After a first successful men only session in April we have decided to run a regular class for men only. Jonathan Millett has recently joined the teaching team at IYISL and will be teaching these sessions.
We asked him some questions about why he thinks these classes are needed....
Jonathan - why do you think men only classes are useful?
“It used to be a common stereotype that yoga was a pursuit only for women. Although I have never known this to be the case, in recent years the ratio of men to women has greatly changed and far more men are coming to the mat.
Men commonly find that they struggle with tightness particularly in the hips, hamstrings, and shoulders and can therefore sometimes find a yoga class a bit intimidating. They come wanting to increase their flexibility and can feel they are so much stiffer than other people in the class.
In addition some muscles do not get enough attention during sports and workouts (like the lower back and knees). This is a common cause of weakness and injury so men need to focus on these areas.”
What was your experience when you started yoga classes?
“I was certainly not very flexible at all when I was starting to attend Iyengar yoga classes. Initially my hamstrings were so tight that a forward bend such as Uttanasana simply was not an option. The teacher had me doing a half forward bend (Ardha-Uttanasana) with my hands to the wall until my hamstrings were able to extend more. Although I was not keen as being singled out from the class at the time, focus on what I needed eventually paid off. Likewise ankles, hips and shoulders were all issues that had to be worked on gradually through consistent practice.
The mind and body are both adaptable and can be trained to become more agile, stronger and more focused. Yoga postures are based on the principle of integrating the body and mind as a whole and shifts the emphasis towards the quality of the movement. It can be surprising how quickly we can adapt and evolve through regular practice. Practicing regularly is the key thing.”
How do you think yoga benefits men specifically?
“Leading sportsmen, from Andy Murray and Ryan Giggs to the entire New Zealand All Blacks team, wax lyrical about how yoga tones muscle, improves flexibility, increases endurance and speeds up recovery from injuries.
With sustained practice, yoga has also been proven to help reduce stress, improve sleep patterns and increase concentration. Again this has been my experience with yoga, it seems like the more I practice the more positive, relaxed and focussed I can be, making me a more pleasant person to be around.
Although a bit of a generalisation, men tend to deal with stress differently to women. A lot of men keep stresses and frustrations inside, whereas women tend to be more expressive about their feelings. If a person is constantly stressed, they are continually releasing stress hormones into the body. This can be very detrimental to our general wellbeing and can cause a whole range of adverse health effects.
Research has shown that men are significantly more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease than women, and that this is the main reason for the gender gap in mortality rates. Stretching and extending muscles helps them become more sensitive to insulin, which is important for controlling blood sugar.“
Recently a male student at IYISL, quite new to yoga, said that the day after a restorative class his body felt like he had had a sports massage – his muscles felt much more released that was usual for him. Is this another benefit of Iyengar yoga?
“I think so. Restorative yoga poses and breathing exercises can help lower blood pressure, quiet the nervous system and ease stress. Inverted postures help to improve circulation. Yoga can also help us understand how the mind functions, which makes it easier to not get engaged in negative stressful thought patterns. All of these aspects may help prevent health problems occurring in the future.”
So what will you be aiming to do in the monthly men only session at IYISL?
“The yoga class for men is suitable for any level of experience from beginners onwards and will address those particular strengths and weaknesses of the group in a more focussed way.
We will aim to find a balance of strengthening, stretching and relaxing the body, in a friendly, non-competitive, supportive environment.”
The next men only session will be on 24 Jun, 11-1.30. See the website listing for more information.
Blog written by Jonathan Millet and Marion Sinclair