In 2008, Harris Interactive Service Bureau, on behalf of the magazine Yoga Journal, conducted a study called “Yoga in America”, and found that 6.9% of U.S. adults, or 15.8 million people, practice yoga.
In the demographic breakdown, the study found that 72.2% are women; 27.8% are men. 49.4% of current people who practice yoga started doing so to improve their overall health.
Looking at the breakdown in gender, it’s clear that a significant more amount of women are practicing yoga than men. This is an interesting trend considering that historically, it was men who outnumbered women in the ancient days.
Today, yoga is entering mainstream at a fast pace, but it still has the stigma of being a “girls’ thing”, and not perceived as “manly” by those not exposed or familiar with it. Even in advertisement and media, we see images of women doing yoga portrayed in commercials and ads much more frequently than men.
This article will not only show why doing yoga is beneficial for both men and women, but also show that yoga does not reduce one’s “manliness”.
First, we’ll talk about the physical benefit of yoga.
Science has proven that regular physical exercise can reverse many of the typical effects of aging and decrease risks of cardiovascular diseases – such as excess body fat, imbalance of body sugar, decreased muscle mass and high blood pressure.
Hatha yoga, the most popular form of yoga being practiced in the West today, consists of poses or postures (asanas in Sanskrit) can help with restoring alignment of muscles and bones in the body, and under good instruction, the practitioner can learn how to detect and correct imbalances in the physical body.
In the West, and increasingly so all over the world, men and women are becoming more sedentary with desk jobs, this has a wide range implication on our health, starting with back pain.
In a study commissioned by the US Department of Veteran Affairs, “veterans with chronic low-back pain who took part in at least eight weekly yoga classes reported a significant reduction in pain. They also reported improvements in mood, energy and quality of life. The more classes they attended, the greater the gains.”
Secondly, stress is well documented as a major source of many modern-day diseases, and it affects everyone, men or women. A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine showed that yoga can help counter and reduce our stress. In the study, the researchers set out to measure the level of GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) before and after the session. GABA is a brain chemical playing a central role in “regulating neuronal excitability throughout the nervous system.” It essentially has a calming, anti-anxiety effect within the brain.
Individuals who completed the yoga session had a 27 percent increase in GABA levels on average. In contrast, those who read saw no change in the GABA levels.
This study reinforced that yoga can play an instrumental role in stress management, and when you’re calmer, you can think, act, and perform many things in life better.
Guys, the good news for you is that anyone can take up yoga, just begin where you are, seek a certified and qualified teacher, and with time, consistency, and commitment, you’ll begin to enjoy the benefits of improvements in your flexibility, muscular strength, endurance and balance. And that, is quite manly.