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The Reasons Why Men With Back Pain Should Embrace Yoga

Yoga is a great activity for keeping your core strong, your body flexible, and reducing your back pain, so why do so many men turn their noses up at it?

Men should embrace yoga

Do you also need some convincing to try yoga?

Yoga can be one of the best activities to help you get rid of persistent back pain. 

As it can improve your posture and keep your body flexible, which relieves pressure, strain, and muscle tension.

While also strengthening your core muscles which gives your back more support.

So it makes sense to give it a try right?

However, despite it's many benefits, there is still a stigma among men when it comes to yoga.

So while reading this you may be thinking to yourself:

"Yoga? Isn’t that just for hippies, vegans, and women in lycra?" 

"If any of my mates found out I was doing yoga I’d never live it down" 

"Yoga is too easy. You can't build muscles or get a proper workout doing it. Waste of time."

"And anyway, don’t you need superhuman flexibility to be able to do it? I can’t even touch my toes! I’d look ridiculous in a yoga class" 

"It’d be embarrassing being in a class full of women. I’d feel too self-conscious"

"Everyone would laugh at me when I couldn’t do it as well as them"

And so on.

But these thoughts are way off the mark and they can stop you from giving yoga a try, which is a real shame.

Because practicing yoga can improve your overall health, mood, and physical capabilities, as well as reducing your pain levels.

So surely it's worth getting over our hang ups as men and give it a go right?

Why Are Men So Skeptical About Yoga?

Get used to being outnumbered by the ladies in a yoga class.

When you look at most yoga classes more often than not the women will outnumber the men.

Sometimes massively so.

Which is quite ironic when you consider that yoga was developed in India as an exercise for men to keep them strong and supple!

But since its rise in popularity in the western world yoga has been thought of as more of a feminine exercise.

And this has put some men off from giving it a go as this stigma exists in factories, on building sites and in many male-dominated environments today.

As there is a perception that yoga doesn’t fit in with the sports that society says men ‘should’ be doing as:

  • It's not macho like football, rugby, boxing, or lifting weights at the gym.
  • And it's not competitive.
  • So it doesn't feel like 'real' exercise.
  • As you can't build big muscles from it and it doesn't leave you out of breath.
  • And if you can't get a proper workout then isn't it just a waste of time?

These perceptions can be hard to overcome when trying to convince some men to try yoga.

But only one of those statements is true.

Because yoga is great for muscle-strengthening as certain poses require you to hold your full body weight for an extended period of time.

While some styles of yoga resemble an aerobic workout as you move through a flow of postures.

And I defy anyone to take a hot bikram yoga class without feeling breathless and working up a sweat!

So the only perception that's true is that yoga isn't competitive.

But is that such a bad thing?​

Because while us men have a primal urge to compete, modern life is full of competition and stress already.

So your yoga practice can actually provide a pleasant diversion from the constant competition that surrounds you.

So don't get caught up in stigmas and misconceptions when it comes to yoga, as it can be a great help for the health of your back.

How To Overcome The Male Stigma Towards Yoga

I love the video above.

As I think it perfectly highlights all the issues I've just talked about regarding the male stigma towards yoga.

And it's great to hear how those guys (who are real manly men) overcame that stigma and went on to really enjoy yoga and feel the health benefits for themselves.

Thankfully these stories are now becoming more and more common.

As yoga as an activity for men is gradually becoming more socially accepted.

And there are a few things that have helped this process.

For instance, professional sports clubs have been incorporating yoga into their player’s routines.

As it increases their muscle strength and flexibility as well as lowering the risk of picking up an injury.

And a great example of the virtues of yoga is Ryan Giggs.

As he went from a player that regularly suffered from muscle problems in his hamstrings in his 20s to one that played at the top level for Manchester United until past his 40th birthday.

Endorsements such as this will only encourage more men to try yoga.

However, while this stigma can (and has) been challenged it can still be tough to overturn completely.

One example of this is the story of a long-time construction worker turned yoga teacher in San Francisco called Allan Nett.

Now construction workers suffer from a lot of back, shoulder, knee and muscle pain because of the physical demands their work places on them.

And as a worker himself Allan had felt the benefits that yoga had for him in minimising and eliminating these problems.

So he came up with a tailored program to help his fellow construction workers achieve the same benefits.

And to help the workers get past the 'yoga stigma' he changed a couple of things.

So he renamed the yoga poses from their traditional Indian sanskrit names to the names of construction tools such as the plumb-bob and the bevel-square.

As by doing this he was aiming to make yoga seem more familiar and accessible to the men on site.

And he also adapted the yoga poses so that workers could do them in their boots and overalls rather than having to change into their gym clothes.

Which are pretty cool ideas right?

But did it work? Unfortunately not.

Because despite his attempts to remove the ‘yoga stigma’ the male workers were still reluctant to give it a try.

Now maybe some of them fancied it but the peer pressure of the majority who didn't was the deciding factor.

As not many wanted to raise their head above the parapet. 

So I guess the moral of the story is that if you want to try yoga but feel a bit uneasy about doing so, then you may need to work through this stigma by yourself.

Even keep your practice a secret at first if it helps you.

And how can I convince you to do that?

Well let’s start by looking at what yoga can do for the health of your back.

Why Is Yoga So Good For People With Back Pain?

Many scientific studies have been carried out on the effects yoga has on people with chronic lower back pain.

And it has been shown to reduce back pain levelsmake people more mobile, and help their back's function better.

It also meant they experienced positive emotions more frequently, were better able to accept their pain, and were less dependent on their pain medication.

Which are all great things that will help you to manage your back pain in a positive and healthy way.

So how does yoga bring us these benefits?

  • It increases your flexibility, which reduces the pressure and strain on your back.
  • While also strengthening your muscles, especially your core and leg muscles which help support the spine.
  • The deep stretching involved in yoga relieves and releases tension that you may be holding in your body.
  • Also keeping your body stretched and free from tension will improve your posture, which reduces the pressure and load on your back.
  • It will increase increase circulation and blood flow, meaning your muscles get the oxygen and nutrients delivered to them that they need to heal, repair, and stay healthy.
  • The controlled breathing and stretching in yoga will really relax your body and mind, which will help you release any stress and tension you may be holding in your body.
  • Practicing yoga also encourages the release of endorphins, which work as the body's natural painkiller and make you feel happier.
  • So yoga will improve your mood and make you feel more positive, which will help you to manage your back pain better.
  • And the relaxed feeling you get after a yoga class will help you to get a good night's sleep, which is where your body can heal, repair and regenerate itself.

So as you can see yoga is a great activity for managing or getting rid of your persistent back pain and improving your quality of life.

Which is a great reason to at least give it a try fellas.

How To Get Started With Yoga

If you want to try yoga then the easiest thing to do is to find a class in your local area that caters for beginners and go from there.

As most gyms have yoga classes that you can sign up for for free as part of your monthly membership.

You can also practice yoga at home by following YouTube videos.

However, I'd recommend going to a few classes first before trying these, as you need to learn how to do the moves safely with an instructor to avoid injuring yourself.

But the first decision you need to make is which type of yoga is going to suit you the best.

1. Choose Your Preferred Yoga Style

There are a few different types of yoga and each one caters to slightly different needs.

And the main styles offered are:

  • Hatha yoga - the most common type of yoga and a good choice for beginners as it has a gentle, slow and relaxed style. 
  • Bikram yoga - also known as hot yoga, these are 90 minute yoga classes held in heated studios that will really help you get a sweat on! 
  • Vinyasa yoga - this type of yoga involves more flowing movements than holding postures and is a more intense workout.
  • Iyengar yoga - this involves holding postures for a longer period of time than other forms of yoga, allowing you to sink deeper into the stretches.

So as you can see there is no one-size fits all when it comes to yoga.

Instead it's all about trying them and finding the one that suits you best.

2. Find A Yoga Class

As I previously mentioned, most local gyms run yoga classes as part of their monthly memberships.

So you may be able to join a class for free, which is the easiest option.

However, you can also find dedicated yoga studios that run a variety of classes where you'll have more choice over the style of yoga and intensity of the session.

These will be higher quality classes, although also more expensive.

And finally you can find donation based yoga classes in your local area on sites such as MeetUp and Couchsurfing.

These are cheaper, more informal and can be a great way of meeting new people and having a bit of fun with yoga.

So they may be a good option if you find the thought of an actual yoga class full of experienced yogis a little daunting.

3. Practice Yoga At Home

Once you've been to a few yoga classes and have got the hang of how the moving and breathing works, you could choose to continue to practice on your own at home.

Because group yoga classes aren't going to appeal to everyone.

And you may not have the time to be able to fit them into your busy schedule.

So being able to practice yoga whenever you like in the comfort of your own home is a great option to have.

And fortunately there are a wealth of yoga videos you can follow on YouTube such as the one above.

So you can find videos with yoga sessions tailored to help people with back pain.

Or you find yoga videos for many other purposes such as helping you to sleep better, giving you more energy, making you more focused.

You name it, it's on there!

So if you prefer to do yoga at home then these videos can be a great help.

Just make sure your technique is good to avoid any injuries.

My Own Experience Of Yoga

fun yoga class

I guess I've always been the type to give new things a go.

So despite it's feminine image, I got into yoga in my early twenties before my back problems began and I could still play football.

And I thought it was fantastic.​

As not only did it keep my body flexible, strong and supple, it really cleared my mind and helped me to focus on my game.

In short it made me feel great.

So did I recommend it to my team-mates? My friends? Or to my fellow workers on site?

Not a chance!

In fact, I kept it as a guilty secret as I was expecting a barrage of mickey-taking if anyone ever found out.

Pretty ridiculous, eh?

I was embarrassed to be seen doing something that I was enjoying and was feeling the benefit from because of some stupid stigma.

However, now I’m a bit older and a lot less sensitive I have no qualms about recommending yoga to everyone.

As it helped me even more after my back issues started to arise.

Keeping me stretched out and relieving tension in my tight back muscles, while also strengthening my core to give me more support.

So don't let any misconceptions or stigmas about yoga stop you from trying it, because you may find it helps you out massively.

And the classes can be fun too.

For example, the photo above is from a class I used to go to in London that was run by a great guy called Richard Brook.

This class had a really social atmosphere and was somewhere I looked forward to going to each week.

Which made it really easy to stick to my yoga practice.​

And he occasionally spiced it up by holding unconventional events like yoga raves (yoga to loud music) and paired yoga (stretching with a partner) which were fantastic!

So have a search in your local area and see if any yoga places are offering creative and fun sounding classes nearby.

After all if it's fun it's more likely you'll keep it up.

Important: Things To Do Before You Begin

I hope I've inspired you to give yoga a try.

However, it's important to stay safe as you practice to get the benefits from it.

So consider the following before diving in.

  • Check with your doctor or physical therapist to make sure that yoga is safe for you to try.
  • Don't get competitive and try and push yourself with yoga as this goes against the principles of it and can cause you injuries.
  • Find a class with a good yoga teacher that puts the health and well being of each of their students at the top of their priorities.
  • Tell the yoga teacher about your back issues and limitations before the class begins so they can adjust the poses for you to make things safer for you.

As by doing these things you can reap the benefits of yoga for years to come.

And hopefully say goodbye to persistent back pain in the process.

Rounding Up

Yoga is a great activity for people with back pain.

As it can help to improve your posture, keep your body flexible, relieve muscle tension, and strengthen your core muscles which gives your back more support.

However, despite these benefits there is still a stigma among men that makes them reluctant to give yoga a try.

But I hope that I've managed to show you why it's worth getting over this stigma.

As yoga may just be the thing that helps to take your back pain away.

So join a beginners yoga class and start to feel the benefits for yourself today.

Share here!

Daniel

I'm a psychology graduate and a veteran of 5 spinal surgeries. I want to help people learn how to fight back against persistent back pain just like I have.

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