In recent years there has been a large influx of yoga enthusiasts and practitioners nationwide. These days you can find a yoga class almost anywhere, from your classic yoga studios to local libraries and YMCAs. Even fitness chains have started to catch on, with many of them offering a wide range of yoga classes as an added benefit to their members.
The fact is, yoga is everywhere!
There are many benefits in maintaining a consistent yoga practice. Yoga has been shown to relieve stress, enhance mental focus, improve posture, improve mood and increase flexibility. With all of the life changing advantages of yoga, there is one question that remains: Where are all of the male yogis?
If you've ever taken a yoga class in America, I'm sure you've noticed the undeniable absence of men in the class. You may find one or two if you're lucky -- sometimes three, but that's pushing it.
Why is it that in this new age, there seems to be an ample amount of men who share no interest in taking part in this amazing practice? A practice that was designed by men, originally intended for men.
There have been many misrepresentations of yoga, especially now that it has been commercialized in pop culture and demonized in many social circles. These misconceptions are very common amongst those who don't fully understand the practice.
Yoga has seven limbs, with asana (poses) as only one -- the most popular one.
For all men out here, let's be clear -- yoga does not make you dainty or feminine. It makes you strong and durable. It provides you with a constant challenge to become a better form of yourself, day in and day out. It teaches you how to find comfort and contentment in some of the most uncomfortable situations.
These lessons stretch far beyond a body position -- they transcend into life.
To expound on this idea, some of the best athletes of today incorporate yoga into their everyday lives. For example, LeBron James started doing yoga as a way to help with lower back issues. Ray Lewis integrated yoga into his regular routine as a way to balance out his overall lifestyle. Professional athletic franchises including the New York Giants and L.A. Lakers have also added yoga as a staple in their training routines.
In addition to athletes, celebrities like Adam Levine, Matthew McConaughey, Robert Downey Jr. and Jon Bon Jovi are all notable yogis.
At one point, I, too, was very reluctant to try yoga. I always viewed it as a cult-like association that made their members walk around barefoot, chanting weird phrases to elephant statues. I thought yogis were eccentric, pretentious and antisocial. I was totally wrong!
My yoga journey started as a way to help with my anxiety disorder and migraines. Due to my illness, I often battled severe bouts of depression and autophobia. By incorporating yoga as an essential part of my style of living, I was able to not only manage my anxiety disorder, but I also overcame my addiction to anti-anxiety medication.
I'm a lifelong student and teacher of yoga, as well as a personal trainer and avid weight lifter. I employ yoga to assist me in my goals of building lean muscle while simultaneously increasing my strength. Yoga is also an imperative part of my training sessions with my clients.
Resistance training can dramatically increase your risk of chronic tendonitis, rotator cuff injuries, osteoarthritis and limited range of motion. While resistance training is essential for overall health and wellness, other options should not be ignored.
Yoga enhance the aesthetic of your physique, while increasing your range of motion and flexibility. By doing so, it actually enables you to lift heavier weight. Additionally, most yoga poses are held for longer durations than traditional exercises. This causes your muscles to have isometric contractions which increases your overall muscular endurance.
Lifting weights shortens your muscle fibers, leading to reduced flexibility. In poses like plank, cobra, up-dog and most inversions, you're building great scapular durability, which is a prerequisite for upper body strength training. Exercises like bench press, pull ups and seated row all depend on the serratus anterior, trapezius muscles, etc. in order to perform these exercises.
As someone who has helped train competitive bodybuilders and encouraged many of them to incorporate yoga into their routines, I know the benefits. I challenge any man to take a yoga class. Trust me, it's not as easy or as girly as you think.
Let go of your capacious machismo and allow yourself to experience something gratifying. The countless benefits of yoga extend far beyond gender. Open up to possibility and indulge in opportunity. Be well!