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Myth 1/ It’s Only for Women
THE TRUTH: YOGA ACTUALLY HOLDS MORE BENEFITS FOR MEN
“The reluctance of men to try yoga is interesting, because for the greater part of yoga’s existence women were not allowed to practice it.
Only since yoga was introduced to the Western world has it become popular among women,” says Mostert. “But the fact that yoga is now thought of as a ‘women’s form of fitness’ makes men a lot more reluctant to take part.” According to research by yogajournal.com, less than 18% of yoga practioners are male – but that’s all changing thanks to the influence of men like Dylan Werner and international movements like Manflow Yoga.
Local studios like Tree Natural are becoming more and more popular with progressive doctors, coaches and trainers, like Dr Alan Kourie, the Cell C Sharks team physician, and Paul Anthony, head coach for the under 19 Sharks rugby side.
“I don’t think that yoga is for all men, but I do think it’s for real men,” explains Kourie. “I understand that one of the challenges men grapple with in getting themselves into a yoga studio is the pre-conceived idea that it’s a ‘women-only thing’, and it’s not. If Novak Djokovic, the New York Giants and the All Blacks don’t have any gender concerns in using yoga as a means to achieve success, then neither should any guy here in South Africa.”
When it comes to flexibility and range of motion, men are usually a lot more restricted than women – which means yoga can do more for us. “In my experience, I’ve found most men to be particularly less flexible than woman and, interestingly, tend to have weaker core strength too,” says Kourie.
“I believe that as we age, we tend to become more sedentary and our joints aren’t forced through the kind of ranges they used to be when on the school cricket pitch or during a game of beach touch rugby,” says Kourie. “Yoga moves the hips, shoulders, vertebrae and other joints through all their ranges of motion, thereby improving agility.
Myth 2/ Yoga Isn’t Challenging
THE TRUTH: YOU’LL BE HUMBLED AS YOUR WEAKNESSES ARE HIGHLIGHTED
“You’ll go to places you never knew existed during a practice,” says Roux. “I’ve seen top rugby players and CrossFit athletes break down in classes – men who can bench 200kg but can’t hold a yoga pose for 30 seconds,” says Roux. “Yoga will always give you what you need, but not always what you expect. A big misconception in yoga is that it’s only about stretching. I initially used it to increase my mobility and flexibility, but I had no idea how vigorous yoga could be and how completely blown I’d be after a class,” explains Roux.
At Tree Natural, Roux and Mostert have trained a number of Sharks rugby players and coaches, national hockey players, legendary big wave charger Grant “Twiggy” Baker and Nic Burden, Roux’s business partner and ex-Springbok sprint kayaker. “Internationally the list of yoga training converts is a lot longer, of course: the Indian cricket team, the All Blacks (106kg centre Ma’a Nonu has been doing yoga for years for recovery), surfer Laird Hamilton, boxer Floyd Mayweather and footballer Ryan Giggs, who released a DVD called Giggs Fitness: Power & Strength Through Yoga.”
Myth 3/ There Are No Strength Benefits
THE TRUTH: DONE RIGHT, IT CAN MAKE YOU STRONGER
Roux, with his athletic background, is the perfect case study for the strength benefits of yoga. “I enjoy variety, and the challenge presented by different sports and their training routines. My goal is complete athleticism – and my definition of that is a balance between raw strength, explosive power, agility, endurance, speed and control,” explains Roux.
“Perhaps the most surprising thing that happened was yoga made me stronger. The different activation of muscles and increased mobility translated across to Olympic and power lifting. After exchanging a strength training day for a yoga day, like magic, my power increased. Yoga unlocked untapped potential in my strength and all-round athleticism.”
Kourie and Anthony have used Sculpt yoga as part of their pre-season training for the Under-19 Sharks side and have taken a number of the senior team players for classes.
“There’s huge benefits for sportsmen, especially those constantly involved in excessive muscle strengthening, as a means of muscle relaxation and recovery. The strengthening of muscles puts extra strain on the tendons, as they now become more taut at their bony attachments. This can result in a number of different biomechanical changes in the body, which, if not corrected, can predispose a player to injury,” says Kourie. But it doesn’t end there: yoga also offers another big benefit for Kourie and his own sporting life.
“Balance is another focus point of yoga, which I believe is hugely underestimated in its value in almost all sports. I’ve personally found that working on my balance, as well as my core strength has helped improve my surfing. Lunging and holding in the Warrior position has also improved my VMO (vastus medialis oblique) strength, which acts as a knee stabiliser, and this has helped my mountain biking,” says Kourie.
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