Yoga for Men - Reason 3 - Flexibility & Mobility
Notice that the stiffest trees most easily cracked, while the bamboo or the willow survives by bending with the wind.
Increasing Flexibility and Range of Motion
If I had a pound every time I had a guy say to me “I’m not flexible enough to do yoga”. Then, by now, I would have saved up enough money to afford to attend a yoga class in London! Of course, I hear this from ladies too, but at least 50% of the men I talk to utter a variation of this phrase when the topic of conversation turns to yoga.
Well, I will promise you something. You aren’t going to get any more flexible - by not doing yoga!
But really, you don’t need any level of flexibility to start yoga. Whatever your current level of flexibility and mobility it’s completely fine.
I promise you - don’t need to be flexible to start yoga. However, I guarantee you - if you are stiff and lacking mobility, then yoga will help you greatly increase your flexibility.
Benefits of Flexibility
Let’s talk a little bit about why we should consider flexibility a positive that we should be aiming for in our lives, but also add a note of caution.
For sportspeople, athletes, martial artists, for people whose body is their tool, the benefits of flexibility are clear and well documented. However, flexibility also provides benefits in our day-to-day life in purely practical activities. Being flexible helps us avoid injury and means that the multitude of everyday tasks are easier to manage. Being both flexible and stable in our spine means that our back remains strong and healthy.
As we age it is natural to lose flexibility, and this loss can start to make these everyday tasks - such as putting on socks, lifting children, or doing up a seat-belt challenging - overtime these changes can really have a negative impact on our life. By working to maintain a basic level of flexibility we avoid these pitfalls, we want to ensure the putting on a coat should never be a challenge!
There is also strong science from Japan(1) that shows the more flexible our body - the more flexible our arteries. The stiffening of artery walls is known to be a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes. So, external flexibility coordinates with internal flexibility and correspondingly, improved heart health.
A Note of Caution
I’m going to talk more about this in a future blog, but I do just want to throw up a word of caution at this point to people who are already naturally super flexible, especially those with hyper-flexibility in any of their joints.
If you are naturally extremely flexible or mobile then using yoga to stretch further and further - while potentially producing great Instagram photos – can, in the long run, cause problems of its own due to over-flexibility.
I want to make it clear, yoga is still great people with hyper-flexibility - but their challenge in yoga practice is to work on strength and stability, that's what's going to produce benefits for them. Not keep on stretching until they snap.
A Good Rule to Consider
A good rule in any physical activity. In fact, a good rule in just about any activity. Is to practice hardest the thing that you struggle with the most. As we talked about in the previous blog, balance is a good and healthy thing to achieve in our lives.
So, if you are stiff and strong - it’s a wise course to work on your flexibility and mobility. If you are incredibly flexible and mobile, then it’s going to be healthy to work on your strength and stability. If you get out of breath quickly, it would be wise to address cardiovascular fitness. If your balance is poor then practice and improve that. And so on and so forth.
It’s really easy to focus on the things we are good at, but don’t be afraid to embrace the things that you struggle with and improve those, those are the areas that can make the biggest impact in our lives.
Flexibility, Yoga and a reduction in Lower Back Pain - Dr Susan Wieland
Reason 3 - Flexibility
1) Yamamoto, K., H. Kawano, et al. (2009). “Poor trunk flexibility is associated with arterial stiffening.” Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol 297(4): H1314-1318.