Keep your mind at ease: How yoga benefits men
Your authentic self is vibrant and beautiful. Let no one tell you otherwise. Not even yourself.Sometimes, we have to battle negative feedback from people around us; it’s inevitable, people will talk. Either you’ll receive encouragement or be hit with cruel intentions. People’s opinions can be managed, to some extent, but how harmful is self-imposed negative talk?
Try to recall a recent conversation with a friend or family member. Within that 10-minute chat, how many times did you say or receive something negative? Better yet, think about the last time you described yourself or how you use to be back in the day. There are times when you ought to be kind to yourself, but for some strange reason you blurt out harmful statements and chuckle as if you’re joking. Words are powerful, and what we think and say out loud have rippling effects on your overall well-being.
I’m bringing up the topic of a healthy mind because of two conversations I recently had. I worked with two yoga clients for the first time. Both were men. Steve* is in his late 30s, while John* is in his early 50s. Within the first 5 minutes of our session, Steve told me that he doesn’t have time to exercise because he has to earn money to take care of his responsibilities.
The pain in his lower back increases as the size of his belly increases, but he ignores it for the sake of earning money. As he described how he feels on a daily basis, he made jokes about his size. The jokes persisted to the point of self-loathing. It’s quite clear that Steve wasn’t happy with his physical appearance – he unveiled his feelings that hid underneath verbal jabs. How could anyone be so mean to themselves? Does Steve not realize his thoughts are close to his ears and that his body hears what he is thinking?
I asked what will happen if he pushes himself to the point of collapsing; what will become of his responsibilities if he is ill and unable to walk properly? Steve let out a loud sigh and indicated that he never considered such repercussions. He had an ah-ha moment, followed by an urge to pay more attention to his overall health, most notably his verbal communication to self.
For years he neglected his health and was finally confronted with a reality – health is wealth. Our 60-minute yoga session included a mild warm up, basic yoga postures and techniques to ease the mind to a relax state. Steve now practices yoga three times a week and registered for swimming lessons – very exciting.
According to the Journal of Alternative Medicine, overweight men who practiced yoga and breathing exercises daily lost an average of 4 pounds in only 10 days. Deep abdominal breathing is a major part of yoga, and according to Men’s Fitness, it activates the parasympathetic nervous system and lowers levels of cortisol, a hormone that forces your body to hold on to belly fat.
My second client, John, has a different kind of lifestyle. He exercises periodically with his wife, but never tried yoga. In his opinion, yoga is simple stretching and not really a means to improve health. I was quite pleased to hear the conviction in John’s voice as he declared his understanding of yoga – “it’s easy stretching.”
Unbeknownst to John, he was in for a surprise. By the time we completed our warm up, John was sweating profusely. In certain poses, John’s body was wobbling, his mind was calm, fixated on connecting with the body, but yet troubled with knowing “simple stretching” was challenging his capabilities. Although John enjoyed the discovery of his mind-body connection, he found it difficult to accept how and why certain muscles were awakening.
When we fail to make use of a particular part of our body, it goes to sleep and signals us through discomfort and pain, that it needs to be awakened. The body is making us aware that dormant muscles have been activated. Yoga helps to restore balance and awareness, while increasing strength and flexibility for the entire body.
Yoga is more than just warm up stretching, it’s a life-enhancing experience. While yoga is good for everybody, here are some specific benefits and reasons why men should practice yoga:
Professional athletes practice yoga, including several Arsenal and Chelsea players, because it helps to keep them agile and focused during a game. Yoga also helps ease soreness after each game. LeBron James practices yoga, and he was recently named America’s favorite athlete. Athletes recognize the importance of being flexible and strong – mentally, emotionally and physically. You should too.
Yoga improves your performance and helps to prevent injury. With the increased strength, flexibility, and stamina gained from yoga, you’ll be equipped for success in other physical activities, such as cycling, running, swimming, squash, weight lifting and football.
Yoga reduces stress and helps you sleep better. Certain yoga poses help some people get a better night’s rest and provide stress relief. Given the urge to move swiftly in today’s fast paced culture, encouragement to slow down and concentrate should be a welcomed restorative practice. Besides, when you’re at ease, you’re better positioned to make thoughtful decisions.
Yoga can improve sexual performance and increase libido. Improved sexual performance and increased libido have been linked to regular yoga practice. According to a 2010 study, yoga was shown to improve sexual functions and sexual disorders in men. The breathing techniques and concentration taught in yoga can help men better channel their sexual energy and connect with their partner in a more responsive manner. The overall health of your relationship will improve due to the heightened awareness you experience through consistent yoga practice.
Yoga helps to relieve lower back pain. Yoga can provide tremendous relief to people suffering from chronic back pain, especially for men who sit at an office job all day. It’s an excellent way to combat the pain and misalignment associated with prolonged sitting. Yoga will also help improve your posture.
There are several more benefits to yoga practice. Recognition of how you speak to yourself and your ability to ease your mind from stress are definite by-products worth discovering for yourself.
To experience these benefits, plus more, check out one of my yoga classes at Bodyline Fitness and Gym in Ikoyi or ProFlex Gym in Victoria Island. I look forward to meeting you and hearing about your experience practicing yoga.
Peace surrounds you. Namaste.
*names have been altered to protect the identity of my clients.