Guest Post by Nathan Joynt:
Most men are looking to gain three things from their workouts – more strength and power, increased endurance and to lose or maintain weight. But what a lot of guys overlook is the crucial element of added flexibility. Simply put, all men will see an increase in their overall performance if they can become more flexible, physically. But it takes time to stretch and focus on becoming more flexible – time that can be spent on doing other workouts.
Enter yoga into the workout mix. Yoga is a great workout option for men in order to add functional strength, increased physical power and increased flexibility at the same time. Here are some of the key things guys should know when adding this form of exercise to their workout routine.
There are many styles of yoga, but there are some that have become particularly popular with men. For the beginner, the classic Hatha yoga is a great place to start to learn the basics. It is slow-paced which makes it easy to learn and follow, and it is easy to repeat at home. At the same time, Hatha yoga will improve balance and flexibility while strengthening muscles all over the body. It’s is definitely a full body workout.
For guys looking to lose weight and really stretch and develop toned muscles, Bikram yoga is a good choice. This style of yoga is performed in a hot room that is kept at a temperature of up to 100 degrees or more. As students perform yoga, the heat assists in keeping muscles loose to improve flexibility and expel lactic acid build-up – the stuff that makes muscles tight and sore. This type of yoga can be physically demanding but it also feels great for those tight and sore muscles. The concept with Bikram yoga is that a person will sweat out toxins in the body and if it’s performed often, weight will literally drip off.
Ashtanga yoga is a very physically demanding form of yoga. It is also referred to as power yoga, though that generic term may mean other things as well. Ashtanga yoga is fast paced and strengthens the core muscles as well as the upper body, big time. Poses in Ashtanga yoga flow quickly from one to the other which will keep the heart rate up. If a physical yoga workout is desired, Ashtanga is a solid choice.
One reason yoga is a great choice for men is that it will improve athletic performance. It’s an excellent form of post game recovery that stretches the muscles to improve flexibility which will aid in recovery and reduce the likelihood of sports injuries.
In some sports certain muscles are worked more than others – or a particular side of the body is worked more than the other, creating an imbalance. This is true in sports such as golf, racquetball, tennis, bowling, or even baseball. Yoga can help re-calibrate the body and return balance to the muscles.
Yoga will build functional strength on its own, but combining yoga with weight lifting workouts is even more effective. Just like with sports, performing a series of yoga movements that stretch and relax the muscles after a vigorous workout aids in muscle recovery and the added flexibility achieved can prevent injury the next time at the gym.
In addition to working the core, yoga will work the finer muscles throughout the body. These are often the same muscles that men don’t target when lifting weights and these stabilizing muscles are the ones that allow a man to have more control over weights when lifting, especially with more precise or slow movements.
The start-up costs for entering the world of yoga are very small. In fact, a man can wear anything that is comfortable and stretchy, so a pair of shorts and shirt already in the dresser should do just fine. It is best to wear clothing that is not too baggy so that hands will not get caught in fabric as poses are performed.
Aside from proper attire, a yoga mat is a good idea since it adds comfort, stability and protection – especially on nasty gym floors.
It is easy to get started with yoga and most guys will be surprised how physically challenging the practice can be. And for my money, there may not be a better way to increase functional strength and flexibility at any age and at any fitness level.
Nathan Joynt is a natural health, wellness and yoga enthusiast. He works with Gaiam.com, a world leader in workout videos and at-home fitness products.
image via Well & Good NYC