Yoga Benefits For Men
Let’s be honest here, shall we? When most Westerners, especially guys, think of yoga they think of a strange, perhaps even silly form of exercise that is the more or less exclusive domain of women. Either that or their minds tend to drift toward visions of yoga pants (more of that honesty). Or, if they’re not quite so sex-obsessed, they might think of the class their significant other attends on Monday and Thursday evenings at the Wellness Center. But while it might have a slightly silly name there is nothing silly about the health benefits of yoga and there is no logical reason why only women should be able to take advantage of those benefits. Below we’re going to take a close look at 10 of the benefits yoga has to offer men and why you’d be the silly one if you ignored them.
A Little Background
Mentions of the word “yoga” can be found in ancient Vedic texts dating to nearly 4,000 years ago. It’s not certain just exactly how well developed the practice was at that time but it survived nonetheless and by the 5th century AD it had become a thoroughly integrated part of life for India’s Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. As was the case with many martial arts, early yoga practice was as much about developing the spirit as it was about developing the body and several core values were stressed. These values were and are:
- Cultivating a spiritual foundation that allows one to transcend suffering.
- Expanding personal consciousness and uplifting the spirit.
- Employing yoga practice as a path toward transcendence.
- Using yogi practice to act in a mystical, supernatural manner.
The last core value is something that, to no one’s surprise, is largely de-emphasized in modern yoga practice in the West. Though devout yogi in the East maintain an unwavering belief in the ability of yoga to enable the mystical behavior.
Today, most Westerners practice what is commonly called Hatha yoga. This is a stripped down form of yoga that emphasizes health benefits and reduces many of the spiritual and mystical aspects of the practice to their most basic elements such as clearing the mind and calming the heart. Let’s take a look at 10 of those health benefits as they apply to men in particular.
10 Benefits Men Can Expect from Practicing Yoga
1. Stronger Muscles
While yoga is not going to turn you into a young Arnold Schwarzenegger it is a great way to increase your physical strength and ramp up your endurance. Yoga was developed several thousand years before the invention of free weights but the pioneers of this form or spiritual and physical enlightenment nonetheless recognized the value of increasing personal physical strength. They simply went about achieving that goal in a different way.
Their solution was to leverage a person’s own body weight and to employ resistance against that weight as a means of growing stronger, leaner muscles. Of course, they also emphasized the importance of eating well which aids in the development of a more physically sophisticated body. So if you’d like to build bigger muscles but the idea of lifting weights doesn’t agree with you break out the yoga mat and give this ancient form of workout a try.
2. Stress Relief
While the ancients who developed yoga thousands of years ago didn’t call it “stress” they were still aware that many people tended to worry excessively and/or seemed to take the weight of the world upon their shoulders. This produced myriad types of soul sickness that often manifested themselves physically. An important aspect of yoga then was that it helped people relieve stress and let go of those things that were causing them disquiet and interfering with everything from their ability to sleep to their ability to enjoy the company of their friends and family.
Today this meditative aspect of yoga remains one of its most important benefits. And in a globally connected world where the competition never sleeps the ability to reduce stress is more important than ever. Yoga will help you become a more serene, more capable and effective worker, boss or business owner. And will also help you enjoy a higher level of engagement with the people who mean the most to you.
3. Help Breaking Through Your Personal Limits
Whether we are aware of it or not we’ve all got our own personal narrative coursing through our heads. It’s a combination of beliefs, thoughts and aspirations generously seasoned with a healthy (and sometimes unhealthy) dose of what we think our capabilities are. In many cases, however, guys underestimate what they’re capable of and wind up underachieving, much to the dismay of their parents, teachers and others. It’s not that they don’t want to reach the summit, they just aren’t sure of their ability to get there.
Something as simple as being able to strike certain challenging yoga poses, however, can help guys break through mental barriers they had built in their minds. When that happens they then look around with fresh eyes and start to understand that the thing holding them back all this time was themselves. The best part is that this revelation is accompanied by a sense of serene determination and calm and not a sense of panic or dread at lost time and opportunities.
4. Faster Recovery from Illness or Injury
Injuries happen. It’s just a fact of life. Sometimes you twist your ankle stepping on something awkwardly or you fall off your bicycle and land hard. Illnesses are another unfortunate aspect of reality and can strike anyone at any age. Our ability to endure these challenges and recover in a timely fashion is key to our living happy, productive lives. But if we ignore our physical conditioning we not only extend the amount of time it takes to recover from illness or injury we also leave ourselves vulnerable to future calamities.
Yoga can help you achieve a higher level of overall health. You’ll be physically stronger and have greater physical endurance. You’ll be more energetic, your immune system will be more robust and effective and both your musculoskeletal system and your cardiovascular system will be working at optimal efficiency and effectiveness. The result: fewer injuries, fewer illnesses and shorter recovery times from both.
5. A More Satisfying Sex Life
One of the first benefits of getting in better shape, becoming leaner, stronger and more nimble and increasing your physical endurance is that you’re going to enjoy a more robust, satisfying sex life. Yoga helps you focus both mind and body, helps you control the forces coursing through your body during sex and enables you to perform at a higher level for a longer time than ever before. You’ll be more aware of your inner workings, be more responsive to what your partner is trying to tell you, be more confident in your ability to deliver, be more patient and more open to trying things that used to intimidate you.
One of the most important aspects of great sex is confidence. By contrast, many types of sexual dysfunction are the result of a lack of self-confidence. In many cases that lack of self-confidence stems from a poor self-image or a lack of belief in one’s physical prowess. Yoga can help you achieve the type of physical self-confidence and positive body image that will pay handsome dividends in bed.
6. A Better Night’s Sleep
We touched on this earlier but it deserves its own spot on our list. By providing you a vigorous workout, by helping to relieve stress and by enabling you to enjoy more satisfying sex yoga is the natural remedy for just about any type of sleep dysfunction that can befall you. A healthier you is a happier you and a happier, more contented you is not someone who is going to lie awake at night stressing over the big meeting tomorrow. Instead, you’ll sleep easy knowing you’ll be properly prepared and in command of yourself.
The ability to sleep better will have a cascading effect throughout the rest of your day and, by extension, your life. You’ll be more alert, more responsive, more creative and more capable of handling whatever curve balls life decides to throw your way.
7. Help Losing Weight
This might seem like an odd claim to make but it’s absolutely true. This is because yoga is one of the most vigorous types of all-around exercise you can do. You won’t need to spend hours on the treadmill to lose that belly nor spend hours in the sauna trying to sweat yourself thin. When coupled with a healthy diet yoga is one of the best ways to not only lose that excess weight but to keep it off for the long haul. Studies also suggest that the deep abdominal breathing practiced during yoga also help may lower levels of the hormone cortisol which plays a regulatory role when it comes to the amount of belly fat we hold onto.
8. Improved Circulation
As you become leaner and stronger your flexibility also improves. When coupled with the deep, controlled breathing or your yoga practice it all adds up to better circulation. Better circulation means healthier, better-looking skin, a greater sense of alertness and engagement, greater stamina, enhanced cardiovascular health, reduced risk of heart attack, enhanced immune system functionality, less fatigue, increased metabolism and optimal performance of the major organs. Improved circulation is the health gift that keeps on giving and it’s one of the most obvious benefits of yoga.
9. Greater Productivity
Every time you roll out your yoga mat you’ll be taking another step on the road toward a healthier more productive you. Experts say that as little as 20 minutes on the yoga mat each day can help improve your productivity, your focus and mental acuity. That, in turn, will help you cut through the mental fog and make better decisions regarding both your personal and professional life. The increased circulation you’ll enjoy from yoga means more oxygen in your brain which not only helps you become more decisive but also helps improve both short and long-term memory. Those times spent sitting at your desk unsure of what you should do next will disappear and you’ll finally start to work up to your true potential.
10. Greater Flexibility
The thing that separates the young from the old and the in shape from the out of shape more than anything else is flexibility. As we age we become more sedentary. That’s only natural. But the effect it has on our overall health is tangible. An inflexible body is one that is more prone to both muscle and skeletal injuries. It’s also one that lacks stamina and one that is more susceptible to the kind of weight gain that can aggravate a slew of health problems and cause dozens more. By breaking out the yoga mat (if not necessarily the yoga pants) and getting to work you ensure your body retains (or regains) the flexibility it had during your youth. This, in turn, will help you avoid many of the health problems that begin to plague out of shape people as early as their 30s.
The Bottom Line
Yoga is the kind of exercise most men simply never consider. But they should. It’s a great way to improve your overall health, it doesn’t require any special equipment, it doesn’t require an expensive membership at the health club and you can do it just about anywhere, just about any time. If, like a lot of guys, you spend way too much time hunched over at a desk staring into a computer screen with a greasy, salty snack at the ready it’s time to start thinking about achieving a higher degree of both physical and emotional health by taking advantage of the many benefits yoga has to offer. You’re not going to transform into Mr. Olympia in a few weeks but you may well transform into the type of professional, the type of father/son/uncle and the type of lover you always wanted to be.