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Yoga For Men

Yoga: Eastern Practice in Western Sports

by C.J. Ong, Jr.

Over the past few years the practice of Yoga in many variations has come to the west. Often considered by the uninformed to be a religious practice, Yoga is recognized as one of the six philosophical systems to arise out of India, founded by the Indian sage Patanjali in approximately 300 B.C. Yoga yields the greatest benefits when approached as a way of life, offering one a chance to experience an integrated system of education for the body, mind and inner spirit. For the athlete Yoga can provide a way to synthesize the processes of a well-rounded fitness program in several ways. They can include:

  • Improved use of Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence
    The neurological location for the skills needed to execute movement in any or all of the three planes of movement lies within the motor cortex of the brain, with each hemisphere dominant or controlling bodily movements on the contra-lateral side. An asana in Yoga recruiting Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence would be Ardha Matsyendrasana (the spinal twist), an asana requiring movement in all three planes of movement. Developing the skills to execute an asana correctly can transfer to improved sports performance. When mastered the 12 positions contained within Surya Namaskar (the sun salutations) integrate each hemisphere of the brain and provide one with a total stretching routine.
  • Calming of the Sympathetic Nervous System
    Many athletes allow their workouts to become back to back races and challenges, either with themselves or others. These “workouts” create constant state of stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system with a negative effect on the body. In an effort to protect itself the body releases cortisol, a catabolic hormone consuming lean tissue. Engaging in regular Yoga practice will allow the body to recover faster, improve sleep (quality sleep is when the production of the body’s natural growth hormones is at its’ highest levels) and lead to lower body fat levels when incorporated into a sound training schedule.
  • Optimal Performance Through Improved Posture
    For the body’s ten levels of cellular organization to work together in an optimal manner the correct alignment of the body segments is crucial. Postural faults often lead to compensation injuries and the resulting sub-par athletic performances. Learning the asana Tadasana (mountain) can bring one to an awareness of correct posture. Improved posture allows the nerve plexuses/chakras to enter into correct alignment with each other, in turn allowing the river of energy contained within the body to flow easily.

In the beginning the practice of Yoga may seem confusing, even perhaps daunting and improvement may seem miniscule. Attending a class with those who have attained a certain level of mastery might make one feel out of place at first. It is at these times one should keep in mind the words of Bruce Lee, one of the first athletes to integrate Eastern and Western practices into athletics: “Success lies in the process rather than the completion”.

© C.J. Ong, Jr. / 2011


 Yoga for Men

by Candace McKim

Yoga for MEN? Hmmm, I’m thinking that all the great yogis and gurus of the past are wondering what am I writing about  – Yoga for MEN???

Yoga has always been for men. Yoga postures were originally designed 1000’s of years ago for men, by men.  Men would do yoga postures to burn off excess energy so they could sit and meditate. Yoga came to the West in the 60’s and somehow we find mostly women in the classes. This is a shame because there are SO many benefits of yoga for everyone, and especially as we age the benefits become even greater.

I think the greatest and single most important reason men should do yoga is because it will help them maintain the strength and flexibility to do their other sports. As we arrive in our 50’s we may find we have more time and resources to do the activities that we love.  We’re still young and our children are strong and active and it is wonderful to do sports with them. Yoga can help you stay injury free.

Professional athletes have discovered the benefits of yoga. Research shows that football and baseball players, golfers, and Olympic medalists practice yoga. Tim Thomas goalie for the Boston Bruins began practicing yoga in 2007 to improve his goal tending abilities for both the physical and mental benefits. In 2008 he became the starting goalie for the Boston Bruins. Now, as we head into the final games of 2011 Stanley Cup finals, at 37 years of age, Tim Thomas may arguably be the best goalie in the NHL.

Lets dispel the idea that all we do in yoga is sit and Om, or that it is strictly for flexibility. Though of course it does improve our flexibility it was never the intention. Again, when yoga was designed people’s lifestyle was such that they sat on floors, squatted, and bent more regularly than our society now does.  Surprisingly, just sitting on the floor with our ankles crossed has become quite a challenge for many and specifically men. Alleviate discomfort by sitting on a blanket or block to get your hips higher. Remember to release judgment, accept that you are a Western man and that’s fantastic.

Aspects of YOGA:

  • Breathing
  • Yoga Postures
  • Proper Rest
  • Meditation
  • Healthy Diet

In most yoga classes the instructor will start with talking to the students about other aspects of yoga since yoga encompasses so much more than just yoga postures. You’ll take a minute to focus on your breath. By slowing and lengthening the breath you will release some stress and get focused. The class will begin with some warm-up postures and then move into more challenging postures to raise your heart rate, increase both upper and lower body strength, and leave you feeling energized.

Physically your yoga class will help reduce pain, improve mobility and increase the strength of your entire body. The class will then end with Savasana, which is a guided relaxation. This is to allow the muscles a chance to begin healing, and can be the preparation for you to go into meditation.

So what can 75 minutes do for your mind, body and soul? A lot:

  1. Decreases Stress
  2. Focuses your mind
  3. Improves flexibility
  4. Builds strong muscles
  5. Reduces back pain
  6. Increases abdominal strength
  7. Improves joint mobility
  8. Increases bone density
  9. Lowers blood pressure
  10. Increases lung capacity
  11. Helps with digestion and elimination
  12. Improves Balance

Whether you take a deep breath and enter a yoga class or download a DVD, give yoga a try. Go in with an open mind and remember that yoga can give you a little break from a hectic day where you do not need to compete with anyone.

Author: Candace McKim OM

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