Whatever exercise you’re currently doing (if any), whatever healthy regime you follow, and however little time you have in your working week, there is a case for adding in some yoga to your schedule.
Yoga improves both strength and flexibility, and works muscles that are all too often neglected, especially by the deskbound. And if you’re already doing other sports, yoga can be especially useful, as boxer, ultra-runner and yoga teacher Adam Husler explains.
“All sports have particular movements and specific muscle engagement, even darts. If you’re doing those a lot, your body is going to change and adapt in a certain way,” says Husler.
“As a boxer, I had very hunched shoulders and was very tight across the back. I was strong in the core, but I was in a lot of pain on a daily basis. If you’re spending all your time creating a certain shape, for the sake of your body in the long term you should spend some time doing exactly the opposite – both in terms of stretching the muscles that are tight, and engaging the opposite set of muscles.
“For many people the back is quite weak, especially guys who do weights or run – there’s, a lot of hunching in the spine. As soon as they start to stretch their body, their back and their legs, and engage and strengthen their upper back, it changes their lives.
“Yoga should be, for most guys, a medicine.”
Then there are the mental benefits of the practice to consider, with yoga having proved an effective antidote to the stresses of everyday life.
“There are innate psychological benefits of being in a yoga class,” says Husler, who’s an ambassador for Manduka yoga gear. “It will have a calming effect on your body. You haven't got a phone around you, you’re not trying to win at yoga. You’re in a space where all you need to be is present with yourself. There are undoubtedly psychological benefits.”
Too often the reason men avoid yoga is a stereotypical idea of what a class would involve and who typically goes to them. However, a huge range of yoga classes is available to suit all attitudes and abilities.
“I would say a typical guy generally thinks yoga is for young, bendy women, old ladies in a town hall or hippy men, who are chanting,” says Husler.
“That’s the typical stereotype. There are a lot of naturally flexible people who fulfil their ego by being even more bendy in a public context and there are the more spiritual classes. But increasingly yoga is becoming less dogmatic and what you’ll find, especially somewhere like London, is a huge range of styles of yoga, and teachers teaching in different ways.
“It’s not about going to one class and saying ‘it’s not for me’. It’s about trying different styles, trying to get recommendations, looking at websites, social media, finding a teacher who has a language you can relate to.”
It’s also important not to worry that you’ll look a fool if you’re horribly inflexible. Yoga is not just about who can contort themselves into the most impressive shapes.
“For me yoga is as much about as strength as flexibility,” says Husler. “I’d much rather teach someone who is tight and acknowledges that than someone loose who is not willing to try and get stronger and more stable. It’s less about the shapes you make, less about the objective success of touching your toes or getting your leg behind your head. It’s more about sensation. In theory, at least, everyone in the class should be feeling the same thing.”
You can work up to taking your first class by trying some online yoga beforehand, but even if you turn up at your initial session a complete novice, don’t fear – you can always hide.
“If it makes it easier for guys, try a few online classes first – it could make things a bit more accessible, so you’ll know broadly what to expect. Or try going to an open level class that is taught by someone recommended to you and pop yourself near the back so you’re not intimidated.”
More info on Adam’s teaching can be found at adamhusler.com (opens in new tab) and his Instagram (opens in new tab)@adamhusler (opens in new tab). Manduka makes a range of yoga gear for men – find out more at manduka.com.
Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.
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