Many of us dudes have been there. Peeking through those glass doors, observing the mysticism that is a yoga class as we finish our last set of curls. Yoga for guys? Not a chance. A class full of side bending, head standing, lotus-posing girls is no place for me. How am I supposed to chest pump in there?
This perception of yoga as being a “female” modality of fitness focused on flexibility and even spirituality has kept even the most open male gym goers, including myself, from trying a class. I’m here to tell you why guys should practice yoga.I started to get tired of doing the same weight lifting routine day in and day out and needed something new to keep me interested and challenged. So, I decided I was going to dedicate myself to a weekly yoga practice for all of 2016. It’s October, and I’m still going strong – so let me share the 5 main things I’ve learned.
Yoga is not just for flexibility.
One of my goals for starting yoga was to become more flexible and mobile in my joints. I knew this would help prevent injury and since I already felt strong, flexibility was a good goal. Sounds great, but fast forward to 10 minutes into my first class: I’ve been holding downward facing dog for about 15 seconds and my shoulders are on fire.
Later, we do an inversion called crow where you balance only on your hands, and it takes me about a second before I fall on my face. Talk about a wakeup call. Yoga is incredibly effective in building strength and muscle – which makes yoga for guys an ideal fitness modality!
Within a month, I gained an unexpected amount of strength in my shoulders and after 6 months, I noticed my upper body was looking better than ever because my shoulders were bigger and my posture was better. That brings me to my second point.
Yoga helps build a better physique.
Typical weight lifting forces us into the same limited range of mobility patterns. This can be effective in building muscle, but many people become unbalanced in terms of where they build that muscle. That’s where yoga for guys comes in.
Body builders know that looking good is not only about size but also symmetry. Posture is probably the most important factor in building an impressive presence, not to mention it is one of the most neglected aspects of health in our society today. By learning how to roll the shoulders back and down, I promise you will look better and become stronger in your lifts.
Speaking of lifting, if you live for the adrenaline rush you get from adding a bunch of 45s onto the bar and lifting some heavy weight, let me tell you…
The “yoga high” is real and awesome.
Sounds weird, but you’re just going to have to trust me on this one. I still remember the first time I felt it: drenched in sweat in a 95 degree room, Fetty Wap blasting, and flowing through a series of warrior poses. It was 6 AM, and I left that studio like a man possessed.
The combination of deep rhythmic breathing, complete concentration, and prolonged strength that was needed to successfully complete the flow put me in a weird, trance-like state where I forgot all the stresses in my world and just honed in on the task at hand.
But let’s back up a little bit, it is absolutely true that yoga has the potential to make a profound impact on the way you view your own life and it teaches important life lessons just like the weight room will. It has impacted mine significantly but that takes time, and it’s different for every person. So let’s get back to the fun stuff.
Yoga lets you get upside down & create new challenges.
As a guy who thinks he’s strong, the most interesting part of yoga for me was, and still is, inversions. The amount of strength and mobility required to float into forearm stand or flying pigeon is incredible.
For people who need the constant challenge of improving lifts and getting stronger, figuring out how to balance upside down gave me that same satisfaction; much of it came from conquering something that seemed insurmountable when I first tried it.
The gym provides the opportunity to artificially create a challenging situation to overcome. Just think about that 5th set of heavy squats that you’re dreading doing but know you have to finish.
The last point I want to make is…
Yoga is hard.
Don’t be fooled by the people coming out of a class who talk about how great they feel. You’ll have those days, but you’ll also have days where you are completely spent. When you start practicing inversions, you will fall hundreds of times before you succeed for even 5 seconds.
If you’re like me, this is EXCITING. My one hour I have at the gym every day needs to leave me with the feeling of accomplishment. I want to know I left it all out there and improved myself. Yoga gives you this.
To recap, no I haven’t become a headband wearing yogi, walking around the street whispering Namaste to everyone, and I still love to lift heavy. But I have become stronger, more flexible, well rounded, and confident in my daily life. There is no doubt that I will continue to practice yoga past 2016, and I hope the next time you see a herd of yogis walking into a class, you go out on a limb and give one of the many types of classes a shot.
Post written by FFC West Loop Personal Trainer Paras Patel.
Paras Patel is an ACE certified personal trainer at FFC West Loop. He specializes in core training, functional, stability and balance, trigger point and athletic training, as well as TRX/bodyweight training and flexibility.
Want to follow along with his yoga trials and triumphs? Follow him on Instagram at @paraspatel31 or on Facebook at Paras Patel. Have questions or want to set up a free complimentary 60-minute session? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org!