Real men do yoga
by Maria Coleman
There is a misconception that yoga is a soft practice more suited to women. Yoga however not only challenges men's natural strength but also cultivates a flexibility that can be frequently missing and lead to injuries, hampering efforts to excel at other sports.
If you need some convincing, here are two words: "Ryan Giggs" Giggs' ability to be still playing Premier League football at the age of 40 should be irrefutable evidence of yoga's unlocked potential.
"Think of yoga as training for your flexibility and core - it should be doing both," says Sarah Ramsden, Giggs' teacher "All men - and especially those doing regular sport - need to keep their movement and suppleness. A regular yoga practice will lengthen muscles that have become short and tight, keep your shoulders, hips, knees and ankles moving fluidly and freely...your niggles and minor complaints should disappear; and you will be able to go on doing the sport you love for longer. What's not to like?"
A recent article in the Times of India reminds us "Till about 50 years back, yoga was mainly practiced by men and women were not encouraged to learn or practice it. Now, on the other hand, most yoga practitioners across the world are women!" In fact, a recent US study found that of 36.7 million US yoga practitioners, women represent 72% and men represent just 28%. This same study ( Ipsos for Yoga Alliance and Yoga Journal) found that people take up yoga practice to increase their flexibility, to find relief from stress and to improve their overall health and fitness. "86 percent of practitioners self-report having a strong sense of mental clarity, 73 percent report being physically strong, and 79 percent give back to their communities - all significantly higher rates than among non-practitioners." If yoga is so positively transforming, it can't be long before men come to see what all the fuss is about.
Actually, let there be no fuss! Research repeatedly shows that yoga practices can help a person regulate their stress and pain responses as well as help both anxiety and depression. Man or woman, let's be having some of that!