By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
A regular practice of Yoga training can support and enhance a man’s physical and emotional health, while bringing about a state of well-being. On a physical level, the asanas or physical postures of Yoga help to prevent injury by increasing flexibility, strength, endurance, and balance. The practice of pranayama, or Yogic breathing exercises, is also very beneficial for a man’s health. Pranayama exercises calm and soothe an over-active nervous system, thereby lowering elevated cortisol and adrenalin levels. As the nervous system is calmed, blood pressure is lowered and cardiac health is improved. Additionally, practicing restorative Yoga poses will allow a man to release long-held muscular and emotional tension, stress, and anxiety.
On a physical level, a regular practice of Yoga asanas will benefit a man by increasing his sense of balance and strength, while enhancing his level of flexibility. Quite often, pain from repetitive stress injuries, and other injuries related to competitive sports, may be reduced by a regular Yoga practice. For example, if a man has a strained tennis elbow, poses, such as Downward Facing Dog, may help to re-balance, strengthen and stretch the ligaments that are frequently strained playing tennis. A balanced, vigorous practice of Yoga poses will help to stabilize a man’s core muscles, stretch overly-taught areas of his body, and help to strengthen weaker muscles groups. All of these benefits will help to prevent, and heal injuries, from other physical activities such as golf, tennis, football, and rugby.
Another set of very important benefits for men, of a regular practice of asanas and pranayama techniques, are lower stress levels and improved cardiac health. Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death of men in the United States. Many men juggle different tasks, as they work at becoming successful in their careers, raise a family, attend to aging parents, and so on. All of these responsibilities can potentially cause a tremendous amount of stress, tension, and anxiety. Practicing asanas, with calming breathing exercises, consistently, will help a man to relax, unwind, and release tension – both physically and emotionally. As the nervous system calms, blood pressure will drop, and the stress on a man’s heart will be eased, leading to improved cardiac health.
The often overlooked practice of restorative Yoga poses also offers men great health benefits – both physically and emotionally. Restorative postures are different and passive in nature, in comparison to the strenuous exercises that many men participate in. Practicing restorative asanas gives a man the option to let go, slow down, and gently release the driven masculine energy of doing and achieving that which we value so highly in our culture.
In allowing him to receive the poses, instead of “doing” the poses, a man will be able to release, rest, and rejuvenate his body, mind, and spirit. Outside of India, Yoga for men’s health is a new concept, but medical and scientific studies are breaking new ground with results, which reveal that a Yogic lifestyle yields many benefits for both genders. Yoga schools should consider the option of tailoring a few classes per week for male participation. Whether the Yoga instructors teach power, partner, or restorative Yoga does not matter. The point is to get them in the door long enough to try a Yoga class. In some cases, Yoga studios could double their number of participants.
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