More than a few eyebrows were raised the first time I walked into a yoga clothing store. As a former bodybuilder, I get a lot of surprised reactions when people learn I’m now a yoga instructor. What they don’t realize is that yoga is as much of a strength-training activity as weight lifting—only the strength it creates is different, much broader type.
Men typically shun yoga, believing it’s a woman’s activity, or that it’s too easy—or boring. But the biggest mistake in their thinking is that yoga won’t make them stronger, or “tough.” I like to point to a simple definition adapted from the Merriam-Webster dictionary: Tough: strong or firm, but flexible.
Physically, yoga isn’t going to make you buff. But what it can do is enhance strength in other highly beneficial ways. Take flexibility, for example. Without it, strength won’t take you far. Solid, strong muscle minus flexibility equals stiffness, locked joints, pain and potential injury. Keeping your body flexible with yoga will allow you to better utilize strength, and keep you safer in all of your physical pursuits—whether they’re in the gym, on the field or just in everyday life.
Many athletes and bodybuilders practice yoga not only for enhanced strength and flexibility, but for better body awareness. You can go, go, go with the machine of a body you’ve built, but if you’re not in touch with its workings, you put yourself at risk for both injury and decreased performance. One 10-year study of NFL players revealed 1,716 hamstring strains—these were just “reported” injuries. With better body awareness gained through yoga practice, they may have been avoided.
Another benefit of yoga most men don’t consider is increased stamina. I’ve taught classes where men have showed up, thinking they’d be in and out with some light morning exercise. An hour later, they dragged themselves out, exhausted—with a whole new perception of yoga. Regular, disciplined yoga practice trains you to endure—not just through physical activity, but through mental, emotional and social/relationship challenges as well.
And, as if all of this weren’t enough, yoga improves inner health, targeting many concerns that are specific to men. From easing back pain and reducing stress to supporting cardiovascular health, joint health and even and sexual health, yoga is an easy way to take control of your own body and stay strong internally.
For men with doubts? How tough is it to stay in your comfort zone? Look at yoga as a challenge, something that will take you outside that zone. Follow the lead of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who took ballet to help him become a champion bodybuilder. Or Lebron James, an avid yoga practitioner.
Corey Kelly is the founder of TriBalance Yoga Center in Schaumburg, a suburb of Chicago. The lifestyle center features four studios and expanded services, including chiropractic care, nutrition, acupuncture, personal training, physical therapy, several styles of yoga and a rigorous instructor training program. Corey considers it a community lifestyle center built by the community for the community. In addition to teaching yoga, Corey does clinical-based therapeutic work, combining elements of nutrition, Ayurveda, traditional yoga therapy, Thai bodywork, massage and various forms of energy work. He has extensive experience with spinal cord and intense sports injuries. Corey has traveled to India to pursue his studies, which he continues on an ongoing basis. “I teach around 900 classes per year and I still can't explain how the 'real yoga' I heard about in that first class works. It's powerful and amazing. Yoga is a union, not only of body and mind but teacher and community. It is together that we are the strongest, and together we can change this world.” Corey can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (847) 301-7305.