What do Matthew McConaughey, Sting, and Paul McCartney have in common?
They all practice yoga.
Yet while these celebs clearly see the health benefits of yoga, research suggests only 28% of men are regular practitioners.
The discrepancy between the numbers of male and female practitioners may well be down to clever marketing. Yoga in the West is typically directed at flexible 20-something, creating the mistaken belief that yoga is not simply for men.
This #menshealthweek have a read of all that men have to gain from getting on the mat
Yoga has long been recognised for its mental health benefits, particularly when it comes to reducing levels of stress, anxiety and depression.
While mental health issues affect all genders, a recent wellbeing survey found that men reported lower levels of life satisfaction than women, a trend that is clearly reflected in the increasing rates of male suicide. Yoga may not be the cure, but it most certainly can help to overcome difficult emotions, relieve stress and anxiety, and indeed improve quality of life among regular practitioners.
For the more sporty among us, yoga is also a powerful tool for performance and recovery. Just ask New Zealand’s rugby team, who regularly practice yoga to aid their recovery after matches, improve player flexibility and increase mental toughness.
Post-workout, gentle stretching and focused breathing do wonders for cooling the body down and initiating the process of recovery. But yoga is not all about improved flexibility and relaxation. Yoga can be tough! Holding yoga poses such as plank and squat work muscles that are required to power other sporting activities, whereas balancing poses serve to raise physical awareness which in turn improves training efficiency.
Sporting success is as much about the mental as the physical. 23-time gold medal winner, Michael Phelps, attributes his success to visualizations, the process of mentally rehearsing achieving your goals. For those of us preparing for races, championships or matches, mindfulness exercises and meditation are key to focus and mental resilience.
Research suggests that men tend to sleep less than women, the potential health risks of which include heart disease, diabetes, chronic stress and obesity. This is where yoga can help.
Some styles of yoga have been linked to improved sleep quality; yin yoga, restorative and yoga Nidra are all more gentle practices that prepare the body and mind for rest.
While less physical in nature, such yogic practices require immense focus on the breath, forcing the practitioner’s attention to the present moment. This, in turn, evades distracting thoughts that may prevent or put off sleep. It is the deeply therapeutic nature of focusing on every exhale and inhale of the breath that has led over 55% of practitioners to claim yoga helped them get a better night’s sleep.
It goes without saying, that to ensure you get the most out of your practice (whatever your gender), be sure to choose a qualified, fully trained yoga teacher. We have plenty for you to choose from!