Yoga, here’s how routine stretching and breathing can enhance your life, from relieving stress to injury prevention, by Joshua Berman of Men’s Fitness.
Yes, the obvious is true: Most yoga classes are attended by a majority of fit, flexible females in tight clothes. But, contrary to what you might think, it’s not just a sport for the ladies.
With yoga, you’ll hone your mental focus, rid your system of toxins, and maybe even boost your performance in the bedroom. You’ll even be able to touch your toes—improved flexibility is a bonus for just about every sport.
Yes, the real results of regular yoga practice are quite practical, and you don’t need any special equipment—just a few square feet of space and a mat. Here’s how that extra bit of stretching will not only enhance your other workouts, but also your life.
1. Relieve stress
We all find ways to deal with stress. But Terrence Monte, a managing teacher at Pure Yoga, says, “going to amped-up gyms or punching a punching bag can make you more aggressive or more tired.” Yoga, on the other hand, employs a number of relaxation techniques, which, with regular practice, can make you calmer overall. Sadie Nardini, host of Rock Your Yoga, adds, “Along with training your body, yoga trains your mind to see the bigger picture and act from integrity instead of freaking out. If you want to be more James Bond than Charlie Sheen, get yourself on the mat.” Being forced to unplug from texts, calls, and emails for 60 minutes doesn’t hurt either.
2. Get flexible
Most series of yoga asanas (physical postures) include one or more spinal twists to loosen the many joints that make up your spine. This can improve your tennis game and golf swing, as well as promote detoxification and good digestion. Yogi Cameron Alborizan, Ayurvedic healer, yoga guru, and author of The One Plan, says, “Think of the body as a sponge filled with dirty sink water. Gentle twists help to wring the sponge out and purge toxins.”
3. Sculpt muscles
Yoga uses the weight of your own body to build mass and strength. Don’t believe it? Think about how many clunky free weights it takes to bench press your bodyweight (150–200 lbs.) Yoga allows you to get the same muscle-building benefits by performing long, extended pushups, squats, and leg lifts. The results are well-worked muscle groups, which get stronger with each class.
4. Prevent workout injuries
Most classes begin with a reminder to honor your body’s particular needs and limits on that particular day. This basic ability to scan and assess yourself as you practice will help reduce injuries when running or playing other sports. Plus, flexible, well-stretched yoga muscles will heal and recover more quickly after working out or getting strained.
5. Push your limits
There are many types of yoga classes, some gentler than others. But when you find the class that matches—and pushes—your abilities? “Watch out!” says Nardini. “With long holds and often continual movements, you’ll amp up cardio at the same time you’re building whole-body lean muscle mass. Find a class with ‘power,’ ‘vinyasa,’ or ‘flow’ in the title, and you can skip the gym that day.”
6. Calm your mind
In the midst of a jam-packed schedule, committing to the relaxed space of a yoga class might be the only way for some guys to slow down and breathe right. Scott Rodwin, founder of Radiance Yoga, explains that breathing exercises, called pranayama, have been developed over thousands of years to calm and tame that endless stream of thoughts. This, he says, leads to greater concentration as you work your way through each pose—and, in most cases, a calmness that lasts the rest of the day.
7. Smell better
Seriously. Michael Hewitt, founder of Sarva Yoga Academy says yoga is very much about waste removal. “Pheremonally, regular practice is more effective than cologne,” he says. Exhaling and sweating help get rid of toxins during class, so that, afterward, your sweat really will smell sweeter. “After a class,” says Hewett, “[your body is] cleaner, more confident, and focused than when you walked in.”
8. Set goals
Most teachers ask you to set an intention for that particular session or in some other part of your life. This simple act saying something in your head like, “I’ll be easier on myself for one hour,” can have far-reaching effects. “We all know how to get what we want,” says Monte, “but many of us struggle with knowing what we want. Yoga can help that question become more real, tangible, and accessible in everyday life.”