Why is Yoga Hard for Some Men?

17/11/2011 09:53 GMT | Updated 12/01/2012 10:12 GMT

While women can cruise through an hour and a half of yoga relatively unscathed, even very fit men can end up feeling defeated, left soaking in a puddle of sweat by the time corpse pose comes to their rescue. The following is an explanation into why this happens.

Strength to Flexibility Ratio

Men are typically stronger than women, however women tend to be more flexible. Since yoga poses require less brawn and more finesse, when strength dominates over flexibility, yoga will be a struggle for anyone.

In a yoga pose, when the bones of the body are in correct alignment, little effort is required to maintain the pose. But, bones can only be correctly aligned if the muscles surrounding them are limber enough to permit it. When the muscles of the body are tight, they tend to want to pull the bones out of alignment, therefore causing one to use more energy to hold the pose. Since many yoga poses are held for upwards of one minute or more, energy can get zapped rather quickly.

Typical Offenders:

Tight Hamstrings

Have you ever seen someone with severely tight hamstrings attempt downward facing dog? Unless they bend their knees to disengage their snug hams, it looks excruciatingly difficult and perhaps even painful.

When the body is out of alignment in down dog due to the back of the legs pulling relentlessly on the hips and lower back, the shoulders and wrists tend to take a beating. To be aligned properly, the hips are high and there is a small angle between the forearms and the floor. Flexible hamstrings help make this a reality, but so will simply bending the knees.

Tight Hips

Tight hips create a challenge in seated poses because they want to constantly pull the body forward. As a result, the muscles of the lower back have to work extra hard at keeping the spine in alignment. This can be exhausting not to mention hard on the ego when just sitting is tiresome. By sitting on a folded blanket, a pillow or a bolster the effort it takes to sit is decreased and sitting becomes more comfortable.

Tight Biceps

Biceps are a man's best friend but not so much in yoga, especially when they are so tight a man cannot straighten his arms completely. Sure, some men can whip out several push-ups and pull-ups and show little or no effort in doing so, but watch a man who cannot extend his arm fully practice side plank and he's soon to start quivering. Again, without proper alignment of the bones of the arms, the shoulders, triceps and biceps will be working way too hard to hold the pose for an extended amount of time. This is a tough one to remedy, but by working on stretching the biceps (also a tricky thing to do) the pose will get easier over time.

When I see a really fit, muscle clad man walk into my yoga class I am often correct in assuming there may be an imbalance in his strength to flexibility ratio. This helps me as a teacher to guide him through the poses by making the proper adjustments that will help his performance without hindering his ego. Nothing is more perplexing for a man than watching his wife prance nimbly out of yoga class while he is left tired and drenched in sweat.