Why are there very few men in yoga classes yet its physical and mental benefits both sexes?
At Faiz executive gym at Tudor Water Sports in Mombasa, yoga devotees move silently through a slow series of poses.
A yoga instructor, Hezron Mwabili, gives instructions as he bends and stretches on a mat. He has been teaching yoga in different gyms and doing personal training in homes.
Of the more than 20 people that Hezron trains, only five are men, a disparity he admits is not unusual.
He says although men reap physical and mental benefits from doing yoga, most shy away from such exercises, even as they gain popularity in Kenya because of their ability to build a healthy and limber body.
“In one of the gyms I have two men and seven women. In other gyms, it is only women who come for yoga. But it is not a popular exercise in Coast compared to Nairobi,” Hezron says.
Hezron has been a yogi for 13 years now but his love for exercises started at an early age when he used to do taekwondo.
“My father was a boxer and he taught me importance of physical fitness. I did taekwondo and later martial arts. At some point, I was also into Tong-IL Moo-Do (a mixed sport of taekwondo, karate and judo),” says the 29-year-old.
Hezron trains both martial arts and yoga for fitness. He says even though martial arts gets you in your best shape in life, yoga makes you flexible, boosts your composure and self-awareness.
“Through yoga meditation, you go to another level of self-consciousness. Yoga is not religion as some people think. It helps you know how to be composed,” he says.
Not only has yoga made him flexible and strong, it has helped him reduce stress, manage anger and anxiety.
“Yoga is for everyone. Some men think they won’t get much from it and opt for weights to bulk up muscles or running on a treadmill for cardio workouts but yoga is a total body workout,” Hezron says.
He adds that modern yoga is perceived as a woman’s exercise yet many of the earlier known yogis were men.
“Most men say they are not very flexible like the women. Others say they feel bored doing the different poses. But yoga can help men become more flexible and ease body pains and stiffness. It is an exercise for the body and mind and it would help men relax and focus,” he says.
Yoga can also enhance results of other workouts.
“It takes practice to be able to do so well in most exercises. The same applies to yoga. Some men shy away due to fear of not being flexible, but keep trying until you get it right.”
He adds that yoga helps one to push the body to new limits.
“Some yoga poses are challenging and you need strength to do them. That pushes you beyond your comfort zone,” he says.
If you are a beginner, start with child’s pose, high lunge, crescent pose and yogi squat. Do dolphin push-ups, they help build the upper body and tone the abdominal area. Also try the half-handstands. There are different types of yoga. For instance, Bikram Yoga which is done for about 90 minutes in a gym heated to 40 degrees Celsius is worth a try. For those who think they are macho, try Vinyasa yoga. It is perfect for burning calories and muscle development.
But ensure you do not get injuries.