In the West, women tend to dominate the scene in yoga studios. However, Yoga was initially founded in India as physically demanding exercises for men. Today, Professional athletes in all sports, soldiers, police, and fire/rescue workers are among the 3.5 million men who regularly practice yoga. Yoga has been shown to improve flexibility, strength and stamina, while reducing stress and increasing focus and awareness. Yoga also helps with injury prevention and rehabilitation post-injury (make sure to tell your instructor of any ailments before class).
There are some common misconceptions about yoga:
- "Yoga requires flexibility." In truth, flexibility is one of the benefits of a consistent practice. Men tend to be tighter in the hips and legs, but with practice, flexibility will improve.
- "Yoga isn't a workout" This will only be heard from someone who has never been to a well structured class. Ask anyone coming out of a yoga class, yoga will challenge you, whatever your level of fitness. Some of the poses seem so simple but leave you shaking and quivering just trying to remain in posture.
- "You have to be (insert adjective) to practice yoga" Not flexible? Not strong? Not skinny? Not Balanced? Not young? None of those are important to initiating a yoga practice, and all of them can be incorporated into your class with an experienced teacher who can work with you. Proper instruction, guidance, and assorted props will help along the way.
Practicing yoga regularly can be an excellent complement to increase performance in other activities, whether you enjoy running, cycling, golfing, cross-fit or play baseball, basketball, soccer, or football. Even in a group setting, workouts are individual and tailored to individual ability. Use your practice as a warm-up, warm-down, or as your workout itself.
Remember, the most important part of a yoga practice is showing up to the mat.