Unfortunately, men still represent a small portion of the Western yogi community. But why?
At its emergence, yoga was primarily a male practice. But when it found its way to the West, middle and upper class women with the time and means to pursue self-care quickly became the target demographic. Thus, yoga businesses began marketing to women with female models, a feminine voice, and women’s apparel. With that kind of branding, it’s no wonder more men aren’t willingly exploring the benefits of yoga.
The misconception that yoga is religious might also be a reason why men shy away from it. Yoga is about bringing mind, body, and spirit into balance. There is no specific requirement of religious belief. By bringing you into greater awareness of your inner self, yoga can be transformative regardless of religious preference.
One of the most common excuses for not doing yoga is, “I’m not flexible enough.” If you can’t touch your toes, no problem – that’s what yoga will help you with! If you stay consistent with your practice, you’ll be surprised how quickly you will gain both strength and flexibility.
Over the years, the perception of yoga has changed drastically, and it is now practiced by both men and women all around the world. Fortunately, this change sees men now making up nearly a third of the American yoga community. But the preconceptions of yoga being feminine are still strong.
Not only is it a great way to stay in shape and improve your flexibility and core strength, but there are also many mental and spiritual benefits which ensure that it is beneficial for anyone to practice. More pro athletes turn to yoga to aid their performance. Atheletes who love yoga include Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James and the New Zealand All Blacks to name a few. Novak Djokovic, the No. 1 ranked tennis player in the world, has said he practices yoga to “help me align myself and find the inner peace” and also to work on breathing through movements “that can improve my flexibility and better movement of the joints.”
Male celebrities also recognise the importance of yoga in their lives, such as Colin Farrell, Matthew McConaughey, Richard Gere, and Robert Downey Jr.
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The following is a hatha yoga routine for fitness conscious men. Some of these poses may be difficult for beginners at first. But with patience and perseverance, there is nothing that can’t be mastered.
- Adho Mukha Svanasana, or downward facing dog: This pose eases tight muscles in the hamstring and hip area.
- Crescent lunge: This pose has the same effect as the downward facing dog (above).
- Dhanurasana, or bow pose: This pose opens up the chest for better oxygen intake, strengthens the spine, back muscles and abdominal muscles.
- Paripurna Navasana, or full boat pose: This pose stimulates thyroid and prostrate glands, and balances the muscles on the back.
- Setu Bandha Sarvagasana, or Bridge pose: This pose enhances the chest muscles and revitalizes the lungs.
- Supta Padangusthasana, or reclining big toe pose: This pose energizes the prostrate gland and enhances digestion.
- Utkatasana, or chair pose: This pose helps burn abdominal fat and strengthens the leg muscles.
- Uttanasan, or standing forward bend: This pose stretches the hamstrings, hips, and calves.
- Virasana, or hero pose: This pose strengthens the joints of the knees and helps keep the tissues lubricated.
- Vrabhadrasana I, or Warrior I pose: This pose is a high-impact pose that increases muscle flexibility in the knees, hips and shoulders.
Boost your intimacy and improve your relationships
Whether you practice yoga with or without your partner, the ancient teachings of yoga can greatly support and help sustain a healthy, positive and dynamic intimate relationship.
Yoga postures call for engagement and awareness of the pelvic floor. Activation of this space helps with circulation, control, and awareness, which can heighten arousal. Improved strength, endurance, lung capacity, mindfulness, and a connection to your own needs and wants will no doubt enhance your connection. When we experience something pleasurable, a natural response is a desire to share it, especially with someone we love.
Couples yoga deepens the practice by including your lover in postures where breathing and moving together is key. The benefits of practicing yoga with a partner are endless, but some include improved levels of communication, deeper expressions of postures, boosting intimacy and the encouragement of trust.
Sit in Easy Pose (Sukhasana) across from your partner and get in touch with their breath. If this is uncomfortable for your low back, sit on a pillow or bolster for support. Take a moment to truly see the other person. Place one hand on your heart and the other over your partner’s hand, which is already on their heart. Begin inhaling and exhaling together, feeling the beating of the other’s heart and then switch sides.
Release your ego and preconceived notions, and hit the mat. You’ve got nothing to lose and so much to gain.