Is Yoga just for Chics?

Ummm NO.

One of the most prevalent yoga myths is that yoga is only for women. This is honestly one of the craziest myths – especially considering that ancient yoga was a male-dominated practice. It was created for 14-year-old boys people!! Women were not even able to practice it. Now that being said, the West has changed yoga in a plethora of ways; some may say it better, some may say it has lost its way.

I digress…

Why do men believe this idea that yoga is just for women? I don’t know, maybe it has something to do with mainstream media highlighting women in fancy yoga poses. I see why men have the idea it must be for skinny young chics but come on, we know what you see in social media is not reality.

A few other reasons they may have not boarded the yoga train: yoga isn’t a good enough workout for men; it’s too touchy-feely; you have to be flexible beforehand, and men’s bodies aren’t naturally built for these poses.

Let me make this very clear: yoga offers a tremendous array of benefits for everyone. That certainly includes our dudes.

Unfortunately, this myth leads to a disappointing statistic: of the 20 million Americans who practice yoga, less than 18% of them are men. At Yoga Fever, we have plenty of men who show up on their mats day after day. But if you’ve never given it a try, I urge you to read on to discover the many benefits of overcoming this myth. Then, pop in to try your first yoga class!

3 Great Reasons to Give Yoga a Try

Yoga extends your muscles’ range of motion: Men typically target a select group of muscles at the gym, including hamstrings, glutes, abs, and shoulders. However, these muscles can only be trained so far. And, when exercised too heavily, they can become injured. However, yoga uses your natural body weight and resistance to build lean muscle mass, which improves blood flow and helps your muscles recover faster. I highly recommend complementing your gym exercises with a regular yoga practice.

Yoga provides a full spectrum of health: Unlike most male fitness regimes, yoga views health as more than visible muscle strength. And that’s because yoga strengthens more than just the physical body. It also teaches you to calm your mind and open your heart, leading to pain-free movement, increased flexibility, and decreased symptoms of anxiety, depression, and rage.

Yoga melts away your damaging competitive spirit: While this is certainly common in women too, men are often especially haunted by an intense spirit of competition. Yoga teaches you to keep your eyes – and focus – on your own mat. All that is asked of you is that you show up willing to respect the needs of your body, knowing that your worth has nothing to do with the person next to you.

Tips for Men Starting Yoga

Don’t force the movement: Many men have a gift of strength, but a tendency to work their body too hard, ignoring pain and discomfort. When you step on your mat, I encourage you to identify the difference between sensation and pain, learning when to modify to protect your body.

Focus on what’s working: You may not feel comfortable in certain poses, but powerful and masterful in others. Know that yoga is a practice where you have permission to take what you need. There will be no drill Sargent barking orders or requiring you to do anything you’re uncomfortable with!

Set aside your competitive spirit: As I mentioned before, know that you might not be the best yogi in the room. It’s time to get accustomed to that. The only thing you should be worried about is improving your own practice. And, sometimes, you may have to take a step backward before making progress.

Dump your belief that you must already be flexible: Thinking you have to be flexible to try yoga is like saying you have to be in shape to go to the gym or know how to cook to take a cooking class. The truth is, practicing yoga regularly will help you become more flexible over time.

Yoga truly is a strong, energetic, and challenging workout. But too many men never make it past that first-class or even show up at all. You may enter your first class as a skeptic, but I promise if you give it a few tries you’ll leave a sweaty convert! Oh, and one more tip—— yoga will improve your golf game by a mile. Now……who’s with me?

photo courtesy of wandering soul collective

Common Yoga Injuries and How to Prevent Them

Last week we covered seven basic, overarching ways to avoid yoga-related injuries. Now, let’s dive deeper into some of the most common body parts that yogis injure – and learn practical ways to protect yourself.

Hamstrings: One of the most common body parts that can get injured due to yoga is your hamstrings. Forcing your legs straight into any pose – whether you’re standing, sitting, or lying down – can damage your hamstring muscles. This kind of injury often builds up gradually, turning into hamstring tendonitis.

How to avoid hamstring injuries: Avoid forcing your legs into any stretches and you’ll find these injuries quite easy to avoid. If hamstrings are not your most flexible body part, apply added focus on contracting the front of your body (quads and lower abs) when you fold forward to let your hamstrings feel safe letting go. Don’t use your hands to pull your body deeper into forward folds. Those of you with a lot of mobility in your hamstrings need to be cautious and focus on engaging your outer hips, as it’s possible for you to overstretch and cause injury.

Shoulders: Yoga can cause shoulder injuries as a result of improper overuse. Poses like plank, chaturanga, cobra pose, and upward facing are common culprits. I’ve also seen shoulder injuries arise due to students not listening to their bodies’ signs of fatigue. Don’t push through chaturanga when your body is screaming for a modification or a rest.

How to avoid shoulder injuries: Avoid putting heavy weight on the joint by keeping the shoulders locked into the back on the poses listed above. Be sure to hug the elbows into the side body as you lower down through chaturanga and drop your knees down if this is hard to accomplish. Nail the elbows grazing into the ribs as you lower first – then try to lower down in one line with knees lifted. In your updog and cobra poses be sure to expand into the collar bones and externally rotate the shoulders and pull them down into the back pockets.

Wrists: Much like elbow injuries, wrist pain is a result of repetitive stress. This small joint is often already aggravated by too much computer usage. Those of you with weaker upper arms and forearms are at a higher risk because you won’t be able to press your palm firmly enough into your mat to relieve the weight placed on your wrist.

How to avoid wrist injuries: Supplement your yoga practice with some basic arm exercises designed to tone and strengthen. Use dumbbells or resistance bands when you visit the gym. The stronger your arms are, the less pressure you’ll place on your wrists. Alternatively, I recommend placing your knees on the ground to modify poses, like chaturanga, while you build wrist strength.

Lower back: Among the most frequent yoga injuries, lower back pain is often caused by rounding your spine in forward folds or downward dog. Rounding and overstretching is a recipe for injury and irritation, as it causes your spine to flex the opposite way it is supposed to.

How to avoid lower back injuries: Don’t shy away from bending your knees in forward folds; this allows your back to decompress and relax. Engage your lower belly in most poses – especially chair – as core strength contributes to a strong, healthy back. Keep a small bend in your knees throughout practice and remember to tuck your pelvis under your spine.

Knees: Knee injuries are often related to a lack of flexibility, especially in poses that target your tight hips. Other times, they’re the result of your knees falling out of alignment in poses like Warrior or triangle pose.

How to avoid knee injuries: When bending your knee in a pose like Warrior 2, always check that it is tracking over your middle toe. You never want it to cave inward because it adds unnecessary strain. When your knee is straight, avoid locking your knee joint. Additionally, avoid spending long periods of time in deep hip openers until you build flexibility there.

Neck: Any time you apply pressure to your neck – such as during a headstand – you’re compressing your neck. This can lead to pain in your cervical vertebrae. Your neck is one of the scariest places to harm since it takes so long to heal properly.

How to avoid neck injuries: Never put pressure on your head in any kind of inversion – including when you prepare for full wheel. Don’t force yourself into poses that the rest of your body (shoulders, wrists, abs) isn’t prepared to support you in.

Given all the proven benefits of yoga, but also the many potential risks, what should you yogis do? My biggest advice to avoiding yoga injuries is a combination of gradually easing into each practice, noting when your body feels pain over sensation, and mixing yoga with other exercise forms to strengthen weak areas.

At Yoga Fever, it’s our mission to teach an anatomically-sound yoga practice that keeps your bodies safe and strong! If you ever start noticing pain or discomfort, let your yoga instructor know so we can help adjust you or modify your pose.

7 Tips for Avoiding Common Yoga Injuries

Many yogis love the practice because it reduces the tightness in their necks, loosens their lower backs, and releases tension in their hips. But, like any kind of sport or activity, injuries can – and do – happen in yoga.

Some injuries occur due to overuse and inaccurate alignment on repeat. Others come about from thinking you’re more flexible than you really are. And sometimes, they’re a complete slip, accident, or fluke.

Thankfully, I have seven pieces of advice to help you avoid common yoga injuries. Because the most important thing to Yoga Fever instructors is keeping you safe and your body healthy.

1. Know the difference between sensation and pain

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: leave your ego at the door. Do NOT compare your flexibility, your strength, or your body in general to that of your neighbor. Everyone’s body is different, which means that the “perfect pose” may not be possible for you – right now, or ever. That’s okay. We’re here to guide you toward your best possible expression. But if anything ever starts feeling uncomfortable, please listen to your body and back off.

2. Get the green light from your doc if you have any pre-existing injuries

If you’re new to yoga and have any pre-existing injuries, please talk to your doctor or physical therapist for guidance first. While we instructors are trained in anatomy and are skilled in helping students avoid new injuries, we don’t know what aches and pains you might be dealing with already. Discuss which postures or movements might be risky based on your current or ongoing limitations.

3. Chat with your instructor before or after class

That being said, we also want to hear from you – about existing injuries or any new pains you’re noticing. When we know what’s going on with your body, we can help cue modifications to help you avoid doing more injury to yourself. While we try our best to move around the studio and help students right during class, we can’t always make it to everyone. We warmly welcome you to chat with us before or after class, so we can help you protect your body.

4. Gently stretch tight areas

Stretching and other dynamic movements should always be done mindfully and gently. Take your time loosening tight areas – especially during the beginning of class or when you’re practicing outside of our heated studio. It’s natural to feel some resistance, but you should be able to tell the difference between that and pain. Overstretching will only ever set you back by worsening existing injuries or leading to muscle tears.

5. Regular strength training

If you know you’re weaker in certain parts of your body – say, glutes or hamstrings – try to build strength there gradually. This helps you reduce putting too much pressure on other body parts as they try to compensate. Focus on regular cardiovascular or resistance-training exercises several times per week to build up the strength you need to stay safe in the yoga studio.

6. Use props for support

You know those blocks and straps at the back of our yoga studio? Yes, we really do want you to grab one of each for every class. Blocks can easily bring your mat closer to you if you don’t reach the floor in a certain bend or twist. They relieve pressure on your precious hamstrings. A rolled-up blanket or towel placed under your knee or hip is another great way to protect vulnerable parts of your body. Props are not something to be ashamed of. In fact, some of the strongest yogis are those who rely on their props to support them when they need it.

7. Consider trying various styles of yoga

Beyond the physical injuries, you might immediately think of, certain vigorous styles are not meant for beginners. Ease your way into the yoga practice by attending some of our gentle yoga, warm (not as hot) classes or even our yin yoga classes, which move at a slower pace. Learn the foundations of yoga from our experienced teachers, and read up on how to prepare your body for the Power Vinyasa Classes. Choose the appropriate class for your skill level and work your way up.

Next week, we’ll dive deeper into some of the most common yoga injuries, teaching you practical ways to avoid falling victim to them yourself.

In the meantime, I hope you take these tips to heart. It’s easy to forget that the ancient practice is about so much more than contorting your body into unique, impressive physical shapes. But at the end of the day, no one wants to lose out on days or weeks of yoga practice because they’re nursing an injury that could have been avoidable.