Yoga has been around for centuries and has become incredibly popular in the United States over the past two decades. However, many people don't realize that yoga also has immense neurological benefits. Aside from improving posture, muscle tone and flexibility, the benefits of yoga for men include stress relief, better mental focus, and other neurological benefits such as help with depression, epilepsy, fibromyalgia, Alzheimer's, peripheral nervous system ailments, and much more. Curious what yoga can do for you? Check out our list of the top 10 neurological benefits of yoga for men and get on the mat!
All About the Benefits of Yoga for Men
Many yogis do it for exercise, engaging in poses called asanas for flexibility, weight loss and to stay in shape. Others practice yoga because they love the meditative and relaxing aspects. Let's explore a few aspects of this ancient practice before we get into the many concrete health benefits for neurological health.
WHAT IS YOGA?
Yoga is an ancient practice that hails from India and has its roots in Hinduism, but today it's practiced around the world as a completely non-theistic or non-religious regimen. In fact, one of the oldest pieces of writings on Yoga, the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, do not reference religion or God at all but treat yoga as a way of becoming a better person, finding one's higher self, and weathering the ups and downs of life. The Sanskrit word yoga means yoke or union, deriving from the word "yuj." Also, here's a fun fact: Sanskrit and English are closely related linguistically, as both have Indo-European roots!
A common type of yoga practiced nowadays, especially in the Western hemisphere and the United States, is hatha yoga. Ha and tha mean sun and moon, respectively, so in effect the yoga "union" is one of opposites. It brings together all the opposites in life to create harmony: male and female, dark and light, pleasure and pain, and so forth.
Asana, Pranayama, Dyana
Yoga generally has three aspects: physical exercises (or postures called "asana"), breathing exercise called "pranayayma," and meditation called "dyana." Together, these aspects work to create a deep sense of well being as well as improve physical, emotional, and mental health. Read on to learn about the astounding benefits of yoga for men.
What Does Yoga Do?
Yoga improves flexibility, strength and energy levels while also calming you down. It has a lot of health benefits that have been supported by studies and clinical trials. It can reduce pain, help with anxiety and depression, improve postural imbalances and boost cognitive, social and occupation functioning.
Does It Matter What Type of Yoga I Do?
We'd like to say all yoga is good yoga but it all depends on what physical or mental ailments you're dealing with. For beginners, we do not recommend vigorous Asthtanga, or flow yoga, or Bikram and "hot yoga." However if you are in excellent physical health and are trying to combat stress, anxiety and depression, go for these endorphin-boosting workouts!
Find the Right Yoga Style
If you are dealing with fibromyalgia or seizures, some yoga styles might be too intense. A regular beginning Hatha yoga such as an Iyengar or Anusara class might be best. Whenever one starts a new exercise or health regimen, one should consider a beginning class to get a feel for the new activity. Kundalini, for instance, can involve a lot of sitting and breathing but, depending on the approach and teacher, can also be rigorous.
How Does Yoga Create Neurological Benefits?
According to several scientific studies, yoga can treat some psychiatric and neurological disorders. How is this possible? One reason is that the aerobic components of doing the poses and breathing exercises improve mental health by stimulating the central nervous system and releasing endorphins, monoamines, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the hippocampus.
The controlled breathing and meditative quality of yoga regulates and balances emotions and calms the entire nervous system. This therefore can calm anxiety, stress, fear, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, and early Alzheimer's symptoms. Also, increased EEG synchrony and coherence can lead to improved integrated brain functioning and problem-solving abilities, creating sharper mental focus, and other positive effects on the mind.
Top 10 Neurological Benefits of Yoga For Men
- Decreases Stress
- Helps with Depression
- Helps After a Stroke
- Helps with Epilepsy
- Helps Alzheimer's Disease
- Helps Improve Mental Focus
- Helps with Multiple Sclerosis
- Helps with Fibromyalgia
- Helps with Peripheral Nervous System Disease
- Helps with Anxiety
1. Decreases Stress
One benefit of yoga for men is stress relief. Putting it in non-medical terms, yoga calms down the body, and a calm body leads to a calm mind. Even when you do a yoga practice that does not focus on meditation and breathing techniques, just the stretches or poses, your mind becomes engaged in the activity (like it does with most sports) and you get a real break from worrying and stressing. The vagal or parasympathetic activity of non-aerobic yoga soothes the body's s stress response systems and decreases levels of the stress chemical cortisol while increasing levels of melatonin.
The slow poses enhance deep relaxation, and this benefit lasts beyond a class or the time you practice at home and into the rest of your week and life. Over time, stress gets reduced significantly, but you can also feel the effects after just a ten-minute yoga session.
2. Helps with Depression
Doing yoga helps depression. One reason is that the practice of yoga releases endorphins (just like running) and the more endorphins your brain generates, the more endorphin receptors it will create to get even more endorphins. You get the idea? Next thing you know, despite having felt like you're in a black hole or under a black cloud, your brain chemistry will have changed to make you feel lighter, more optimistic, more alive and happier. The boost of oxygen from controlled breathing exercises also helps lessen the symptoms of depression.
3. Helps After a Stroke
Another neurological benefit of yoga for men is that it works to both prevent stroke and rehabilitate people post-stroke. The relaxing aspects of the practice have helpful effects on carotid hypertension, diabetes, atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease --- all risk factors associated with stroke occurrence or reoccurrence.
Studies examining the effects of yoga on balance, mobility and quality of life for chronic sufferers of post-stroke hemiparesis found increased balance, mobility and a sense of quality of life. Research on Kundalini yoga noted improvements in aphasia and fine motor coordination in post-stroke patients. There are simple poses that even people with decreased mobility can do, such as patients lying in bed or only able to sit in a chair.
4. Helps with Epilepsy
Yoga can be an effective, inexpensive, and non-invasive way to control epilepsy and improve the quality of life for people afflicted with this disorder. It has proven to have therapeutic effects such as significantly decreasing seizures.
5. Helps Alzheimer's Disease
The meditative quality of yoga has a stress-reducing effect that can keep Alzheimer's Disease from progressing by preventing stress-induced hypercortisolemia. A regular practice can reduce serum cortisol levels and benefit Alzheimer's patients.
6. Helps Improve Mental Focus
Yoga has great potential for improving mental focus thanks to its stress-reducing effects. Stress is connected to the levels of cortisol in the body, which has a toxic effect on the hippocampal cells. Those are critical for ideal memory function and mental focus.
There’s a technique in yoga where you focus on a specific point in front of you, on the floor or somewhere in the room. This mental focal point is called drishti. You don’t allow your attention to waiver from this point as you move through the poses or do your breathing. The focal point is especially helpful when doing balancing poses.
An additional way to improve mental focus is to pay attention to your breath, an aspect of your body like your throat, or the sensation of feeling your tongue relaxing inside your mouth. Another way is to turn the eyes upwards and glance toward the "third eye" on the forehead. All these techniques, along with just the relaxing aspects of the poses, can help promote a much improved mental focus in life.
7. Helps with Multiple Sclerosis
One of the benefits of yoga for men is that it helps those dealing with multiple sclerosis. MS has varying degrees of severity pertaining to cognitive, motor, and sensory functions. While there’s no cure, certain modalities can have therapeutic effects and also help manage to live with the disease, such as yoga. According to studies, yoga can relieve the symptoms of fatigue and improve energy.
8. Helps with Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disorder that causes pain and tenderness to the touch that can occur all over the body. It also includes a general heightened sensitization to sensory input with symptoms ranging from fatigue to sleep dysfunction.
Clinical studies discovered that yoga can improve a whole number of fibromyalgia symptoms such as pain, stiffness, tenderness, and balance along with anxiety, depression, fatigue, memory and sleep problems. People also experienced psychological changes in dealing with their chronic pain thanks to practicing relaxation, active engagement and acceptance. Yoga can both lessen pain and help you learn how to deal with pain. It can make you feel less fatigued and experience more vigor, strength and vitality.
9. Helps with Peripheral Nervous System Disease
Are you dealing with Peripheral Nerve Disorders or Neuritis (inflammation of a peripheral nerve) with symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness and/or muscle weakness? There are more than 100 different peripheral nerve disorders that range from relatively rare Guillain-Barre syndrome to diabetic nerve problems, carpal tunnel syndrome or brachial plexus injuries after an injury.
Results in clinical studies ranged from improved hand median nerve conduction velocities to better glycemic control. People also increased their grip strength and reduced pain levels. According to studies, a yoga practice proved more beneficial than wrist splinting or no supplementary treatment at all in alleviating some symptoms of carpal tunnel.
10. Helps with Anxiety
Finally, one of the many benefits of yoga for men is that it helps manage anxiety. By learning how to control your body and mind, you're better prepared to deal with all that life throws at you without spiraling into feelings of overwhelming anxiety.
The benefits of yoga for men are astounding, but many people still think yoga isn't for them; they picture a bunch of people sitting or lying around on the floor stretching and think it's a boring exercise they don't have the patience for, or, they believe their bodies are not flexible enough to take up yoga. Well, most people don't start out flexible, and they do yoga precisely to get a more flexible body!
Aside from the wonderful physical benefits of yoga, such as improving posture, core strength, muscle tone, and more, yoga is a healing activity for the mind and body. Some yoga is very vigorous and sweaty and requires a good physical condition, but other styles are calm and soothing and can be done by anyone.
The benefits of yoga for men are astounding and range from "simple" things such as reduced stress and improved mental focus, mood, and well-being to assist with one's recovery after a stroke, dealing with the pain from fibromyalgia, and a host of other neurological changes. The proof is experiential though, so you have to try yoga to "believe" in the benefits of yoga for men.
How do you get started? You can find a yoga studio with beginning classes in your neighborhood, or you can purchase DVDs online for beginners. You can check out classes online on YouTube, Amazon Prime, Hulu, or get a yoga book and follow the exercises. So get a mat or blanket to sit on, balance your ha and you ta, and namaste --- that's the traditional yoga greeting for both hello and goodbye!