Once upon a time, when you spoke to men about yoga, they almost immediately had images of Lululemon-clad women chanting verses of Sanskrit while bending their bodies into impossible positions. For the hockey-playing, basketball-watching, sports-obsessed male species, the practice of yoga was about as appealing as watching a Julia Roberts romantic comedy -- twice. However, times -- and old-standing stereotypes -- have changed thanks, in part, to the evolution of male-specific sport versus female-specific sport. More women are tackling the football field while more men are doing the downward dog. Yoga has become the new cross-training for men looking to increase their flexibility and improve their muscle conditioning so the next time they hit the field or the rink, their bodies will bend into nearly impossible positions -- willingly.
Paul McQuillan, a yoga instructor at Toronto's Bikram Yoga Centre, has been practising yoga -- specifically, Bikram or hot yoga, a style of yoga that takes place in rooms heated to about 40 C -- for three years. Yoga has improved both his physical and mental strength, he says, while revitalizing his energy levels. Here, he explains the advantages of yoga and how men can benefit from it.
1. Yoga works the entire body
In sports such as hockey, tennis or football, you tend to utilize only 10 to 15 per cent of the body, whereas yoga provides a workout that covers every muscle, joint and organ. The practice oxygenates the blood, creating more energy when you finish the exercise as opposed to depleting the body of it. You work every system: cardiovascular, skeletal, muscular and endocrine.
2. Yoga has benefits in the bedroom
Guarasana, or Eagle Pose, is a posture that sends fresh blood and oxygen to the sexual organs, so this is a particularly beneficial exercise for men in revitalizing their bedroom prowess! Trikonasana, or Triangle Pose, is a marriage of the heart and the lungs, two organs that don't usually interact. Not only does this posture increase cardiovascular endurance, but it is also the only known yoga posture that utilizes every organ, muscle and joint in the body.
3. Yoga works for every size
It does not matter how you look when you practise yoga. Whether you're a 250-pound linebacker or a 150-pound triathlete, yoga will push your personal boundaries by increasing your own flexibility, endurance and muscle strength.
4. Yoga decreases muscle soreness
Yoga is hugely beneficial in working out stiffness from other sports. When muscles are fatigued, they build with lactic acid, and yoga, which stretches and releases tension, helps flush that away. Runners in particular find yoga the best activity after a long endurance jog.
5. Yoga restores energy levels
Yoga practice doesn't deplete your body of all of your energy after a class -- like, say, a gym workout, where your body is entirely fatigued after your session. Instead, it actually increases your vigour, making you feel more aware and revitalized.
6. Yoga trains your focus
Athletes like Wayne Gretzky, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and John McEnroe have heightened their performance levels through practising Bikram yoga. By combining mental, physical and emotional strength, they became better athletes at their chosen sport. Men can't seem to let their egos go, and in yoga, you have to train your mind to shut down -- to stop thinking about work, what you're going to have for dinner or whether the Raptors are going to win the game. Traditionally, men have a more difficult time doing that than women, although, once they do let go, their focus on the positions -- and the difficulty in holding them -- improves vastly.
7. Yoga flushes your system
The practice of yoga is often referred to as "intense," especially in Bikram. When you are working in a room heated higher than your body temperature, you sweat a considerable amount. The pounds dramatically shed off your body and, more importantly, you rid yourself of all the pent-up toxins. Due to the heat in Bikram, it has been noted that you are essentially creating an artificial "fever" in the body, therefore enhancing the immune system.
8. Yoga balances the mind
Yoga has such a great sense of community to it and it really allows for mental clarity and focus. After you practise, you feel more grounded, less self-absorbed and calmer. This type of mental clarity really helps in other sports or activities you may be involved in.
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