7 Reasons Why Men Should Do Yoga Stretch
By Julie Schoen
On any given day when I look out at the students before me in yoga class I see an overwhelming majority of women. In a class of twenty, the ratio is usually 1:20. In a group of fifty yogis, you’re looking at 3:50, and so on.
That’s not unusual in the United States either. And while there are definitely exceptions to this example, I think it’s safe to say that yoga studios have officially become a woman’s domain in the Western world. And probably for good reason…
The word “yoga” carries with it images of long, lean, ultra flexible females thanks to the current obsession with yoga images in the media.
–> A quick aside: IF you are a long, lean, ultra flexible female yogini reading this I am NOT shaming, blaming, disliking, criticizing… I too could be considered all the above. Yoga is for everyone and being inclusive does not mean making the majority (the aforementioned) feel bad. You are awesome. We are all awesome. Keep doing what you are doing. <–
And while there is nothing wrong with these images (see above), it can be intimidating, especially for men, to enter a yoga studio knowing that they will be the minority in the room, often unable to do many of the poses without a stack of blocks that the teacher lugs across the room in the middle of class as she says, “And if you are having a hard time reaching the floor you might need a block…or two…or three (as she proceeds to build a tower of blocks under the poor man’s arms).”
–> Quick aside number two: Using props, such as blocks, is not a bad thing. A room full of good yogis will not care, or even notice, that you are doing things a bit differently. However, for many men it can take time to gain the confidence or the desire necessary to be the only man in class, which is why so many men turn down the offer to go to a yoga class or to start practicing even in the comfort of their own home. <–
I have been teaching yoga now for almost a decade. I have worked with many men, many of them competitive athletes. I’ve noticed that when I say I’m here to do yoga with them, I receive many an eye roll accompanied by laughter, a lack of effort, and even people leaving before we get started. But, when I say I’m here to help them stretch – they are more attentive, more willing to give it a go, and actually allow themselves to get something out of it.
Because stretching doesn’t evoke images of extreme positions, Sanskrit terms, and chanting like the term “yoga” seems to do these days. And while the practice of yoga was originally created by men for men, many men today do not seem to show the same interest as women.
Which is why I am here to encourage all men to stretch. The benefits are real. All competitive and professional athletes know the importance of stretching and there is plenty of research done in the world of Western science to back it up. Physical therapists use stretching as part of their rehab plan for many of the patients they see, regardless of age, weight, gender, or flexibility.
You don’t have to be flexible to stretch. (You also don’t have to be flexible to do yoga, but that’s for another day.) You don’t have to get out a mat or put on music or know the correct term for what you are doing. You just have to stretch – i.e. move in such a way that your muscles say, “Ahhh…”
So for all of you men out there who are not interested in yoga – that’s fine! But please, for the love of all things good, stretch.
Here are 7 reasons why stretching is so good for you (yes, you, man sitting in that chair):
- Stretching increases flexibility and range of motion in the body so you can stay active and keep doing what you love.
- Stretching increases the amount of energy you have and decreases feelings of tension and stress in your life. Win-win!
- Stretching relieves pain in the body, including pain you may have been dealing with for years on end.
- Stretching helps to prevent injuries, whether in sports or just day-to-day activities, by keeping the muscles flexible and long.
- Because your circulation improves and increases when you stretch (your blood pressure also lowers), stretching helps to quickly heal injuries. Why do you think therapists demand it for proper rehabilitation?
- Stretching helps to improve muscle coordination and balance, which again can prevent injuries, especially those that could be caused by falling
- Many stretches help to relieve pain in the lower back (something almost 65 million Americans suffer from) by increasing the flexibility of the hamstrings, hips, and gluteus muscles
Stretching is one of the most overlooked solutions for many of the ailments that are byproducts of our modern lifestyles. Just by stretching every day you are ridding the body of pain, keeping the body feeling young and healthy, preventing injuries, healing injuries, and managing stress.
And while I would love to see more men in my yoga classes, I totally understand why so many men don’t feel drawn to the practice. That’s fine. I’ll wear you down. So until that day comes when you’re ready to venture in to that pretty studio down the street, just stretch. You will feel SO good – I promise.