a well-known remedy for improving sleep.
Ready to give it a go?
If you want to start practising but you’re not sure where to begin, then why not check out our Beginner’s Guide to Yoga? You can also shop our range of eco-friendly yoga mats and accessories, to ensure you have everything you need to begin your yoga journey.