Most men think a workout includes a set of heavy barbells, but there several good reasons for them to join the seas of Lululemon pants and ponytails in a local yoga class.
Less than one in five people in any given yoga class in the United States is male, according to Yoga Journal's Yoga in America 2012 survey. [Source: Yoga Journal]
Men's reasons for not coming to the mat include inflexibility, intimidation, or a preference for faster, more competitive, or more traditionally guy-centric sports. But if they gave it a try, these yoga-averse men might find that they can benefit from a regular practice in lots of ways; in fact, (don't tell their friends,) they might even enjoy it!
The benefits of yoga for men are, really, the same as the benefits for women: increased flexibility and strength, stress relief, and a sculpted core, to name a few. But because men are built differently -- and think differently -- than women, they may approach the practice for largely different reasons.
"I think a lot of men conceive yoga practice as easy," says Laura Burkhart, a yoga instructor in San Francisco. "They think we just sit and meditate. But once they come to a class, they actually find that it's more challenging than they expected and that it really does make them feel good."
Unlike other workouts that may target specific body parts, yoga is a full-body workout, strengthening and stretching nearly every muscle in your body. And for men that enjoy other sports, yoga can prevent muscle soreness, improve focus and boost energy. No wonder professional athletes like LeBron James and Ray Lewis and even entire professional sports teams have been perfecting their practice.
Another big benefit of yoga, for both sexes, is the fact that it can help prevent injury in other sports. "If men do other activities, like baseball, running, cycling, weight-lifting, they've probably got tight hamstrings, tight hips, you name it," Burkhart adds. "They'll find that yoga can help them stretch out those areas so that they're better prepared and less likely to hurt themselves later on."
Yoga pro Baron Baptiste agrees that men tend to suffer from tightness in the hips and hamstrings, and in the shoulders and intercostal muscles around the rib cage, as well. And even men who strength train often miss hard-to-tone muscles, like the lower back and knees. [Source: Greenfield] Yoga can help address these areas, either on its own or as a compliment to any training routine.