Using yoga as a method for working out is not often the first choice among men when the same time could be spent lifting weights in a gym, hitting a long bike ride, running, or any number of other physical activities….which are not yoga.
Some common misconceptions about practicing yoga are that the practice is primarily for women, that yoga nothing more than stretching (awesome), and the exercises are too easy. Any modern man who has tried yoga at home or taken a yoga class will likely tell you a very different story as yoga is a very demanding workout which combines strength training with flexibility, and is gaining popularity among men.
Yoga has many similarities to other forms of exercise such as getting the heart rate and sweat levels cranking, working of the core and major muscle groups, and improving various aspects of your health. However, yoga also requires a slightly different mindset than other types of exercise. Here are some general tips for the modern man who has interest in trying yoga or incorporating a yoga practice into their workout regimen
1. Yoga is not a competition
Most sport-based training and exercise programs have an inherent element of competition, especially in group or team based activities. The idea of competition must be abandoned when practicing yoga as you are not in competition with anyone and there are no established standards which will identify you as being better or the best in the room. Additionally trying to compete with others during yoga can be frustrating and detract from your workout as most classes will contain men and women with varying levels of ability who may be more flexible and who are able to do the more difficult poses.
2. Be present and stay focused on yourself
Yoga will help engage your mind and your body throughout the workout, which is why it is important to focus on what you yourself are doing and to be present with each motion so you can gain the full benefit of each pose. Almost every yoga studio will have full wall mirror which can be utilized to keep your focus yourself and become familiar with the look of the various poses. Also, by maintaining your focus you be able to better balance yourself and discover your personal progress as you continue your practice over time.
3. Remember to breathe
This is one of the most important points; you must remember to breathe during a yoga workout. The idea of breathing seems intuitive, however, when caught in a difficult pose or dealing with inflexibility there is a tendency to hold ones breath as a way to maintain until the pose is over. Holding your breath will only exhaust your body and cause you to burn out before the practice is over. Most yoga instructors will spend a few minutes discussing the purpose and importance of breathing at the start of a class, so pay attention and try to maintain constant breathing with each movement.
Not only will proper breathing enhance your workout by increasing your blood flow and energizing your body, it will also supply a constant flow of oxygen to your brain which will help maintain your focus. Don’t get competitive or try to push through when your body begins to feel taxed or muscles start to shake, instead try slow and deep inward breaths and focus on maintaining the pose.
4. Know your limits
As you begin to get comfortable and understand the flow of the workout be sure to listen to your body and know your own personal limits. Your muscle flexibility will begin to expand, even if it is your first class, however, it is important not to push your body beyond what is comfortable or your typical range of motion as this could lead to injury or muscle strain. You may soar through your first yoga class and feel that it was easy only to discover your muscles to be slightly stiff or even sore the next day after the exertion. Knowing your limits and not over exerting yourself in your yoga practice will greatly facilitate how you feel after the workout.
Yoga is an excellent workout for men to get their heart rate up, increase body core and muscle strength, and increase flexibility which can lead to improvements within other aspects of your daily life. Practice and patience is key, and the above mentioned beginner tips should help most modern men with getting started in practicing yoga.