When I was five, my brothers and I wanted to learn karate. My dad said we needed to take five years of ballet first. We obliged. In my last year of ballet (at age 10), I was the prince in the performance Cinderella. I remember praying that nobody I knew was in the audience because I didn’t want people to know I danced ballet. Fast forward to my adult years when I started yoga, some of those same feelings of embarrassment sprung up. Sure, I told people that I played football in college, lifted weights, cycled, ran, swam and if I did mention yoga at all, it was the last thing I mentioned.
The social norms of what a guy should do and what a girl should do are engrained and conditioned from the time of birth. I suppose it’s a part of being human, but being human also means we can break out of these social norms. Gender stereotypes, in my opinion, are one of the reasons why modern men have stayed away from yoga, even when the benefits of yoga are undisputed. Yoga is “a woman’s thing” and not a “macho man thing.” Society today shows the promise that many of these social “molds” are being broken.
It’s funny, that even though I was embarrassed about letting my peers know I did ballet, during class, I actually strived to be good. The feeling was the same on my yoga mat; I looked forward to yoga, and wanted to be better at it. Though I was not necessarily a “bendy,” person, I fell in love with how yoga made me feel after class, and yearned for more. No other sport or workout routine gave me that feeling of balance and calm.
Today, more professional male athletes in an array of sports like surfing, football, body building, triathlon and golf, are incorporating yoga into their training regimen, showing that social taboos of men doing yoga are finally — and rapidly — dissolving. Take Rich Miano, former Philadelphia Eagles professional football player and retired UH football coach. He’s now an avid yogi. Shortly before his 55th birthday, Rich set out a goal to get back into great shape. He discovered CorePower Yoga and started taking classes almost daily. His favorite CorePower class, Yoga Sculpt, was named among the top 10 workouts of 2018 by Men’s Journal Magazine. By his birthday, Rich had dropped a whopping 30 pounds.
“I feel great and I’ve kept my muscle tone,” Miano says. “I even got my six-pack back. Best thing, I found a practice that I can do for years to come.”
Did you know that yoga was practiced only by men until Indra Devi, a female, was accepted to practice yoga in 1937 by a famous guru? Today, less than 30 percent of yogis are men, yet almost half of all yoga teachers across America are male, according to a 2016 study by Yoga Alliance and Yoga Journal Magazine. The disparity is intriguing.
In this article I’m focusing on the benefits of yoga for men, but please remember that our stories are (almost) always written for both men and women (unless they’re specifically about pregnancy, menopause, or Kegel exercises…). Go to yogahawaiimagazine.com and catch up on some great articles about the benefits of yoga:
Yoga Relieves Stress / By Salina Storozuk
Yoga and the Beginner / By Alana Michele
Yoga and Weight Loss / By Kamala Skipper
Yoga and the Athlete / By Megan Edgar
Yoga for all Body Types / By Rebecca Remillard
I’m Too Inflexible To Do Yoga / By Stephanie Keiko Kong
1. Yoga improves flexibility. Men, in general, are not as flexible as women. One of the most common reasons why professional athletes do yoga is to improve flexibility. Yoga helps them avoid injury and train more efficiently. Even if you are a weekend warrior, you know the importance of not getting injured.
2. Yoga increases your range of motion, which actually helps build larger muscles. This is a little different from flexibility. The weight lifter, for example, is more subject to a limited range of motion because lifting heavier weight results in tighter muscle groups. Increasing range of motion through yoga can actually increase muscle growth, as there is less limitation in pulling and pressing movements.
3. As a yoga class gets more intense, the breathing slows down rather than speeds up. This is very different from running, or any other sport for that matter. The slowed breath not only calms the mind, but deep inhales help expand lung capacity and allows more intake of oxygen in fewer breaths. This pattern of breathing helps oxygenate the body more efficiently, an important component for strength training, cardiovascular efficiency, and muscle building.
4. The technique of mind-body connection in yoga has been proven to not only reduce stress and anxiety, but also to promote weight loss and improve sleep. That means you have more will power to NOT open that refrigerator door late at night.
5. Many athletes incorporate active rest days into their regimen. Yoga can provide the perfect, active rest session, and depending on the format, will likely feel like a great work out as well. Best of all, you don’t need special equipment.
6. The more you are exposed to yoga, the more you hear about yoga philosophy. The topics are varied, but you’ll learn a lot about inner self, the ego, connectivity, gratitude, and spreading good karma. This may provide a sense of balance for the “macho” hetero male who focuses on money, women, and cars (boy, I’m really stereotyping my own demographic here).
7. Yoga leads to better sex. According to Men’s Fitness magazine, practicing yoga can result in better and longer sex. Increased concentration allows you to channel your sexual energy, helping prevent premature ejaculation, and also makes you more sensitive and responsive to your partner. I’m sure your flexibility will come in handy, too.
After five years of ballet, I never started those karate lessons. I played Pop Warner football instead, and I can honestly say that ballet certainly helped me become a star player. Football turned out to be my ticket to an Ivy League education. Today, my “pump monkey” days of living in the weight room are over, and running long distances is not sustainable for my joints. I know yoga will be with me for a long time and, as I get older, my body is happier for it. I feel “well-preserved,” and am confident that I can stay active for years to come. I hope to see you in class!
I am a 200 hour certified yoga instructor at Core Power Yoga. I have been teaching a fusion yoga class called Sculpt (yoga with weights) since 2013 and teach power vinyasa classes. I consider myself an athlete and have been involved in sports since a child playing football, baseball, basketball, and even ballet. I excelled in football where I was recruited and played at Brown University. Today I keep myself active with lots of yoga, cycling, swimming, running, weight lifting and more yoga.
Since I was young, one of my goals in life was to teach, but my passion to own and operate a marketing/advertising agency and raise two beautiful children took precedence. Today, fusing my passion to teach in the field of athletics is the ultimate job. To be able to aid in the physical and mental health of my community is the ultimate honor and privilege.