While yoga was initially popular in the west as an exercise for women, more and more men are realizing the benefits of this ancient and powerful meditative exercise. Apart from providing physical benefits like increased endurance, strength, flexibility and cardiovascular ability, the mental aspect of yoga training has been shown to reduce work-related stress, induce calmness and allow you to develop mindfulness, which in turn can allow you to always perform to the best of your mental faculties. Here at Northern Fir we can tell you that mindfulness can be practiced in a number of ways, and yoga is perhaps one of the most practical ways to attain and develop it, provided you practice consistently.
For instance, practicing mindfulness meditation or Hatha yoga – even for just 25 minutes per day – can boost not just energy levels but brain function as well. This was found out by the University of Waterloo’s School of Public Health and Health Systems in a study that broke down the elements that make yoga so useful for sharpening focus and mindfulness. "Hatha yoga and mindfulness meditation both focus the brain's conscious processing power on a limited number of targets like breathing and posing and also reduce processing of nonessential information,” explains Prof. Peter Hall who is one of the study’s lead authors. Hall further expounds on how their studies have seen the positive effects of Hatha yoga in improving mood as well as executive function, which includes mental processes like decision-making, attention control and problem solving. No wonder so many workplaces now offer yoga to both male and female employees.
Meanwhile, researchers from Johns Hopkins University shares their own findings on yoga’s mindfulness-related benefits via Pharmacy Times. Yoga’s reputation for mitigating stress comes from how regular practice can decrease activity in the sympathetic nervous system – also known as the system that controls our “fight or flight” response. This means a lowered heart rate, less constricted blood vessels and lowered blood pressure and overall more manageable levels of cortisol – also known as the “stress hormone.” Furthermore, researchers noted how the meditative nature of yoga introduced positive neurological changes. As breathing lengthens with practice, the brain waves slow down – from excitatory beta waves to relaxing theta waves that promote deeper awareness. As the study goes even deeper, it reveals how regular yoga practice actually increases gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, which can make you more relaxed and aware.
Because of these benefits, many elite athletes have elected to include yoga as part of their overall training. Legendary mixed martial artist and welterweight Georges St-Pierre – also known as GSP – is famous for using yoga to develop flexibility and strength as well as to channel some much-needed focus while fighting in the Octagon. In the world of soccer, there’s 13-time Premier League title winner Ryan Giggs. The Welshman retired from the game in his early 40s, with Coral outlining how yoga had a big impact on maintaining his fitness and prolonging his career. Even famous NBA power forward LeBron James has been known to spend time on the yoga mat. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the most competitive male athletes on the planet are looking to yoga to improve their game.
Apart from its many physical and mental benefits for men, there are various styles of yoga to choose from, each with its own benefits, poses, flows, and difficulty levels. Whether you’re one of the many men who have a stressful job, trying to recover from injury or just looking for a way to sharpen your focus and mindfulness, yoga is the healthy everyday exercise that can help alleviate all these conditions.