- Neesha Zollinger
Ask YogaToday with Neesha Zollinger: What Do Men Have to Gain from Practicing Yoga?
Although women still make up the majority of my classes, men can garner endless benefits from yoga. Mindful movement along with slowing one’s breath offers plenty of physical benefits, but the results go far beyond the obvious.
To start, the physical practice of yoga is unique because it stretches some body parts while strengthening others – often in the same pose! In this way, poses work contrasting muscle groups, bringing greater balance to opposite muscle pairs. In addition, regular practitioners observe prolonged joint health. Strength coupled with flexibility allows men (and women) to experience better mobility in every activity that they do. From increased range of motion in a golf swing to improved endurance while running to better balance on a bike, the benefits to bodily health are numerous.
I also encourage my guy friends to try yoga because it increases flexibility in areas where men are typically tight. Can you say hamstrings, hip flexors, and shoulders, gentlemen? These muscle groups come to mind when I think of my male students in particular – but not to worry! Any well-rounded class will address these major muscles. Between sitting at our desks and driving, we have become a forward-folding (and slouching) society so taking time to counter repetitive movement is so important.
As far as the mental side of the practice, yoga helps the body release oxytocin (your feel good, social-bonding hormone) which results in a sense of well-being. The endorphin production that occurs during exercise works as a natural anti-depressant too so you leave class feeling happier and more connected.
A number of studies indicate that yoga not only improves mood but that it reduces stress as well. Increased cognitive functioning translates to a greater ability to focus at work and to prioritize in our personal lives. Men face different stressors and are expected to cope with limited emotional expression (that we culturally grant to women) so yoga is a natural outlet. Yoga offers men a place to release tension and also gives them the tools to be able to do (all that they do) under such great pressure.
Another less discussed (but important) benefit of yoga shows up in the bedroom. Deeper breath and feelings of well-being certainly won’t hurt your sex life! Add this to increased blood flow to the often ignored pelvic region combined with the higher levels of oxytocin, and you can see how intimate experiences elevate in pleasure and satisfaction.
So you can see (and now explain to your friend, brother, or husband) that there is everything to gain and nothing to lose (well, maybe a little weight) for men who practice yoga regularly. Valentine’s Day is coming up, so perhaps now is the time to try a partner yoga class or workshop. From mood to metabolism, everybody should try to get to the mat a little more!
For more resources on this topic, check out these articles: