While we all want to remain agile and fit the fact is, our bodies and athletic abilities change as we approach middle age and some of our old go-to exercises can put unnecessary strain on our joints and cause discomfort. Thus, finding an exercise routine we can enjoy without causing damaging to our aging joints and muscles can be difficult. However, yoga offers just such an opportunity.
While yoga may have the reputation for being an intimidating approach to pretzel-like poses done primarily by women, many men are finding the benefits of the total body exercise.
When men get older, they tend to become more sedentary and improving their flexibility is a challenge, but it is not impossible. It’s important to realize that age should never prevent any man from introducing yoga into their life. Yoga for men can incorporate basic postures without all the fancy balancing acts, and is an effective way to maintain regular exercise, provide men with a foundation of flexibility and strength, and allow them to experience the many health benefits it provides.
The Basics and Benefits
When men over 40 participate in yoga, the movements can be very effective. Holding a pose for many breaths results in connective tissues and muscles loosening and relaxing, which can help build overall strength and stamina and can also help men improve their overall health.
Like most of us, men over 40 typically have many things going on in their life, from work schedules and home responsibilities, supporting their children and maybe even their grandchildren. Add into that mix, the fact that men gradually lose two percent of their testosterone production per year after the age of around 40. This natural hormone decrease, known as andropause, is often associated with men’s midlife crisis and when combined with everyday stressors, there’s no wonder why mid-life can be stressful. Yoga can improve a man’s ability to manage their stress. Yoga helps focus the attention to a calming state by focusing on breathing patterns and decreasing mental pressure when facing stressful situations.
Yoga is a type of resistance training. It improves a person’s muscle tone as well as strength. Men over 40 who practice regularly, tend to find that they become more flexible and have better balance as a result of yoga. Doing yoga also helps to maintain bone strength and muscle mass – a struggle for many who are dealing with andropause. Unlike traditional bodyweight exercises, the tension on your muscles during a yoga practice is always present due to holding a yoga pose for extended breaths. Because of this, yoga can help you gain muscle mass by testing your endurance limits and breaking down muscle fibers, so that the body can build them back up.
Since no weight is added, the likelihood of injury is significantly decreased, and there are a variety of poses that can work on different parts of the body.
The physical activity of yoga can help maintain mental sharpness as a person ages. When men over 40 do yoga, it improves their flexibility, strength, and balance but these are only accomplished to the full extent by focusing the mind. Doing this will provide short and long-term benefits. Research has shown that a person’s brain speed and accuracy, as well as mood, can all improve when yoga is done regularly.
As people age, maintaining their bone health can become a challenge. Bones are living tissue and a person’s body is regularly breaking it down and building it up. As they age, it is natural for men to experience some bone loss or bone density due to aging. Yoga may help with maintaining bone health. Research has shown that if yoga is done properly and regularly, it can help improve flexibility and balance, thus strengthening the body and removing risk factors to falls and fractures.
Yoga can be used as an effective way to lose weight with simple practices. To gain weight loss benefits, it’s not necessary to do hot yoga or double up on the super bendy stretches in a yoga pose. Improvement to the metabolic system in men over 40 can happen with gentle yoga exercises done consistently and properly. Yoga can help men achieve and maintain a normal weight by doing the poses that help restore a person’s hormonal balance.
When a man over 40 is struggling with rehabilitation after health concerns, surgery or is recovering from an injury, yoga can be a good way to assist the recovery process. Yoga can also help men over 40 experience increased protection against future injuries by stretching and strengthening the body’s muscles and improving blood flow. By identifying unseen issues during practices yoga can help prevent issues from developing into long-term or chronic health problems.
Research has shown that yoga is a very effective exercise for experiencing pain relief. This can also include relief from arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraine, low back pain, and many other types of chronic pain conditions. When men over 40 need to experience relief from their back, joints or knee pain, yoga may be able to address surrounding muscles, ligament and circulation issues to alleviate the pain and discomfort.
When yoga is practiced, even for just a few minutes, it is often a sufficient enough time for people to eliminate the fatigue they’re experiencing from their day. Thus, yoga can help increase the energy of aging adults to help them handle their busy life and leave them feeling refreshed for a longer time. The daily practice of yoga is at the center of feeling good and having more than enough energy every day and certain yoga poses are designed to provide extra energy and distribute energy throughout the body.
Five Beginner Yoga Poses for Men Over 40
Benefits: Strengthens the knees and legs. Stretches hips, hamstrings, and calves. Can help reduce anxiety and fatigue. Relieves tension in the spine and neck.
Getting into Standing Forward Bend Pose: Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart. Keeping your knees straight, gently bend forward at the hip joints (not the waist). Draw your belly slightly in and slowly lengthen the torso toward the floor. You may bend the knees very slightly to relieve pressure off the hamstrings if necessary. Let your head hang loose to relieve all tension in the neck and shoulders. Breathe deeply and slowly, while holding the pose for 30 seconds to one minute. To return to standing position, do not roll up your spine, but rather bring your hands to your hip joints and slowly rotate at the hip joints until you stand tall. If you are new to this pose, take it slow and maybe do this exercise next to a table top for extra stability if necessary, as some may experience slight dizziness if they stand too quickly.
Benefits: Stretches the legs and upper arms. Helps open the hips. Can boost energy. Strengthens the lower and upper body. Improves circulation.
Getting into Standing Warrior I: With your feet together, step your right foot forward into a lunge position. Pivot your left toes outward at about a 45-degree angle from the heel. Bend your right knee over your right ankle, or as far as is comfortable without losing balance. Inhale and reach arms up over head with palms facing one another, head facing forward, keeping your shoulders pushed down and back, and leaving space between your ears and shoulders. Check that your hips are both squared up and facing forward. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute. To return to standing position, slowly drop your arms to your sides and step your left foot forward to meet next to your right foot.
Benefits: Stretches the whole body; legs, arms, shoulders, spine, and abdomen. Helps with stress relief. Stimulate blood circulation.
Getting into Standing Downward Facing Dog: Begin in an all fours position on the floor with knees below the hip joints and wrists below the shoulders. Slowly bring your hands forward slightly in front of your shoulders with fingers planted firmly on the ground. Slowly lift the knees from the ground bringing your hip joints toward the sky and keeping your arms extended in front of you. It is more important to keep length in the spine during downward dog than to straighten the legs, so begin with the knees bent as you find length in your spine by sliding the shoulder blades down the spine and opening up the space between your collar bones. Stay in this pose for five slow and steady deep breath cycles. To come out of the pose, slowly and in control, bring your knees back down to the floor and return to all fours, or transition into a relaxed child’s pose by slowly exhaling and bringing your hips back into a seated position over your heels and resting your torso over your thighs.
Benefits: Improves posture and balance. Strengthens and stretches the spine, neck and abdomen. Relieves stress. Strengthens the abs and core stability. Builds greater range of motion.
Getting into Cat-Cow: Begin in an all fours position on the floor with knees below the hip joints and wrists below the shoulders. Keeping your gaze facing down, draw your shoulders down your spine to create a flat back, known as Table Pose. Once Table Pose is achieved, you will transition into Cow Pose. Inhale slowly and deeply while simultaneously lifting your tailbone upward, pressing your chest forward and sinking your belly toward the floor. Lift your head upward, leading your nose toward the sky. As you exhale slowly you will transition into Cat Pose by simultaneously rounding your spine outward and up toward the sky, tucking your chin toward your chest as far as is comfortable, and pushing your pubic bone forward. Go back and forth between Cow and Cat Poses with each inhale and exhale matching the pace of your breathing to the pace of your movements. Do this for five to ten breaths and then return to Table Pose.
Benefits: Stretches chest and shoulders. Strengthens ankles, thighs, hips, and calves. Tones leg muscles.
Getting into Chair Pose: Stand tall with big toes touching. Inhale and reach arms up over head with palms facing one another, head facing forward, keeping your shoulders pushed down and back, and leaving space between your ears and shoulders. Exhale and slowly bend the knees to bring your thighs as parallel to the floor as possible while still keeping your balance. Your knees can come out over your feet and your torso should lean forward slightly over your thighs. Keeping your back long and your inner thighs parallel to each other. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and slowly release, extending the legs into standing position and allowing your arms to return to your sides.
Over time you will find that the daily practice of yoga will allow you to reach deeper into poses and hold them for longer lengths of time with greater ease. Regular practice will also help contribute to men’s overall fitness and help protect them from a variety of different health issues.
Like all physical fitness activities, it is important to be mindful of the body and not push into a pose that causes pain or intense discomfort, and if medical limitations are a concern, be sure to consult with your doctor before beginning a new yoga practice.