Guys, it's time to embrace yoga and let stretching make you stronger than you've ever been before. Gymbox yoga instructor Adam Husler tells you how. "It doesn't matter that the hipster with a man bun next to you has folded their chest to their legs. You can't win at yoga."
I get it guys. When you think of yoga you think of super bendy, lycra-clad girls doing the splits, or a bearded dude offering you spiritual books in Camden market. Stretching for you consists of bouncing up-and-down, trying to touch your toes, getting the whole ordeal done faster that you down a protein shake. Trust me when I say, you're missing a trick.
I know the excuse: "muscley guys can't be flexible". What a load of rubbish. Tell that to a male gymnast, or a heavyweight MMA fighter! The fact is, is that lots of muscley guys just don't make time in their gym session to fit in some stretching. That's why you're not flexible. Yes you. That's why you constantly feel like you want a Thai lady to stand on you.
About eight years ago, my boxing body – sick of the tightness and knots – swapped some gym sessions with yoga classes. I was soon feeling stronger, looser, and the hooks flew faster. Fast forward a few years, and yoga was helping me through ultra marathons, and helping me combat the 'en vogue' look of the London 'office hunch'. Stretching and yoga helps you: 1) get stronger 2) recover faster, 3) integrate the whole body in movements, 4) ensure you will be able to pick up your future grandkids, and 5) stand taller.
Most guys know what certain stretch or poses look like. You have anatomical awareness, and just as you can follow 'ripping up' programmes, you could Google and follow a stretch programme. The problem for most of you is how you then do it.
Make your stretches and yoga more worthwhile by considering the following:
Bouncing in stretches means less impact, more injury risk and you look like you belong on a under-12's footy pitch. Hold for around 10-15 full breaths. On the inhale, find a little more space and on the exhale get deeper in to it.
Strike a pose
What's the stretch actually aiming to stretch? Is how you are doing it making you feel more of a stretch in the area? If it's suddenly become easier, it's not because you're suddenly super bendy – you've probably just lost the posture, and are no longer targeting the muscle.
Degrees of motion
If you can feel it, it's working for you. It doesn't matter that the hipster with a man bun next to you has folded their chest to their legs. You can't win at yoga. Don't try. Equally, if you're the deepest in a posture in a room and you can't feel it, you need to work harder! Everyone has different experience, different body types, different levels of flexibility. And just like everyone's nose is a different shape, everyone's joints are different shapes – they will only ever allow a certain degree of movement.
Back to life
We spend a lot of our time hunching over desks, computers, phones and our heads are pretty heavy parts of the body. This means a pretty hunched thoracic spine. Often our default lifting position involves that similar curve so to avoid bad backs and neanderthal posture, its time to stretch that part of the spine. When you do stretches that involve folding forward, keep the back and neck straight and don't think the aim is to see your Cavin Kleins. Even if it means you don't fold as deep as you would want. Take time to open up that area: stand tall place you hands near your sacrum fingers pointing down, and take a subtle upper back bend, allowing the front ribs to open up.
Get stretching and get to a yoga class! If you want inspiration check out Boys of Yoga who are on a mission to inspire more blokes to get down on a yoga mat.
Adam Husler is a an alignment based Vinyasa and Budokon yoga teacher based in London.