In today’s female-dominated world of yoga, it may seem hard to believe that yoga was originally a practice exclusively for men. But it’s true. Since its inception around 2500BC, yoga was the realm of men. No women allowed.
Yoga continued that way until around 1937, when a very determined Russian woman named Eugenie Peterson, with the help of personal connections with Indian royalty, persuaded legendary yoga master Krishnamacharya to take her on as the first female, and the first westerner, to study yoga. She devoted her life to yoga, changing her name to Indra Devi along the way, and is now remembered as ‘the first lady of yoga’.
Fast forward just 80 years from yoga’s first female student to be allowed in a room of males, and in many yoga studios the situation looks to have completely reversed. But there are many reasons why Kiwi blokes should get on the mat and embrace this powerful practice.
So boys, aside from the obvious – that yoga was originally created by men for men, here are some other reasons why men should practice yoga.
1. You do NOT need to be flexible to do yoga: Before you offer up the number one excuse for not doing yoga… please don’t tell me you are not flexible enough to give it a go. Saying you are too inflexible to do yoga is like saying you are too dirty to take a bath. Yoga is an individual practice for each individual body. It’s not a competition and there is no minimum requirement to start. You can do yoga. With a little dedication you will soon make progress and enjoy the benefits of a stronger and more flexible body and mind.
2. Increased flexibility can reduce your chance of injury: Limited flexibility can lead to both chronic and acute injuries. Over time, sports (and daily life in general) can gradually take your body out of healthy balance and alignment, setting you up for injury. Muscles that aren’t stretched regularly will have very little capacity to accommodate extra movement or force, such as a sudden impact in a contact sport, leaving you susceptible to acute injuries.
3. Better range of motion for your supports and daily life: When you can move freely and comfortably, you can perform better in your sport, as well as in daily activities. This will give you greater enjoyment from a range of activities (especially as your body ages). Yoga helps keep your body younger for longer.
4. Improve back pain: Your modern lifestyle can exacerbate back pain in a number of ways. Spending long periods sitting (at work, or during armchair sports sessions) is bad for your back. Active sports such as running, cycling and many others can also add to strain on your back by shortening up your hip flexors, quads and hamstrings. Yoga stretches you out in all directions and can do wonders for not just back pain, but anywhere you get tightness and aches from your daily activities.
5. Yoga builds strength: Yoga is not all about flexibility. It also requires a good deal of strength. Yoga promotes holistic strength throughout your body, including the smaller muscles that support your larger one, including your core muscles and joint stabilisers.
6. Balance out your body’s asymmetries: Think golf, bowls, hockey, shot put, archery, sheep shearing or simply being left or right handed. We all carry asymmetries in our bodies to some extent. Yoga will help you become more aware of these and teach you how to develop more holistic balance throughout your body.
7. Invest in your mental health: A key factor that sets yoga apart from other activities is its focus on mindfulness. Once you start practicing yoga you will find it’s not simply about striking poses. Yoga turns your awareness inwards. It demands your full attention and awareness, and in doing so it helps quieten a busy, stressed mind and helps you ‘see things as they really are’. Numerous studies have cited ways in which yoga helps mental health, including depression. If you want to make your mental health a priority, just step on to a yoga mat and be open to its benefits.
8. Breathe your way to better health: Yoga is a breath-centred practice, which has many benefits for our modern lifestyles. Many people these days have closed down their breathing to such an extent that it impacts on their health. Your breathing affects so many aspects of both your physical and mental health, including organ function, circulation, digestion, weight loss, dealing with stress, sleep, mood management and more. Come to yoga and discover how to breathe your way to better health.
9. Get happy: Practicing yoga will make your mind and body stronger and more flexible, and can help improve so many aspects of your mental and physical health. If you’ve ever thought about trying yoga, the only thing standing in your way is yourself. Get out there and give it a try. Who knows, somewhere in between your downward dog and your warrior pose, you might just find that yoga simply makes you happy!