By Warren Schenk
Everyone has a tendency to avoid what is unfamiliar or uncomfortable – it’s instinctual. One subject this applies to is yoga, a female-dominated activity that many men shun from, more often than not due to a lack of understanding. I have been there too, my fellow brothers, but trust me – there is really nothing to fear. As I found out during my two months interning at Hom Yoga Sydney, yoga is a complete mind and body activity that can truly improve our quality of lives.
Like many, I used to think of yoga merely as stretching, and assumed more ‘productive’ exercises were limited to running, weight lifting and other aerobic activities. However, I have since learnt that yoga involves a lot more than just stretching – it also gets the heart pumping, builds long and lean muscles, and teaches practitioners to tune in to their bodies.
When practised in conjunction with other forms of exercise, yoga can assist performance and technique. One of its most cited benefits is increased flexibility ¬– regular stretching of the muscles brings about increased range of motion, which is important in preventing injuries, as well as in making your workouts more effective. For example, increased flexibility allows weight lifters to recruit and engage more muscle fibres, which brings about muscle growth. Other benefits of yoga include better balance, a stronger core and better body awareness, all of which would complement any sporting activity, from rugby to running and squash, to name a few.
Still not quite convinced? Beyond the physical postures, yoga classes encourage deep abdominal breathing – this brings our bodies into a deeper state of relaxation and activates the parasympathetic nervous system. What this means is that by breathing deeply, we help to reduce stress as well as lower the levels of cortisol – a stress-induced hormone that causes our bodies to retain fat. There are innumerable benefits to practicing yoga, so don’t let stereotypes or assumptions stop you from hitting the mat.