By Denis Faye
All right, gentlemen—how often have you been in this situation? It’s Thursday afternoon and you got off work a little early. It’s been a stressful week and you could use a good sweat. You try to get a few friends together for some hoops, but no luck, so you pop in a [intlink id=”164″ type=”page”]P90X[/intlink] workout.
Which one do you pick? I’m betting most of you went for Shoulders & Arms or Chest & Back. A couple of you iconoclasts might have slid Plyometrics into the DVD player. But odds are none of you picked Yoga X. And why not? Well, despite the fact that Yoga X features Tony Horton, the most manly of all manly men, and despite the fact that it’s a gruelingly difficult 90 minutes, when presented with this ancient practice, most men choose to listen to their inner caveman and come to the same conclusion: Yoga is for girls.
And that’s just sad, because the truth is that yoga probably has more to offer the typical brute-force-lovin’, emotion-repressin’, stretch-avoidin’, pain-ignorin’ American male than it does to any other human being on the planet. Here’s why . . .
Women dig guys who do yoga
If you’ve seen the Mel Gibson film What Women Want, you know that the first thing Mel does when he gets the power to read women’s minds is hit the yoga studio. Yoga has its own language, and if you speak that language fluently, you’re in. Next time you’re at a party and you overhear three babes talking about their yoga preferences, slide in with, “Normally, I prefer hatha, but sometimes I do a little kundalini, you know, just to take off the edge.” You just got yourself three dates. I guarantee it.
Yoga works your stabilizer muscles
Basically, we have two kinds of muscles, big ones that move you around and smaller ones that keep the big ones from moving the wrong way and injuring you. These smaller ones are called stabilizer muscles. They aren’t as sexy to look at as your pecs, your abs, or your biceps, but they’re just as important. While yoga may not necessarily give you huge guns, it’ll strengthen the stabilizer muscles that’ll make sure you don’t injure yourself while you’re doing the heavy lifting to earn yourself those guns.
You can do yoga whenever
Most physical activities call for certain conditions. Basketball requires other players. Surfing requires waves. Skiing requires snow. Lifting requires 48 hours between workouts. Yoga, however, only requires a little free space and some comfortable clothing. That’s it. It’s the ideal filler exercise when you don’t have the personnel, environment, materials, or time you need to do something else.
Yoga promotes body awareness
One of the main things new yoga practitioners, both men and women, complain about is the fact that yoga is booooo-ring. When you first start, this may be true, but if you stick with it, things’ll change. With other activities, you’re forced to pay attention to what’s happening around you. With yoga, the trick is to stop looking for those external stimuli and start looking internally. I’m not talking about the whole hippie spiritual thing; I’m talking about feeling how your body is reacting to the poses. This increased body awareness can translate to a more intuitive ability to improve in other physical pursuits, as well as a heightened awareness of what’s happening internally when you incur a sports-related injury. With a little time, you might even be able to work toward lessening the effect of such damage before it even has a chance to happen.
Yoga builds your stamina
If you own the P90X One on One yoga DVD Fountain of Youth, you’re probably familiar with one particularly painful sequence in which Tony appears to forget he is in chair pose as he gabs away with Mason for what seems like hours. As they chat, you’re forced to wince, swear, and do your best to breathe into the pain. I hate Tony at that point, yet I love him in the long run for helping build my stamina. For me, stamina lessons learned with yoga make the paddle out to the lineup so much easier when I’m surfing. It has similar benefits across almost all other sports. “Basketball is an endurance sport, and you have to learn to control your breath,” explains legendary player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. “That’s the essence of yoga too.”
Yoga increases focus
This combination of body awareness and stamina reap a third benefit: increased concentration. This is especially useful for you athletes out there, given that concentration is the ultimate guard against smack talk. Basketballers, golfers, and soccer players alike love to drop the occasional well-placed put-down in the middle of that crucial shot. Try mastering the Warrior III pose, which requires you to extend both hands and one foot while balancing on the other foot flawlessly for 60 seconds. The Zen state you achieve doing that will help ensure that those pithy little playing-field put-downs bounce right off you.
Now that you’ve learned more about yoga, you may be concerned because the whole it-makes-you-more-manly-and-attractive thing seems like it’s being diluted by the whole sensitive-self-aware-lover-boy thing—which may not be quite what you were shooting for when you started up with P90X in the first place. But the truth is, yoga can be as tough, demanding, and punishing as any other physical activity out there. It’s a win-win. So unroll that mat and pretzel up. As Tony Horton once said to me, “You coming to yoga with us, dude? You know you need it.”