A Male Perspective on Yoga

Yoga MenOver the past 2 weeks, I’ve had a free 14-day pass to David Lloyd Gyms. Wanting to take as much advantage as possible, I’ve tried  as many new activities as possible. One of these was hot yoga! Following my session, I mentioned to friends that I’d been to yoga and there were a few raised eyebrows and jokes about “how I’d changed”. They were obviously joking because I am such a rough tough fella!

But there are some misconceptions about yoga –

  1. It’s for girls!
  2. It’s easy and not real exercise!

The yoga I did through David Lloyd was Fierce Grace. This consists of six different but interconnected classes rather than just the one. The intention is to give something to people of all abilities, ages, body types, needs and moods. This includes welcoming older, stiffer or injured people. Just the job, then!

My reasons for trying yoga were to take a look at these misconceptions and also see how it would improve my flexibility to help my running. This is one of the reasons for the increasing popularity of yoga. The benefits of stretching to improve mobility and avoiding injury are now common knowledge. The same is true for improving your core strength which is now essential for just about any activity involving strength and/or endurance.

It’s for girls!

There is no doubt that more females participate in yoga. In my class of around 25, there were 5 guys. I suspect a couple of years ago there would have been 1, 2 or even zero males in a class.

Yoga is becoming more popular with men. We’re now allowed to embrace our metrosexual side. If someone put a photo of David Beckham on a billboard doing yoga (he apparently does have a yoga practice), I’m sure the worlds yoga studios would be inundated with men.

Now there’s even yoga aimed at men. Have you heard of Broga? (Girls are allowed to go too!)

So, it seems it’s not just for girls and more men are trying it and should give it a go.

It’s easy and not real exercise!

It was hard, not crazy hard, but hard. I got through two 90 min sessions on Saturday and Sunday. I was tired following both and could have easily called it a day half way through the second one as I was feeling it. It did show up a number of weaknesses. Just holding my arms above my head for an extended period of time had my shoulders aching. (Yep, very weak in the shoulders!).

I thought I was flexible but following the two classes, I now known I’m only flexible in my hamstrings, (where I tend to focus my stretching) and pretty much nowhere else. Just a pronounced side bend held for 10-15 seconds with my hands clasped above my head had me wincing.

The Eagle pose (Garudasana) and then bending and twisting to look at the ceiling showed the lack of mobility in my hips and tension in my back. Pounding the pavements and parks of London (with the lack of stretching) and sitting at a desk all day has seized me up.

Yoga_Eagle
The Eagle pose (Garudasana) Credit – Ben Fullerton

There were a few tricky poses (that men are not built for!). I would end up dropping my pose and look around to see a number of men standing around looking blankly at each other. It’s also really hard to hold on to body parts when they are covered in sweat!

One thing that came as a bit of a surprise was, I’m not too bad at  balancing. Normally I am horrendous at this, but when you are calm and focused, standing on one leg is not too difficult. I had the odd wobble, but nothing too bad.

It definitely felt like a workout. This was hot yoga (it wasn’t super-hot) and my t-shirt and shorts were soaked through with sweat by the end of the class. There is the male belief that you have to thrash yourself every time and crawl home. But this is the antithesis of that. I left feeling refreshed. I felt some tightness in shoulders and glutes over the following days but conversely also felt lighter and more mobile.

After Yoga
After my Yoga class! Got to work on the selfies!
Further thoughts

Some knowledge I’ll take away for the classes is not to fight the stretch. You think you have to grimace and tightened all your other muscles as you stretch. It’s much more pleasurable to relax into the stretch and breathe calmly. You get the same benefit and one is much more pleasant.

I have posted about my back problems before. There is a lot of focus within Yoga on the mobility of the back and spine. I felt a number of the exercises stretching these muscles and Yoga is a good way to maintain a healthy back.

The sessions highlighted that neglecting to stretch after exercise is all too easy and there is a price to pay. Improving the flexibility and mobility in my hips and glutes will complement my running and help prevent injury. There are also the benefits of improved core strength.

Yoga is also a good activity to do with your partner, so guys it’s worth giving some thought to trying it out if your partner knows her grasshopper pose from her cobra pose!

If I can break it down – it’s just a really good way to spend 60-90 mins focusing on stretching and core work (as opposed to 5 minutes rushing it after a run). That’s something everyone could do with a bit of! There’s also a calming and relaxing aspect to yoga that in this hectic, fast-paced modern world that can really help.

If you are thinking of giving it a go and maybe getting a mat. Take a look at this breakdown of the best yoga mats from Reviews.com.

Any guys out there tried Yoga? How did you find it?

What are the benefits any girls out there have found from Yoga?

Free 14-day passes to David Lloyd Gyms are available to anyone if you already know a member.

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