Should men do yoga?

George C By George C, 29th Oct 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Health>Exercise & Fitness

Frankly, most men would rather be caught in the women’s change-room trying on stiletto heels and sequinned bustiers.


No-one in their right mind would want to be seen folded like spaghetti, butt stuck in the air, in a position commonly known as the Downward-facing Dog or Cow-face Pose. Frankly, most men would rather be caught in the women’s change-room trying on stiletto heels and sequinned bustiers. At least that way we could laugh. But there’s a new trend out there that has seen yoga spread like wildfire among men in search of lifelong fitness without the risk of injury.

The peculiarly named postures and associate health shop fads have for years cast yoga as the middle-aged muesli madam's club! The yoga repertoire is the answer many muscle-bound men can vouch for. Physiologically, men naturally have a stronger upper body than women, mainly because the male hormone testosterone determines the percentage of muscle bulk and fat reserves in the body. A study in the journal of Applied Physiology on skeletal muscle mass in 500 men and Women of all ages, concluded that there was a 40 percent difference in the muscular make-up between the genders.

Being more muscled isn’t necessarily a good thing. Exercise specialists have shown how men’s physiological make-up leaves them rigid and that increased flexibility is the key to their improved performance. Carol Francis, a teacher of lyengar yoga, says that physiologically, men are muscle-bound in the arms, shoulders and the pelvic structure, making them stiff in the hip joints. “Men struggle to do the hamstring stretches and shoulder-focused poses, and will rarely do a handstand with straight arms. Yoga can help all that and improve performance,” she says.

Yoga works because you’re mobilisirig your neural tissue. It's more than simply a muscle stretch and has a better long- term effect on the body. Physiotherapist Bruce McLoughlin believes that people have discovered the core stability concept of yoga and are slowly realising that the core is linked to everything in the body. “It will help any form of sportsman because you improve posture, you start to integrate your core stabilisers and the breathing aspect of yoga causes the ribcage to expand, thereby increasing your VO2 capacity - an accurate measure of fitness.”

Simply put, if you are looking to improve your performance on the rugby field, in the pool, or in any sport, yoga can do it for you. Yoga is the basis ofall movement and posture. “lt helps you achieve a neutral spine. We all have our own ‘abnormal’ postures and we need energy to maintain that posture. With yoga, your body is trained to utilise energy in the muscles that you are using for specific function, like a golf swing. Instead of using muscles that aren’t necessary, yoga makes sure that you only use the muscles you need. It’s what you need to achieve a ‘neutral spine’ or ‘ideal posture."

lf your core is in great shape, your explosive action, skilled movements (like the golf swing), speed and power will all be greatly enhanced. So what’s with yoga? Tendons - made up of tough, fibrous tissue - attach our muscles to our bones. A good proportion of men’s hamstrings consist of tendonous fibre, which is much less resilient than muscle. At the same time, the hamstrings span two important joints, the hips and knees, and both joints are greatly affected by the flexibility of the hammies.

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