Yoga builds muscle and was originally designed for men by men.
Thousands of years ago during its creation, yoga was originally designed by men, for men, and practiced only by men. So why are there only two or three guys in the average yoga class today? Oddly enough yoga practicing men (in America) are categorically considered to be effeminate.
Bodybuilders tend to think the only way to get in great shape is to lift heavy weights for hours on end. Although this is one effective path, we can also integrate yoga to accelerate the process.
As Jessie Brazil, a yoga instructor and certified fitness associate at the Health Fitness Corporation, told “Men’s Health” magazine, “The thing with yoga is that it’s counterintuitive to a guy’s natural way.
A guy sees it as stretching. He doesn’t see it as a workout.”
According to a 2012 “Yoga Journal” survey, less than one in five people in any American yoga class is male.
Approximately 82.2% of American yoga practitioners are women and only 17.8% are men.
The top five reasons for doing yoga were: flexibility (78.3%), general conditioning (62.2%), stress relief (59.6%), improve overall health (58.5%) and physical fitness (55.1%).
If you ask me, those are some great reasons to start a yoga practice. Unlike other exercises that target specific body parts, yoga is a full-body workout that stretches and strengthens pretty much every muscle in ways that lifting free weights cannot. So why is there still a stigma about yoga for men?
Reasons Guys May Avoid the Mat
- Yoga is too slow
- Yoga feels silly and feminine
- Yoga will impose its “New Agey” religion on me
- Not flexible enough
- Women might think “what a creep”
- Time is better spent lifting weights
How Yoga Builds Muscle
Numerous studies by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a branch of the National Institutes of Health, have shown that yoga is beneficial for lower back pain, improved back function, lower heart rate, lower blood pressure, reduced anxiety and depression, improved overall fitness, and heightened strength and flexibility. For male bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts, one of yoga’s biggest perks is injury prevention.
“If men do other activities, like baseball, running, cycling, weight-lifting, they’ve probably got tight hamstrings, tight hips, you name it,” commented Laura Bukhart, a yoga instructor from San Francisco. “They’ll find that yoga can help them stretch out those areas so that they’re better prepared and less likely to hurt themselves later on.”
Baron Baptiste, yoga pro and former assistant coach for the Philadelphia Eagles, points out that men who strength train often breeze past those hard-to-train muscles, like the knees and lower back. “Over-training in any one sport can cause repetitive stress and other more serious injuries. Yoga is a full-body workout that creates both strength and flexibility. You need to have both. One without the other is a recipe for disaster,” Baptiste advised.
Poses to Develop Strength
- Arm balance poses to flex smaller muscle groups (try crow pose and side plank)
- Inversion poses to challenge under-used muscle groups (try shoulder stand and plow pose)
- Holding standing poses to strengthen the leg muscles (try triangle pose and tree pose)
Yoga Helps Us Breathe, and Relax
Work is stressful, relationships are stressful, and finances are stressful. Join the club. But do you honestly feel less stressed out after clocking in a few miles on the treadmill or pounding out reps in the weight room?
Unlike other exercise regimes, yoga has a greater focus on the breath and the awareness of your mind. Focusing on the breathe is the one of the simplest forms of meditation. Breathing meditation has a unique way of clearing your mind of the noise that clouds it and creates stress.
Taking a class with like-minded yogis creates a subconscious accountability that prevents you from slacking or giving up halfway through. According to Yoga Journal‘s Andrew Tilin, “Yoga can also teach a guy who’s overwhelmed by his many responsibilities that the best way to get things done is by being present—focusing on one thing at a time.”
The ancient yogis and holy men who first practiced yoga were sexually active throughout their entire lives. Considering these guys lived a long time, yoga was an essential part of keeping them healthy enough for sex. In fact, certain yoga poses, known as Asanas, can help keep your equipment running smoothly to prevent sexual dysfunction in the future.
Sexual energy naturally manifests as vibrations, which originate in the spine. One style of yoga, known as Kundalini, has shown to raise the level of this vibration and unblock energy channels. This helps your sexual energy flow like it’s supposed to and allows you perform at your highest level.
Yoga Benefits for the Bedroom
- Increased energy
- Prevention of erectile dysfunction
- More flexibility and confidence to try new positions
- Less muscle pain during sex
- Stronger legs and buttocks, resulting in better orgasms
Poses to Improve the Male Libido
- Butterfly pose – tones the male sexual energy and creates flow through the organs
- Seated forward bend – increases mobility and stimulates sexual energy
- Runners lunge – strengthens pelvic floor and helps you maintain stamina
- Bridge pose – energizes pelvic muscles and strengthens legs and core
“Manly” Styles of Yoga
As more men have begun to incorporate yoga into their fitness routines, several “manly” styles of yoga, geared specifically towards guys, have emerged. One of these programs, known as Broga, hosts workshops and classes in gyms, schools, businesses, prisons, and police departments to reassure guys that yoga is a socially-acceptable workout increase the number of men practicing yoga around the world. Another program, DDP Yoga, was developed by wrestling star, Diamond Dallas Page for athletes who suffered long-term injuries due to high impact supports. Page’s yoga workout DVDs are available for sale on his website.
Despite the male-to-female ratio in most yoga classes today, it’s time to move past outdated stereotypes and recognize yoga’s amazing health benefits for the modern man. Michael Lechonczak, a Manhattan yoga instructor who contributed to the book, Real Men Do Yoga, explained, “These guys coming to yoga have to be ready for the next level, be ready to let down their defenses. They have to have heart.”
As with any new fitness routine, start with easy pose modifications and work your way up to full poses and hold times as you gain strength. Strength in the weight room doesn’t necessarily equate to strength on the mat. I got my ass kicked the first 10 times I walked into a yoga studio.
Although yoga builds muscle, contrary to a typical bodybuilding mindset, it’s not a competition.
Your yoga practice is all about you, so comparing yourself to other yogis is arbitrary. Instead, mindfully compare your practice today to your previous practice to gauge your progress and improve upon your weaknesses. When it comes to fitness, self-awareness, and better sex, yogis have everything to gain and nothing to lose.