by David van Zwieten
Yoga has the potential to be a seriously beneficial workout—especially when the yoga class offers a sequence of a variety of physical poses. The practice builds not only stronger muscles, but also longer ones—a key component to staying healthy and injury-free. Yoga can be adapted to suit virtually everyone, of all ages, genders and abilities. Despite the countless benefits of a regular yoga practice, many people—and especially men—have reasons for refraining from trying yoga. Of all the excuses, there are three that are most often heard.
The number one misconception people—especially men—have about yoga is that flexibility is a prerequisite. This is like saying that only people with strong muscles can go to the gym to lift weights. With continued practice, yoga leads to more flexibility over time—in the same way that weightlifting leads to more muscle mass.
The spine is meant to bend both forward and backward—and to a degree, laterally, left to right. Unfortunately, we spend a good part of our daily activities bending the spine forward whilst the vertebrae compress downward. This can cause slipped or ruptured disks, sciatic nerve pain and other spinal maladies. However—barring a few exceptions—yoga can actually be the best thing for people with spinal injuries. Look for a practice that focuses on proper biomechanics, alignment and developing core-strength and be sure to share existing health conditions with yoga teachers. Combined with high quality massage work and acupuncture, oftentimes, back pain sufferers can regain full function and relief from chronic pain.
One of the great things about yoga practice is that it can be done by everyone from toddlers to seniors. In Yoga Journal’s 2008 “Yoga in America” study, 41 percent of respondents were between the ages of 35 to 54, and 18 percent were 55 years or older. Maybe this is why, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, Tao Porchon-Lynch is the world’s oldest yoga teacher—who, as of this writing, is 95 years young.
The benefits of yoga far outnumber and outweigh the reasons for not practicing. By constantly comparing ourselves to the ability of others—at our own peril and suffering—we defeat ourselves before we give it a chance.
David van Zwieten is co-owner of IvolutionYoga.com and partners with Wagner Integrative Therapies, in Doylestown, to integrate yoga into the healing process of Dr. J. Adam Wagner’s patients. Connect with him at IvolutionYoga.com and JAdamWagner.com. June 2014.