Unscientific breakdown of reactions I get when I mention yoga to fitness-minded guys:
A. 10%* use yoga as a part of their fitness approach…and swear by it
B. 25% “did a class a while back” (usually with wife or girlfriend), but didn’t continue. Usually, I don’t hear “it wasn’t good” or “I consciously decided to not continue”…so non-engagement is driven by other things, I think
C. 65% have never tried. I’ll say something like “the right yoga workout is pretty challenging, you know” – and about half the time, I get some acknowledgement (i.e. fewer guys nowadays think “it’s too easy”)
So, if maybe half of group B and a third of group C are persuadable, that’s 33% of all fitness-minded guys. Brother, if you’re in that group, I urge you to overcome your skepticism or inhibitions.
I wasn’t born a yoga cheerleader. I lucked into yoga, via the P90X fitness program’s weekly “Yoga X” workout. I discovered it became my favorite day of the week, made me feel great in ways nothing else did, and was the thing I continued even as I stopped strictly following the rest of that highly-regimented program. With hopes you’ll also benefit, here’s my two cents on why and how you should bring yoga into your life.
Why? You know yoga proponents say it helps with strength, flexibility, balance and tranquility-of-mind. I want to emphasize and expand on parts of this, instead of repeating it all.
Strength. Yoga hits muscles other workouts ignore: core and trunk…secondary leg muscles not worked by running, cycling, or squats…lower back. Try the right yoga class, brother, and I guarantee you’ll be sore in unfamiliar places. Do you want those places to keep getting weaker as you age – or will you do something about it?
Flexibility and balance. What fitness-minded guy doesn’t know he should work flexibility more? Yoga actually does it. As for balance, most of us don’t think about it much. But it’s those under-worked muscles that help balance, so balance is really a sign of all-over strength. More interested now? For further motivation, observe some 70- or 80-something guys. Balance is one of the unsung things that makes some look old and tentative, while others keep looking spry.
Tranquility-of-mind. I ruminate on this in other posts, so just one point to make here. The rhythmic, deep breathing of yoga is a lot of what drives the mind/body benefit we seek from fitness (swimming is great for this, too). More and more is being understood and written about the powerful benefits of breathing – and yoga delivers.
Put these things together. A 1-2x per week yoga practice is an awesome complement to our other endurance and strength activities: it’s low-impact, works un-worked muscles, keeps our bodies pliant and in balance, and brings peace.
How? I see three hurdles to overcome.
First, a lot of guys think of yoga as a women’s thing. It’s true most yoga classes are mostly women. Respectfully, are you secure enough in your manliness to not let that stop you? Various NFL stars, UFC fighters, and men’s fitness gurus are. As your friend, I urge you…get over this. And single guys: what’s wrong with being in a room full of fit women with whom you now have something in common?
Second, there are different kinds of yoga with confusing names. It’s hard to know what class to attend. One simple solution: look for classes with the word flow, vinyasa, or power in the name. These will feature strength poses, movement that will get your heart rate up, and leave you feeling like you got a workout.
Finally, there’s an ironic hesitancy about the “class” part of this: I don’t want to take a class until I partly know what I’m doing. A good yoga instructor will get you over this right away, but you can also do your own practice for a while at home, with an online video class. In the near future, I’ll suggest a number of these, plus great yoga studios for guys, and some thoughts on yoga gear.
# # #
I feel strongly about this, man, and I’m confident that you won’t conclude I’ve misled you. Do a three-month experiment by folding yoga into your routine once (or better twice) each week. Then let me know what you think!
“Let it grow, let it grow. Let it blossom, let it flow.” (Eric Clapton, Let it Grow)
* A recent “Yoga in America” study sponsored by Yoga Journal and The Yoga Alliance says 28% of yoga practitioners are men…but based on my observation, I don’t believe it. Maybe in LA or NY, one out of four people in a class are men (maybe), but I think the overall # is lower.