By: Ryan “RyTheNewsGuy” Ernde

The fitness world for men today is different, brave, and bold compared to the earlier generations whose influence often still dictates what defines “taboo.” It’s likely no surprise some men you talk to still see yoga as being “girly” or religious. On the other hand, there are those who label the fitness practice as an “overblown” trend. Before you come to any silly conclusions of your own about yoga, please consider the fact that it isn’t about half-naked trendsetters sweating their butts off while putting themselves in awkward positions they can’t even pronounce like the “Eka Pada Koundinyasana.”

Here are some tips from the experts at the Yoga Journal that helped me leave my comfort zone and enter the world of yoga with no regrets!

Ditch the tough guy routine

Ego is one of the biggest, and best, things we guys have going for us but sometimes we just have to set it aside. Don’t worry about being the most flexible, strongest person or what the babe behind you is thinking as you get in “plow pose.” It’s important to remember that yoga moves come in several variations to fit your fitness level. Just like you don’t pile on a lot of weights your first time using a bench press, you shouldn’t try to over-challenge yourself with poses.

Understand who you are, and what your body can handle, is one of the main tenants of yoga. With the proper approach, yoga will make you strong physically as well as mentally.

If you need any more proof to drop the ego, look to the 2012 Super Bowl champion New York Giants. Retired wide receiver Amani Toomer and former offensive lineman Shaun O’Hara told ESPN they do yoga on a regular basis and it offered boundless benefits to their performance. Clearly yoga is an engrained exercise program with the team.

{related article: should you strip for naked yoga?}

What is this Yoga business anyways?

First, let’s throw out the “technical” definition of yoga. Always reliable had a pretty fair assessment.

One of the most powerful and quintessential forms of exercise that requires intense mental concentration. When practiced correctly and concentrating on breathing, yoga increases flexibility, muscle definition, endurance, and mental clarity. Yoga is not for the physically or mentally weak. Anyone who downplays the effectiveness of yoga or says anything negative about it should be mercilessly beaten.”

This first part is pretty much right on the money. Yoga is a full body, as well as mind, workout that is all about your breathing and focus. The latter part isn’t necessarily right on the money, especially the “beating” part. The yoga instructor at the L.A. Fitness gym I go to told me “yes, there are some poses in yoga that can’t be done without solid strength but, the good thing about yoga is, if you feel like you can’t do a move then it’s OK to get into ‘child’s pose and follow along.” She went on to tell me that real key to yoga is remaining focused and the strength will come as you practice.

Don’t go for babes

Not going to lie, there are tons of HOT women in yoga classes and often you might think “Hey, ‘sexual,’ how you doin’?!” But be forewarned, they aren’t there to get asked out, or even checked out, just workout.

You shouldn’t go in expecting nothing but eye-candy too. Don’t get me wrong, I tend to workout harder when prettier people are around, remember to respect the fact that the people there are getting fit, plus be thankful that they can stand your B.O. an entire class without running in fear.

Make sure you go to yoga for the right reasons. Yoga is a timeless, ancient exercise and if just being in the same room with some hotties is enough impetus to get you in a class, well then, that’s great, but don’t let it be your ONLY motivation.

{related article: pilates for runners}

Let’s talk benefits

Yoga is chockfull of benefits and is hailed by many physicians and experts as great way to relieve back and joint pain, increase blood circulation, and even provide a more restful sleep. Focusing on the physical, one can expect to see marked improvement in:

  • Flexibility
  • Mental clarity
  • Muscle tone
  • Core strength
  • Posture
  • Balance
  • Focus
  • Discipline
  • Breath control
  • Mind body communication
  • Breath control

Just checkout pro wrestler Diamond Dallas Page; he created a program Yoga for Regular Guys (YRG). He swears yoga is the perfect exercise for weight loss/management, muscle growth and improved cardio. This hard hitter might have shunned off yoga years ago, when he still jumped in the ring, but, from what I can tell from his physic, yoga has obviously become a paramount workout in his routine.

Getting started

So, making to this point in the article must mean you’re interested in yoga.

First, let’s get schooled on the different types of yoga… Yeah, there are different types (no to complicate things):

  • Hatha: the most basic, and widely practiced, form of yoga. Great for beginners because it will teach you yoga poses.
  • Vinyasa: this form links body movement with breathing. The idea is to enter new poses and focus as you breathe.
  • Asthanga: think strength. This is where being an advanced student comes in. Incorporates the flow of Vinyasa yoga but, instead of moving to new poses each breathe, you hold a pose from a predetermined number of breaths.
  • Bikram or Hot Yoga: the fastest growing advanced form of yoga. It’s an extreme yoga practiced in a very hot room, sometimes over 100 degrees, and not for the faint of heart. People with heart conditions, or other physical limitations, and first timers need not apply.

Finding your fit

There are some ways you checkout yoga before pulling out the wallet to pay for classes you may never take. Here are a few cheap, mostly free, ways to preview and try yoga techniques:

  • Yoga apps: many have pose diagrams, class reminders, daily tips… Pretty much everything you need to get started.
  • DVDs: easy way to learn poses so you don’t look like a moron.
  • P90X: Believe it, the hugely popular exercise system has a Yoga X program.
  • YouTube: like everything else, yoga tips have made popped up there. Just be careful the “expert” you’re getting the tip from knows what he or she is talking about.
  • Books: library, free, need I say more.
  • Gym: most gyms will off FREE classes. Some even range from beginner to expert to fit your needs. Best part, most include classes in your regular membership so you don’t have to spend an extra dime!
  • Intro classes at a yoga studio: many will let you take some yoga classes for free before you sign a contract so you can get a feel for it.

So, now that you’re armed with the gist of what is and how us guys can get a lot from the so-called “craze,” get out there and try it! If you don’t like it, no worries, you can still be enjoy the fact knowing you’ve still achieved enlightenment knowing the workouts aren’t for you.

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