Why You Should Do Yoga – Whatever Your Fitness Goals
Illustration by Mr Joe McKendry
Everything you need to know about the mind, body and soul practice, and how it makes more sense for men than you think.
Whether you’re already a seven-days-a-week fitness fanatic, or the more… laidback sort who’s made a personal promise to vaguely improve your wellbeing in the coming months, spending time on the yoga mat can help you with your goals. Yoga is the all-over, all-encompassing, all-welcome workout with almost limitless physical and mental benefits – but many men are seemingly still wary of it, perhaps concerned the clichés (Lycra, eye-watering flexibility, spiritual philosophy) are not for them. But if you’re unsure, remember this. On your own or in a class, you become a “yogi” the minute you move into your first ever posture. It’s that simple. And it just gets better after that. There’s a style for everyone, from fierce power Vinyasa to the sloth-slow mindfulness-exercise yoga nidra. Read on for the reasons why it can benefit you.
It’s a workout for mind as well as body
The whole world could do with a bit more peace and love in 2017, it’s true, and yoga allows you the space to collect your thoughts, de-stress, clear your head and give yourself something back. Its principles can help you focus when you need it, and enable you to turn off and sleep when you don’t. “The first thing yoga teaches us is to breathe, in all aspects of our lives, not just on the mat, or in our workouts,” says Mr Michael James Wong, founder of the Boys of Yoga global collective. “There are many challenges in the real world where a deep breath and a calm attitude benefits all men.”
It is especially appropriate for men
“We have a tendency to put huge amounts of pressure on ourselves, to achieve, to grow, to reach targets,” says Mr Paul Wong. He’s a teacher and a co-founder of Mudra, a studio in Stoke Newington, north London, where he runs a bi-monthly class just for men. “But yoga gives us space to step back, rather than living in a constant state of doing.” What’s more, science suggests women tend to be more naturally flexible than men, but Mr Wong says yoga is a way to redress that. “The amount of men I encounter with tight shoulders, back pain, neck strain, is quite staggering – but we do have the option to feel better. Most of these issues have come through a lack of stretching, strength or general neglect.”
It can improve your performance in other sports
Yoga is low impact and high energy. Regular practice brings strength, flexibility, agility, balance and stamina. It creates a rock-solid core and lithe, lean limbs. It famously kept Mr Ryan Giggs playing Premier League football until the age of 40, and Mr Lance Armstrong was a great believer, too. Maybe it was yoga (rather than the “other stuff”) that propelled him to seven Tour de France victories? “If you cycle, for example,” says Mr Michael James Wong, “yoga helps to open the hip flexors and lengthen the hamstrings. If you do heavy lifting or high-impact training, yoga helps release tension and tightness, and rebuild muscles.”
No one’s judging you
Yoga is a practice without winners or losers, without judgment, without prejudice. You’re unlikely to ever see it at the Olympics, for example. It can be refreshing to know that you’re doing something where no one is in competition with anyone. And there are classes to support any level of skill and experience. So, if you’re closer to taking the plunge, consider Mr Paul Wong’s advice. “Just accept where you’re at and approach it with an open mind. Things don’t happen overnight, but enjoy the journey and be intrigued by doing something new.”
EVERYTHING YOU NEED
To get inspired, take a look at the below video we made with Equinox, where a once-sceptical yogi demonstrates how to improve your flexibility.