Men and yoga

Here’s a guest blog post from our yoga therapist, John Grimes, about men and the practice of yoga:

Throughout the history of yoga, which has been around for hundreds of years, it was most often practised by men. Yoga was Primarily introduced into the UK by BKS Iyengar, who started by teaching yoga to the Indian army, Swami Rama and Richard Hittleman who brought the first Yoga tv program to the UK. 

Yoga is also practised by countless modern celebrities and sports men. Male stars such as Orlando Bloom, Colin Farrel, Tom Hanks, Ryan Goslin, and Russel Brand, footballers Ryan Giggs, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and David Silva, basket ball superstar LeBron James. 

There are many styles and practices of yoga, there are strong and sweaty ones, there are slow and structured ones, there are gentle and kind ones. We have to find the one that suits us.

Most, if not all, people who practice yoga regularly experience improvements in their mental and physical health. 

These benefits can include:

These benefits can be particularly appropriate for helping to prevent conditions to which men are more vulnerable.

Heart disease is the leading cause of male death in the UK, with 119,000 men having a heart attack each year, compared to 69,000 women.

A study published in the European Journal of preventive Cardiology found that risk factors for cardiovascular disease improved more in those doing yoga than in those doing no exercise. The study showed improvement in blood pressure, cholesterol and weight which can all add up to a lower risk of hypertension, Stoke and heart disease. 

In the UK, the male suicide rate is its lowest since 1981 – 15.5 deaths per 100,000. But suicide is still the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45. And a marked gender split remains. For UK women, the rate is a third of men’s: 4.9 suicides per 100,000.

The Harvard medical school says that by reducing perceived stress and anxiety, yoga appears to modulate stress response systems. This, in turn, decreases physiological arousal — for example, reducing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and easing respiration. There is also evidence that yoga practices help increase heart rate variability, an indicator of the body’s ability to respond to stress more flexibly.

The report ‘Diabetes in the UK 2009’, found men aged 35-54 are almost twice as likely to have diabetes compared to their female counterparts.

Diabetes UK say that Yoga is considered to be a promising, cost-effective option in the treatment and prevention of diabetes, with data from several studies suggesting that yoga and other mind-body therapies can reduce stress-related hyperglycemia and have a positive effect on blood glucose control

Controlling mental stress (stress management) is one of the keys of diabetes treatment When we’re stressed, our blood sugar levels increase and elevated blood sugar levels increase the chances of serious complications such as heart disease. 

Using controlled breathing techniques, meditation and body postures, yoga and other mindfulness-based programmes train participants to invoke a relaxation response.

This response helps regulate cortisol and other stress hormones, which increases blood pressure and blood glucose levels Both play a big role in the development of type 2 diabetes and related complications.

In the case of type 2 diabetes, yoga can prevent the disease from developing by Rejuvenating pancreatic cells – Yoga postures that aid relaxation stretch the pancreas, which can stimulate the production of insulin-producing beta cells. 

So yoga clearly has health benefits, but you don’t have to think about them, they will happen. Yoga will also help you with your other activities, making you more flexible, balanced and agile. And for me it helps to totally switch off and forget the day I’ve had or what I’m doing tomorrow. And most importantly it is fun.

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