Back pain is a serious problem in the modern day with 80% of Americans expected to experience it at some point during their lifetime. So, any activity that can help to guard against it should be welcomed right?
Well, this is exactly what yoga can do. As the flexibility and increased range of motion it gives you can really take the pressure and strain off your back throughout the day. While the core strength you’ll gain will keep your back better supported while also improving your posture.
However, despite these benefits most yoga classes continue to be dominated by women as many men remain reluctant to give it a try.
But why is this?
Well, despite originating in India as a practice for men only, yoga has often been seen in the western world as a predominantly feminine activity. And this has created a stigma in certain parts of society that has discouraged some men from practicing it.
Why Is There Still Such a Male Stigma Towards Yoga?
The male stigma surrounding yoga is not as bad as it once was. However, it’s still going strong within many male-dominated environments such as building sites and factories, with many ‘real’ men in these environments telling us yoga is for females. However, this is a real shame as yoga benefits men as much as women.
So, what exactly are the hang ups and stereotypes with yoga that keep certain men for trying it?
Some of the most common complaints are:
Yoga is only for girls or hippies.
It’s not competitive and you don’t get a proper workout from it.
Stretching is boring so why waste your time on that when you could be running or lifting weights instead?
Being in a class full of women and doing a ‘woman’s activity’ would be embarrassing.
If your mates ever found out you’d never hear the end of it!
And so on.
The problem is that for some men this stigma is so deep-seated that it’s hard to change their minds. But with more and more people championing the benefits of yoga for athletes such as footballers, boxers and hockey players, in keeping them strong and fit, this will hopefully start to change and open the door for more men to feel comfortable practicing yoga.
As it’s not just great for their overall health and well-being, it’s also especially good for their backs too.
8 Ways That Yoga Benefits Men with Back Pain
Yoga has been found in many studies to be a really effective way for people living with persistent back pain to be able to manage it and improve their quality of life.
But how exactly does it help?
Well, there are a number of ways and I’ll go through each of them now.
1. Yoga Increases Your Flexibility, Which Relieves Pressure on Your Back
One of the best things about yoga is how it keeps your body loose and flexible. You are constantly lengthening and strengthening your muscles as you run through the different poses and postures. This is great for people that suffer from back pain.
The increased flexibility, especially in your hamstrings, will keep your body balanced and relieve pressure and strain on your back as you move around throughout the day. And you don’t need to go overboard to get these results either.
As one study from the University of Doncaster showed that even one 90-minute yoga session per week was enough to increase the flexibility of the participants significantly. So, yoga can be a great way to relieve pressure and ease the burden on your back.
2. It Strengthens Your Core Muscles, Giving Your Back Better Support and Stability
Practicing yoga is great for building up your core strength. Because when you are holding your body in the various yoga poses you are having to support different levels of your own body weight.
This is great for strengthening the deep-lying core muscles which help to support and stabilize your spine. This also gives your back better protection throughout the day.
If you’re exposed to more intense movements involved with more physical jobs, strenuous activities, and hobbies such as gardening or playing competitive sports, you'll want to give your back more support to stay pain and injury-free. Regular yoga sessions are an excellent idea to strengthen your core and protect your back.
3. Yoga Improves Your Posture Which Lightens the Load On Your Back
Maintaining a healthy posture whether sitting, standing or moving around is really important to keep your back free from pain. This helps you stay nicely balanced and spreads the pressure of gravity evenly across your body.
When you hold yourself in an awkward posture your body is forced to compensate, with your lower back tending to take on most of the extra burden. Which leads to extra pressure, strain, and inevitable pain.
But the good news is that yoga is ideal for helping you maintain a healthy posture. It improves your balance and helps to release the tight muscles that can cause your body to hunch over. The increased flexibility and core strength you gain from it makes it much easier to stay upright and comfortable, which will relieve the pressure and strain on your body and back throughout the day.
4. Yoga Increases Circulation and Blood Flow
The stretches and postures involved in yoga practice are great for relaxing tight muscles and relieving tension. By stretching and relaxing these tight muscles you also open up pathways that increase the blood flow to them, which is important for keeping you free from pain.
As this increased circulation allows your body to deliver the oxygen and nutrients to your muscles and tissues that they need to heal, repair and stay healthy. While also flushing away any trapped waste and toxins which may be causing pain and inflammation. So, good news all round for your back.
5. It Helps You to Relax
When you suffer from persistent back pain it can leave you feeling extremely stressed, angry and frustrated. However, allowing ourselves to feel this way will only make this pain worse.
Because the tension this creates can seep into our bodies making everything uncomfortable and a struggle. So, it’s really important that you learn how to relax and let go of any stress you’re feeling. One powerful way to do that is through yoga.
The combination of deep stretches and controlled breathing is great for alleviating this tension. Not only does yoga relax your body and help tight muscles to release. It also calms your nervous system and slows your heart rate which puts you into a really relaxed state. This has been shown in studies to be really effective in relieving the stress, anxiety and tension that may be causing you pain.
6. You’ll Get a Good Night’s Sleep After Yoga Practice
Another by-product of the relaxing effects of yoga is that it can help you drift off if you have trouble sleeping.
Because stretching and relaxing your body while simultaneously calming your mind with controlled breathing during yoga practice puts you in the ideal state for sleep afterwards. The practice can make you feel more calm, relaxed and at peace with yourself.
So much so, that some of the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had have come after evening yoga classes. This is really important for people with back pain. As it’s during sleep that your body gets the chance to rest, repair and heal itself from the day’s stresses and strains.
Which means your tired and aching back muscles are able to recover and regenerate themselves. So, if you want to rid yourself of back pain and wake up feeling refreshed in the mornings rather than stiff and sore, then you need to be able get into a deep and restorative sleep.
However, many people with persistent back pain struggle with this. With one study from Morocco finding that a massive 78% of the people with back pain that they tested had sleep problems. So, it’s wonderful that practicing yoga can help people like us to get over these issues.
One study from the Harvard Medical School found that yoga could also helps those with chronic insomnia. After 8 weeks of daily yoga practice, the study participants were falling asleep easier and sleeping longer and deeper. So, if you think you may not be getting the quality of sleep you or your back needs then you should definitely give yoga a try, and some classes are specically yoga for better sleep classes.
7. It Encourages the Release of Endorphins
Endorphins are fantastic. As not only do they give you a warm and happy feeling inside. They also work as the body’s natural painkiller which is great for keeping back pain at bay. The good news is that practicing yoga is a great way to encourage your body to release endorphins into your system.
So, if you want an easy way to give yourself some natural pain relief then get on your yoga mat and let the good times roll.
8. Yoga Puts You in a Positive Mood That Helps You Handle Back Pain
Yoga is far more than just a physical practice. And while some men may scoff at the spiritual side of it, this can be just as good for helping you to avoid or get rid of back pain.
As the deep controlled breathing and being mindful of your body and movements during yoga can really help to calm and soothe you mentally and emotionally. So, not only do you feel stronger and more relaxed in your body afterwards, you also feel this way in your mind too. And this gives you the self-confidence and positive attitude you need to be able to fight the challenges that persistent back pain brings.
Leaving you feeling happier, healthier, more energized, and well equipped to be able to live a better quality of life. So, if you want to tackle and beat your back pain you need to remain positive and yoga is an excellent way to do that.
How to Get Started
I hope I’ve convinced you to at least consider giving yoga a try after reading through that list of benefits. But if you’ve never tried yoga before then going to your first class can feel a bit daunting.
You might feel like you won't have a clue what you’re in for and worry that you won’t be able to keep up with the rest of the class. So, it’s a good idea to start slowly and build up your confidence. And you can do this by searching for a beginner’s class in your local area rather than heading straight into a class full of experienced yogis.
Also try to find a Hatha yoga class as this is a slower form of yoga and the one that’s well suited to anyone just starting out.
But if the thought of going to an actual yoga class really doesn’t appeal to you then don’t fret, because you still have the option of taking online yoga classes from the comfort of your own living room.
There are even some with classes designed especially for men that you can find on YogaDownload. But whichever way you choose, don’t let something as silly as a stigma or false preconceptions put you off from trying yoga, as the benefits it can bring for your back as well as your overall health and well-being are fantastic.
By Dan Singleton
Daniel Singleton is the founder of Back on Site, a website dedicated to helping people fight back against persistent back pain using the latest medical and scientific advice as well as his own personal experiences with the condition.
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