Yoga For Men: Does It Work & Why Is It Taboo?
Just the name is enough to conjure up an image of women stretching and posing in a classroom in order to tone their muscles.
What you don’t typically see when you imagine it?
4 out of every 5 yogis in the world are women. This is often due to embarrassment and social stigma for men, but what’s the reason underpinning this taboo?
Increasingly, males are taking up yoga. From Vladimir Putin to Robert Downey, Jr, men are developing more of an interest in what is currently a predominantly female preserve.
While yoga might seem like a girlie past time with its chanting and focus on the mind as well as the body, it also has a great deal to offer men.
First thing’s first… Is yoga even particularly effective?
Does Yoga Actually Work?
It’s one thing to discuss the names of famous people who do yoga, but it’s quite another to say that yoga has a genuinely useful purpose.
According to science, yoga has a great degree of potential.
Yoga is a great way to improve your strength, increase your flexibility, and improve your posture and balance.
Not only can it help you enrich these areas, it can also help with chronic pain, anxiety, and a broad spectrum of other issues.
What is yoga not any good for? Cardio and weight loss. No matter how intense your yoga routine is, it simply can’t get your heart rate up in the way running or intense aerobic exercise can.
Also, since the focus of yoga is to stretch your muscles and relax your body, it isn’t a great way to burn calories either.
Whether yoga works or not is a matter of what you want from your body. If you are looking for boosted strength, less injuries, reduced back pain, and relief from mental problems such as anxiety, yoga might well be just what you’ve been waiting for.
If, on the other hand, you are hoping to drop 50 pounds or see amazing muscle gains, yoga may not work in quite the way you hope.
What Enhanced Strength and Flexibility Can Mean for You
It’s easy to think of reasons why more strength would be useful, but flexibility? Not so much.
The truth is, greater flexibility can enhance your life in ways that may surprise you.
Greater flexibility can give you an edge playing your favorite sports. Yoga is so helpful in this regard that major football teams such as the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles now include yoga as part of their intense training programs.
American football isn’t the only sport adding yoga as their secret ace to edging ahead…
LeBron James credited yoga for his incredible stamina during intense games, and New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby team practice yoga as well.
Many top athletes use yoga to give themselves an edge, increase their strength, and provide them with the added focus they need to get through a game.
Yoga is a favorite form of exercise for these athletes in part because of the incredible reduction in injuries. When we think of football, it is almost synonymous with injuries to the knees, shoulders, and other well-used joints. By practicing yoga, many of these athletes have been able to reduce their injuries to almost zero.
Yoga Can Even Help with Severe Back Pain and Other Impairments
Arthur Boorman is a great example of a man who took to yoga to help with his recovery. Injured as a paratrooper in the Gulf war, he was told he would never be able to walk unassisted again. That changed when he started yoga to strengthen his core muscles and hopefully change his life for the better.
It did just that. Not only could he walk unassisted after a year of intense yoga therapy, he was also able to run again.
While Boorman’s story is fairly unique, a quick search is all you need to do to see the variety of different illnesses and injuries yoga has helped their victims work through.
Why Is Yoga Taboo For Men When It Works So Well?
It may surprise you to learn that yoga was once a male-only practice.
It was developed by men in India, and was at first not considered remotely suitable for women. Eventually women were allowed to practice yoga, but they were palmed off a gentler, weaker form of yoga.
Today, it can be hard for men to get started in yoga simply due to the stigma that is attached to it. Though men originally developed yoga, the modern way of thinking of it is primarily as a female workout.
Some men claim they feel bored, or perhaps are afraid that they will be without ever giving it a try.
Many men claim they can’t do yoga because they are not flexible enough. Danny Poole, a yogi who regularly gives yoga lessons to famous athletes such as Terrell Evans, Brandon Marshall and Willie Roaf, claims there is a different reason for men’s reluctance to do yoga. “Athletes with big muscles take a regular yoga class and it kicks their butt,” Poole said. “They tend not to come back.”
The other problem Poole sees with men and yoga is the spiritual side associated with it. “If it’s flaky and too New Agey, soft or touchy-feely, that can be a turnoff unless it’s explained in a way that is clearly understandable to a male audience.”
Fortunately for men, yoga rooms are popping up here and there that are more welcoming to males in their midst.
With fewer chants, less weird names, and gentler poses, these yoga workouts will give men the benefits of yoga without the parts of it that just feel too embarrassing.
While yogis all over the world are working hard to reduce the stigma of yoga, there is still ample room for growth. There are still only a handful of men in every yoga class, and the picture we conjure up in our heads when we think of “yoga” is still principally a woman’s body twisted up in some impossible pose.
Changing that will take time but change is certainly underway.