Like I said in my last post, Yoga is an over 5000 year old tradition that began with men….however now you see mostly women in the practice. Yoga is marketed to women as a weight loss tool, something fashionable to do, and a lifestyle of “Clean Eating”. I call BS on a lot of it!
My friend Sarrah sent me this link recently and I am sometimes so jaded about the fitness industry that I actually spent the first few minutes thinking that this guy was serious and not a spoof. What does that say about the quality of info out there?!
So, today I want to accomplish two things:
- Get rid of some of the myths about yoga
- Give the guys out there some yoga
Yoga Myths 101
Yoga is for Women.
Yoga was a tradition of ancient practices started by men. It evolved over time to become more of a physical or exercise practice in the West and is attended mostly by women. Women are shown in almost every advertisement and video for yoga, but men are still a strong force in the field. Think Iyengar (recently passed), Bikram, Baron Baptiste, etc, etc, etc. The original Asanas (postures) in yoga were all seated poses, therefore anyone could practice them. And, while there are some shady things that have happened in yoga’s past (lies about supernatural powers, use of forced sexual encounters to gain enlightenment, treatment of yogis as vagabonds)….it’s past still began with men.
Yoga is too gentle. OR Yoga is too hard.
Yoga comes in many different forms and practices. Some yoga is straight up relaxation and meditation. Some is deep stretching. Some is all about chanting to enlightenment. Some yoga is so hard that I don’t even dare consider it myself. No matter what your preference, yoga can be practiced in a variety of ways to meet individual needs and abilities. It has also been combined with other popular forms of exercise including Yoga Cycle and HIIT with Yoga.
Yoga will not provide aerobic benefits in the same way that running will, but can definitely get your heart rate up while improving your strength and flexibility. It can also clear your mind, better promote mindfulness and connection to the body, and leave participants with a sense of peace.
Yoga is for Weight Loss.
Here is where I think yoga gets too much credit for it’s benefits. Yoga does burn calories, but the standard practice of yoga moves the body in a slow and controlled manner with slow and controlled breathing practices. These elements essentially slow the metabolism of the body and therefore cause you to burn fewer calories. So, why yoga for weight loss?
Yoga is a lifestyle when practiced in full. It asks you to think about what your body really needs and to consider treating it the best that you can. Therefore, a lot of serious yogis and yoginis tend to eat better, listen to their bodies more, eat less, and overall take good care of their health.
Yoga for Men
Guys, let’s give this a try! Yoga can be pretty much anything you want it to be and I want you to consider how much better you would feel if you were a little more connected to your body? How much easier would the day be with correct postural alignment and less tight hamstrings, glutes, and lower back? Remember that yoga is something you can do pretty much anywhere, so let’s take the stigma away and try a few poses.
Just remember that you should ALWAYS consult with your physician prior to any new exercise and that I am not prescribing these poses for all participants. There are real risks involved in practicing yoga and all forms of exercise.
For Posture – Mountain Pose
Stand with your feet hip width apart and your palms facing open. Attempt to reach up through the top of your head while aligning your heels, hips, shoulders, and ears. Standing upright in Mountain Pose will help you get back into proper postural alignment, strengthen the core muscles, and alleviate some of the back pain that comes from slouching all day.
For Strength – Warrior II
Align the heels with one foot facing forward and the other facing to the side. Keep the feet far enough apart from each other that you feel a deep stretch into the groin area while able to maintain a bent front knee above the ankle. Open the front of the body to the side of the mat and reach one arm forward and the other arm back at shoulder level. Keep the head reaching up and the shoulders and hips stacked. Feel yourself breathing and holding in this strength pose for the legs, core, and upper body. Imagine yourself in the present of the moment as one hand pulls strength from your past and the other reaches into your future. Look to the hand of the future. Repeat opposite side.
For Balance – Dancer Pose
Feel free to use a strap to allow your foot to be held correctly in this pose and a wall to aid in the balance aspect. Shift your weight to one foot while keeping the hip aligned and the knee joint soft (not locked). Bring the other foot behind to rest into the hand. When you’re ready, push the foot into the hand to arch the spine and open the front of the body allowing for deeper breathing and a stretch through the abdominals, hip flexors, and quads. If you feel comfortable, hinge forward at the hip to deepen the balance challenge and stretch of the body. Feel the strength of the supporting leg and the back muscles. Use the opposite arm to balance on the wall or as a counterbalance in the pose. Continue to maintain tension by pushing the foot into the hand instead of pulling on the foot with the hand. Repeat opposite side.
For the Stretch….Hips and Inner Thighs – Butterfly
Sometimes this pose is seen in elementary PE classes where the children bounce their legs up and down in a ballistic stretch. This is not ever recommended for any person unless they are an elite athlete training for a specific event. But, to get a good deep stretch in the inner thigh and hip (see also the next Mini Movie Monday), place the bottoms of the feet together as far apart as necessary to get the knees close to the ground. Sit up tall aligning the ears, shoulders, and hips. Open the knees and hips as you slowly bring the feet in to the body. Feel the spine grow tall with each inhale and the knees fall closer to the floor with each exhale. Only holding the feet as a touching point, but not pulling on the feet nor using the arms to push the knees open. If the feet reach all the way in with the knees open to the ground, you can deepen the stretch by hinging forward at the hips with a long spine.
For the Stretch…..Lower Back – Supine Spinal Twist
Lay on the back with the feet on the mat and the knees touching. Raise the arms up to shoulder level while laying outstretched, palms up, on the floor. On an inhale feel the front of the body open. On an exhale drop the stacked knees to one side, allowing the lower body to rotate to keep the hips stacked. Drop the head to the opposite side to wring out the body in each direction. On an inhale, rotate both the head and lower body back to center and exhale repeating in the opposite direction. Feel the lower spine loosen as it goes through it’s full rotational range of motion.
For Relaxation and the Stretch…..Hamstrings – Easy Inversion
Place your hips as close to the wall as possible with the legs up the wall. Note the slow release of tension in the hamstrings and lower back as you feel the legs resting flat against the wall. For many this easy inversion pose (head below the heart) can bring about a feeling of relaxation and peace. Stay in this pose with eyes closed for 5-10 minutes. Roll to the left side of the body and rest for 2-3 minutes or more before attempting to sit or stand; allowing for a return of homeostasis in the body’s circulatory system. Note that this pose can be painful if the legs are not fully supported on the wall.
Next time I’ll be writing about Pilates…another female dominated male exercise. I’d love to hear how these poses go for you! Also, checkout YogaJournal.com for more information about these and other poses. You may also like this article from IDEA Fitness Journal!