"All you flexible people should go bang some iron and all you big weightlifters should go do some yoga." Laird Hamilton, big-wave surfer
Every time I describe Yoga 15 to a guy, his immediate response is, “You made that for me!” That's not to say that women don’t love the videos too, it’s just that in my opinion men need yoga for totally different reasons. Here are 5 of them, alongside testimonials from Yoga 15 students.
1. Men are less flexible than women
“As a bigger guy who focuses on Olympic Lifting and CrossFit, I have got tighter in areas then I would like. Your routines have helped my flexibility which has improved my sports, and I have no more aches and pains.” (Gregory Sullivan)
Generally speaking, men are less flexible than women. We are all born equally supple but from adolescence, guys start to tighten up. There are some physiological reasons for this, including skeletal structure (narrower pelvis and broader shoulders), tissue composition and distribution, hormonal profile (higher testosterone and lower oestrogen) and child-bearing considerations. However, since men can be as flexible as women, there are some lifestyle factors that may be even more significant:
- Men gravitate to competitive sports that are hard on their bodies.
- Men sustain more injuries.
- Men focus on lifting weights/building strength which shortens muscle fibres.
- Men tend to neglect active recovery practices including yoga, stretching, massage, breathing techniques, meditation, saunas etc.
Fortunately, guys are starting to realise that unless they consistently incorporate stretching and mobility exercises into their training, they'll become less and less flexible over time.
Yoga for Flexibility
Yoga is one of the most effective ways to increase flexibility. It combines static and dynamic stretching of muscles throughout the entire body, integrating backbends, forward bends, side-bends, twists and hip openers. One of the primary advantages of yoga over traditional stretching is that the routines are designed so that you hit one group of muscles from many different angles. For instance, in a hip opening sequence you might progress from downward dog split, to low lunge, lizard and then pigeon, stretching out the hip flexors, glutes, piriformis quads, hamstrings and adductors.
Here are some of the benefits you should you expect to see when you incorporate 3-5 short yoga sessions a week into your training program:
- Relief from the discomfort of tight muscles.
- Increased range of motion.
- Supple joints.
- Greater movement efficiency.
- Reduced susceptibility to injury.
- Faster recovery after exercise.
2. Men suffer more sport-related aches, pains and injuries
“Your routines finally got me to start doing yoga which I should have been doing for almost 20 yrs (I’m 36). I played every sport and got into heavy weightlifting. I hurt my back at a young age (among many other soft tissue injuries/ruptures) and now I feel like I’m stiffening up everyday with ‘life’. I can’t believe how inflexible my hips are! I’ve just started following your routines and it’s amazing the release and energy my body feels.” (Justin Cook)
Men are typically pretty competitive and as a result choose sports that are incredibly taxing on their bodies. Whether that’s an explosive game like football or tennis, long-distance events like triathlon and Ironman, an extreme sport like downhill mountain biking or skiing, a muscle-building discipline like CrossFit or a martial art. These high-intensity activities are not a problem until you reach your twenties when the cracks start to appear and you feel old before your time. And when you combine your passion with long hours sitting in front of a computer, the inevitable consequences are pain, especially at the lower back, tight muscles and increased susceptibility to injury.
Yoga for Pain Relief
Yoga can be an incredibly effective antidote to the weekend warrior lifestyle. Every sport creates its own specific set of muscular imbalances. For example, cyclists suffer from lower back pain, tight hips and hamstrings, rounded upper back and shoulders, and weak glutes and core. You can start to correct these patterns with specifically designed yoga routines that combine poses for flexibility, strength, mobility and balance to keep you feeling agile and pain-free.
3. Yoga increases longevity in your sport/passion
“For the first time in years I don't wake up with a bad back. It's great. After three weeks of twice a week I'm starting to feel a huge improvement in my hips. I'm really enjoying the routine and feel a lot healthier.” (Rik Allsop)
Yoga was developed in India around 2000 years ago by men for men to prepare their bodies for long, uncomfortable meditation sessions. Yoga, especially in the West, has evolved considerably over the last 2 millennia but in some ways it still serves a version of its original purpose. Whereas the ultimate goal used to be spiritual enlightenment, it can now be used as a tool to reach peak physical and mental performance.
Yoga to Stay Young
In the last few years yoga has become increasingly popular with high-profile, male professional athletes including LeBron James, Ma’a Nonu, Andy Murray and Ryan Giggs – who famously credits yoga for the unprecedented length of his football career. One of the reasons cited most commonly by these athletes is that yoga bulletproofs your body against injury or at the very least, reduces the risk. This is due to increased flexibility and suppleness, improved range of motion, reduced muscle imbalances, enhanced balance and proprioception and better postural alignment. Essentially yoga allows you to go on practicing the sport you love at the highest level for longer.
4. Yoga improves athletic performance
“I have always known that stretching is good for muscles and preventing injury but never thought to use it as part of my training routine. Your routines and vids are brilliant, hard work and yet relaxing. I am now an avid follower. Fantastic. Given that yoga is seen as peaceful and calming, the benefits gained in sports that are aggressive, powerful and dynamic is quite an eye opener.” (Mark Geard)
Here are some additional ways that yoga contributes to improved physical and mental performance:
- Yoga builds strength in the core stabiliser muscles in the abs, obliques, lower back and pelvis.
- Yoga improves body awareness, coordination and neuromuscular communication.
- Yoga enhances agility, speed and power through enhanced movement precision.
- Yoga improves balance and proprioception.
- Yoga enhances focus, concentration and alertness.
- Yoga increases breath efficiency.
- Yoga improves poor posture.
- Yoga builds self-discipline.
- Yoga pushes you outside your comfort zone.
- Yoga aids in athletic recovery.
5. Men are not very good at relaxing
“I'm a mid-40s, stupidly busy mountain biker with rotten flexibility and a low tolerance for time-wasting bullcrap. Your entire 15-minute series comes with me via Vimeo everywhere I travel for work. Your practices are simple and effective and even after just a few weeks of doing a session three or four times a week (both on the road and at home), I feel noticeably more relaxed, calmer and less prone to aches and pains. I can't recommend this stuff enough.” (Tim Robson)
Actually, I'm terrible at relaxing so this is by no means exclusively a guy thing, but men don’t generally take themselves off for spa days, book into a meditation retreat, run themselves a hot bath or spend the afternoon reading a good novel. They typically need a structure to relax within and a yoga session can provide that. It can give you a complete break from all your habitual daily activities. You can’t work, solve problems, answer email, check your likes, multitask or be anywhere else. It is impossible not to just focus on yourself. And yoga doesn’t amp you up or tire you out like going to the gym. It can be a mini sanctuary within your day that is profoundly regenerating.
Yoga is the perfect complement to an active lifestyle. If practiced regularly, you can look forward to relief from aches and pains, a strong and supple body and a mind that is calm and clear. Essentially, yoga makes everything else in your life better!
If you're looking to for a way to get started, you can find details of how to subscribe to the Yoga 15 series here: