One day, a son looked up to his father and asked, “Daddy, why do you practice all that funny stuff on the mat?”
The father said to the son, “Well, my boy, it’s because it helps me through life. But there are four main things it helps me out with.”
Get strong, move better.
Yoga won’t build you a bodybuilder’s physique but what it’s great for is:
- Body weight strength: yoga helps us learn how to handle our own body weight. As you move from pose to pose, we move skilfully, to avoid injury, and improve our coordination, body awareness and the space around you (proprioception). Yoga was developed centuries ago, before we developed the gym, with its weights, suspension trainers and other workout apparatus that we use. The people of those times valued physical fitness though, and came up with a system that helps to develop our body in a healthy, disciplined, systematic manner, using our own body weight as resistance.
- Eccentric strength: yoga is one of the few movements that builds strength in the muscles when it is in its eccentric phase (as opposed to concentric). This means you build strength in your muscles while they are lengthened (as opposed to flexed), because many yoga poses requires this. This is super important for us when we age, when we play sports (for e.g. running requires strength when we extend our leg forward to land in each stride – to absorb the force bouncing back into our bodies). Seriously, there are few other safe activities you could do that builds strength in muscles while they are stretched.
- Better posture and better movement: Related to the first point, because we are leveraging our own body weight, and because we become more aware of our own body, plus also build a strong mind-body connection, we tend to develop a better sense of posture. The movement we do on the mat, with enough practise, will help us during our daily activity, so as we sit at work or while we drive, we may find ourselves readjusting our neck, chest, low back etc to sit in a healthier, skilful manner. When we walk up and down the stairs, we may find we move better without stressing the knees. When we stumble and lose our balance, we may find our body saving us before a fall. So just three benefits already, under one big umbrella heading.
And there’s more, guys. Read on!
Of course, when yoga was formulated all those centuries ago, there was no such thing as “work stress” or “work-life balance” and “self-care”. But people did have anxiety and worries, and part of the yoga practice naturally reduces stress.
Yoga incorporates breath work (pranayama), movement (asana), and various aspects of meditation, for example, pratyahara (withdrawal), dharana (concentration) and dhyana (meditative absorption). In fact, these aspects of meditation can be incorporated to the movement on the mat. As we move, we withdraw inwards to ourself, our movement and the energy that carries us. As we focus on these and other aspects, over moments, we may be carried into a focused concentration. With practise, we may find yourself moving, but be absorbed into a meditative state.
This can take place with deliberation, or sometimes by happenstance. However we reach there, this helps us to let go of disquiet, anxieties, fears and stress. Take a read of the link below to see how yoga helps reduce stress.
Aside from effectiveness at work (because of good stress management), the benefits yoga has in countering stress has been shown to be on a cellular level. Apparently, a study published in the journal immunology found that yoga practitioners suppressed the activation of genes that cause inflammation, one of our usual responses to stress.
Of course, yoga helps our body respond better to stress, reducing our heart rate and blood pressure, as well as helping us to breathe better in stressful situations.
Yoga may help improve our sleep, whether we have insomnia or find falling asleep at night a struggle. According to a 2013 study, older yoga practitioners have significantly fewer sleeping disturbances and spent a shorter time falling asleep. Also, they required less sleeping medication for this purpose. To top this off, they scored higher on measures of sleep quality than those who didn’t practise yoga.
Yoga helps to improve serotonin production (our sleep chemical) in our body. Combined with breath work and less stress (discussed above), we tend to get a better night’s sleep with yoga practice. A study conducted in India revealed that practising yoga on the mat twice a week for six months may significantly improve the quality and duration of sleep.
Needless to say, with less stress and better sleep, we would function during our work period. Yoga’s meditative practices also may help with productivity (as with most mindfulness practices). Whether you are an entrepreneur or an employee hoping to make waves in your department or company, do try to incorporate yoga practices for these benefits to you at work!
Last but not least (at least for this blog post), we can talk about breaking through our own personal barriers and switching our internal narrative.
Whether we know it or not, we have our own subjective reality inside our head (called “mithya”), which is really a combination of beliefs, thoughts, prejudices, bias and personal aspirations. We also have our own image of ourselves (called “aham”).
The story we tell ourselves sometimes over-inflate or under-inflate our capabilities. Sometimes we are tell ourselves we cannot do something, when in fact, we actually can.
It can be the other way around, or we may be someone who needs work on anger, or other mood issues. However, our achievements on the mat (getting into a yoga pose we thought was ‘hard’) or the stories or philosophy in yoga can help us break through the mental barriers we ourselves set up in our minds.
Sometimes, mat practice, together with yoga stories and philosophy, help us see things in new perspectives. The meditative practices may help peel the layers of our own self and see the things that hold us back.
All this can be translated from the mat into your daily life!
There’s so much benefit with yoga.
The father finished off and mentioned that yoga also helps with his heart health and helps to de-stress him (and he asked the boy to read the links below):
So these are but a few benefits that yoga can bring to men, but if you were to do an Internet search, you will find that there are many more reasons that men should get on the yoga mat.
If you need help or a direction, do comment below or contact me. I will do my best to help!
Hey guys, ready to get a taste of how yoga can help your mind and movement?Get your FREE Mindful Morning mini-course:
- An introductory video about integrating mindfulness into your morning routines;
- A quick meditation that can be easily included into your mornings, and that can lengthened or shortened depending on time constraints;
- A quick yoga mat movement practice that can be lengthened or shortened depending on your schedule;
- A video on an array of mindfulness tools you may want to employ in your routine; AND
- BONUS CONTENT – four videos on all aspects of adding mindfulness to your mornings; AND
- BONUS CONTENT – four more videos on wall yoga stretches that help to relieve low back soreness!
The course includes: