For whatever reason, yoga still remains stigmatised among a large majority of male athletes, despite centuries of research into its benefits to athletic performance, physical conditioning, and mental clarity, men shy away from the practice leaving it to the fairer sex.
Whether you put it down to activewear marketing from global super-brands, or the modern perception of what constitutes a "male" workout, yoga has been shunned by men (even rebranding to "broga" couldn't really do the trick). Yet yoga remains the secret to performance for many of the world's top athletes: Kelly Slater, Lebron James, and the New Zealand All Blacks.
In our continual mission to blow your mind, we went to the experts to bust some common myths about the ancient practice, and hopefully broaden your workout horizons.
MYTH #1: YOGA IS ONLY FOR HIPPIES
There is a common misconception that anyone who dips their toe in the yoga pool has to quit their job, live in their van, and head to the closest crystal shop.
"Life can’t be all wheat grass shots and spiritual sayings," explains Andrew Hampson, co-founder of Bad Yogi Retreats. Hampson has built a business around balance when it comes to meditation and yoga, making it an achievable concept to those who have been hesitant to join the "yoga cult". "I think achieving balance in all aspects of life is pretty much everyones end goal - when one part of your body (or life) is seriously out of whack it has a negative knock on effect to everything else." Finding your tribe is crucial if you're scared of falling too deep and maintaining a balance when it comes to your training (yes, yoga is training), however "Bad Yogis" like Andrew do exist, balancing a realistic life with the age old practice. "Why not enjoy a glass of red at the end of the day and have a good laugh with friends?!"
MYTH #2: YOGA IS EXTREMELY TIME CONSUMING
Time is money, and giving up an hour during your day for a workout is precious so we understand that you want to maximise your time. Andrew is also realistic about the time taken to get in a yoga workout.
"Yoga doesn’t have to be going into a 60 minute class. It can be 5 minutes of stretching into your hamstrings or releasing your hip flexors or rolling out your shoulders. By approaching it with this mentality you can practice everyday - even if its just for 5 or 10 or 15 minutes." This approach makes yoga an extremely achievable cog in the training wheel, adding in the perfect supplementation to your traditional weights and cardio.
By adding up these small 'bursts' of yoga, improvements in flexibility and strength will be evident, however as with any training, the more you practice, the greater your ability.
MYTH #3: THERE IS NO COMPETITION OR INTENSITY
"I think the main barrier that still exists for guys getting into yoga is ego. No one likes putting themselves in a situation where they are going to be the dude who can't touch his toes, or balance on one leg," explains Andrew. Overcoming this in itself is its own competition. However most men only feel like they've had a true workout if they're sweating, out of breath, and waste an hour pea-cocking around the gym. These are guys that obviously haven't tried yoga. Yoga requires a full body strength that isolation movements simply cannot achieve on their own.
"You can really take your body to its physical edge in a way that no other form of movement can. You're aren't wearing out your hips or knee's like runners do, or locking up your pelvis like enthusiastic cyclists or tightening and locking up your body like the gym junkies."
As with any aspect of training, it's also import to look at yoga's place in your overall program and working towards your end goal. After all, you are never going to enter the bicep curl world championship, yet it's still included as a staple in gym based training due to it's overflow effects. The same needs to be recognised for yoga.
MYTH #4: YOGA IS ONLY GOOD FOR FLEXIBILITY
While this is definitely fact, the benefits of yoga flow way past flexibility. Core strength, joint health, and muscular endurance all increase when committing to regular sessions on the mat. It's no wonder yoga is quickly becoming a complimentary workout for professional athletes from ironmen to international footy players. An the list of benefits continues:
- Yoga aids in weight loss according to the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, with an increase in digestion and a decrease in food cravings.
- Increased brain function, and lets face it, we all need more smarts.
- According to PLoSOne, yoga can increase immunity through changed gene expression, so effectively that it occurs while you're on the mat.
If these benefits still don't get you hooked, the Journal of Sexual Medicine has also acknowledged the role of yoga in hotter sex. Put this down to increased flexibility, decreased body anxiety, and an increase in the hormone that stimulates arousal in the genitals.
You can join Andrew for his Bad Yogi retreats and learn more about realistic yoga practices for men.