Hey fellas, this one’s for you. Looking for an exercise that will increase flexibility, focus the mind, and reduce stress, among other benefits? No, it’s not CrossFit or underwater boulder tossing — ok, we made that last one up. The exercise in question is none other than yoga. That’s right, yoga. The benefits of yoga for men are immeasurable.
If you think yoga is just about gentle movements, quiet music, and scented candles — think again. Mastering yoga is tough and will put you in peak physical and mental condition. For these reasons, more and more are unlocking the benefits of yoga for men.
Maybe when you were on the high school wrestling team, your coach said, “hit the mat.” After reading this article, that phrase will have a whole new meaning.
You’ve seen yoga studios on every street corner, but have you ever stopped to ask yourself, “what is yoga?” Before telling you all about the benefits of yoga for men, both physical and mental, let’s define what this ancient form of exercise is.
What Is Yoga?
Yoga is a classification of physical, mental, and spiritual practices with a meditative and spiritual core. Some use this posture-based form of physical fitness for stress-relief and relaxation, but mastering yoga, or becoming a yogi, is no easy task and requires top physical conditioning.
With roots in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, people have been practicing yoga for thousands of years. It trickled out long ago from India and other southeast Asian countries to a neighborhood near you.
Modern forms of yoga include hatha yoga, or what’s sometimes called yoga as exercise. Hatha yoga commonly consists of the following:
- Sequences of poses or postures called asanas.
- Breathing exercises.
- Meditation and relaxation, sometimes while lying down. That’s called savasana.
That’s right, lying down. Who doesn’t love a workout with a little nap at the end?
Before telling you all about the benefits of yoga specifically for men, let’s now talk a bit about why yoga is good for everyone.
Why Is Yoga Good for You?
There are many ways yoga can help get you in better shape, but so can lots of other kinds of exercises. What is it about yoga that makes it so effective?
Through a combination of exertion, rest, and deep breathing, yoga links to measurable changes in the body’s sympathetic nervous system.
That’s the part of the nervous system linked with stress and responsible for our fight or flight response. Unlike other kinds of exercise, yoga helps switch that system to the “off” position. This reaction shows all sorts of health benefits in other parts of our lives.
Furthermore, yoga tops-off the feel-good chemicals in our brains like GABA, serotonin, and dopamine. All these directly link to helping us feel better, more relaxed, and generally more content.
In addition to calming our sympathetic nervous system, yoga boosts our parasympathetic nervous system. That’s the part of the nervous system that diverts blood flow and energy to where it counts, like endocrine glands, digestive organs, and lymphatic circulation. This boost can lower our heart rate and blood pressure at the very same time.
But that’s not all, here are some other hidden health benefits of yoga
- Stronger immune system
- Reduced inflammation
Inflammation of the body leads to all sorts of health problems. Regular yoga practice improves levels of biomarkers like C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6 (IL-6), contributing to reduced inflammation in the body.
(Yes, we know that was science-y. Thanks for hanging in there).
Anyway, as can be seen, there are a lot of reasons yoga is healthy for you. But somehow, along with its rise in popularity, yoga gained a reputation as being only for women, especially in the West. We’re here to say men can benefit from yoga just as much as the ladies.
The reasons why are coming up next.
Health Benefits of Yoga for Men
We sorted our list of benefits of yoga into two categories: mental and physical. Up first, the physical benefits of yoga.
1. Increased Flexibility and Mobility
Topping the list of health benefits of yoga for men is increased flexibility and mobility gained by the movement and stretching involved in regular yoga practice.
Hip flexors and hamstrings, for example, are two areas of the body where men are particularly inflexible, and many yoga poses help address this issue.
This inhibition can show dividends in other sports or forms of physical exercise, or simply help you feel better on the daily. To this end, pro-athletes and others who use a lot of bodily exertion living are adopting the practice of yoga into their workout routine.
But yoga also helps address many of the issues that arise from simply sitting at a desk all day. Lower back pain is a common problem for desk-jobbers, and that can be a delicate area to stretch properly. The stretching and movement of yoga helps improve back pain due to poor sitting posture.
2. Strength and Conditioning
Yoga isn’t just about stretching, though. It takes strength and conditioning to execute the poses and postures involved in yoga successfully.
Some flow styles like Vinyasa are particularly well-suited for strength building. Yin Yoga, a method in which you’ll hold positions for extended amounts of time, will lengthen and tone your muscles.
3. Better Balance and Injury Reduction
Regular yoga practice will also bring better balance to your body. Simultaneously, it reduces the risk of injury in other forms of exercise, sports, or physical activity.
Playing particular sports, for example, will work and stretch specific muscles more than others. The holistic nature of yoga brings a better balance to the entire body.
There’s another kind of balance involved in yoga, and that’s the balance required to strike and maintain the poses. This balance can help prevent injury and improve performance from the basketball court to the workplace.
4. Better Digestion and Boosted Brain Function
Believe it or not, yoga even helps us digest our food. Yoga aids in digestion through twist-like poses that massage internal organs and help food move through your system.
Studies have also shown yoga improves brain function through a combination of physical exertion and stillness, keeping us focused, creative, and productive off the mat. That’s even more so than other forms of exercise, like jogging.
5. Help Controlling Diabetes
Diabetes is a major problem for men in the U.S. Roughly 11 million men are living with the disease. With current lifestyle trends, that number is unfortunately growing.
How does yoga help with diabetes? Buckle up, because like we said earlier, it’s about to get science-y.
Several poses common in yoga improve the sensitivity of β-cells to glucose. What’s important to know here is that this improves insulin secretion within the body, while also increasing blood flow to muscles, helping them relax and improving glucose uptake. Sufficient glucose uptake is one of the most common issues for those who have diabetes.
Moving from the physical to the mental, among the many valuable lessons taught by yoga is the importance of the mind-body connection: a healthy body leading to improved mental and emotional well-being, and vice-versa.
Mental Benefits of Yoga for Men
The mental benefits of yoga for men are coming up next.
Properly executing a yoga pose takes intense concentration and focus. This intense focus can keep us sharp in our everyday life.
Furthermore, yoga isolates every joint and muscle while practicing. Standard yoga practices include a focus on commonly forgotten and neglected areas that are nevertheless vitally important. Think about areas such as the neck and feet. When was the last time you stretched them after lifting weights or going for a swim?
Too much stress in your life can have all sorts of adverse health effects. The negative health effects of stress can include back issues, heart problems, and even depression.
Yoga reduces stress for many reasons, not unlike many other forms of exercise. But perhaps more than anything, what makes yoga a great way to reduce stress is the deep breathing techniques taught through the practice. Reduced stress can help decrease heart rate. It also helps with high blood pressure. Many breathing techniques can help to chill out in other stressful situations outside the yoga studio.
Controlled breathing does more than just reduce stress. The principles of controlled breathing that are central to yoga practice have also shown to improve the quality of sleep for those who practice yoga regularly.
Improved sleep quality has a whole list of health benefits, including a decreased chance of heart disease. Heart disease is a leading cause of death for men, leading to roughly 1 in 4 deaths for males in the U.S.
Better sleep can also strengthen our immune system, and even it helps to keep our weight under control.
We know some of you are only here to do this one: the answer is yes, practicing yoga can even lead to an improved sex life. An improved sex life pays off outside the bedroom through reduced stress, improved self-esteem, and lower blood pressure.
Here are just some of the ways yoga helps you get your freak on:
- Better blood flow (where it counts)
- Improved strength and flexibility
- Reduced body insecurity coupled with better body awareness
And last but not least, yoga even boosts the release of a hormone linked to sexual arousal. Several yoga poses are linked to an improved sex life, including cat-cow pose, bridge pose, and especially for men, half plank.
Need further convincing? While popular among women, the ancient art of yoga offers many benefits for men both physically and emotionally. Yoga will make you stronger, more flexible, and more focused, while also reducing stress and improving sleep. Yoga even pays off in the bedroom.
So don’t be fooled by yoga’s chill-out vibe. Mastering yoga will get you in peak physical condition, and it belongs in everyone’s workout routine.