Images of yoga classes and skin-skimming apparel might make it seem like yoga is for women, but there are plenty of research-backed benefits of yoga to men.
In spite of its bendy appearances, practicing yoga isn’t just about getting more flexible and finding more calm—although those are both big advantages. Yoga can also improve your mental health, boost your functional strength, and help prevent injuries.
Here’s more on why you might want to add yoga to your fitness mix.
Yoga and Men
In the U.S. just 12% of men report doing yoga at least occasionally, compared to 27% of women (1). Yet given the benefits of yoga for men, guys should really up their time on the mat, despite some challenges.
“Men typically have tighter muscles and less overall flexibility and mobility compared to women,” says Patrick Franco, RYT, director and lead trainer at YogaRenew, an online teacher training program.
But the benefits are worth it: “Job stresses, family obligations, and social pressures have led to a rise in mental health disorders among men,” says Franco. “Yoga improves sleep, mental clarity, and self-awareness—all of which can lower stress levels.”
How Yoga Benefits Your Body
Yoga is often linked to flexibility, but being able to touch your toes without bending your knees isn’t the only calling card. Here’s more on what some regular yoga classes could do for you:
Yoga uses your bodyweight rather than machines or free weights—which could make it seem like it’s not much of a strength builder. But research suggests the opposite may be true.
A 2016 study in The Journals of Gerontology looked at the effects of an 8-week randomized controlled trial of yoga, compared to a stretching and strengthening exercise group. Researchers found there were similar outcomes for both groups in terms of strength as well as balance and mobility (2).
Boost range of motion
Lifting weights offers numerous benefits, but over time it can create shoulder mobility issues that limit your range of motion, says Peter Wollenheit, E-RYT, lead instructor and general manager at YogaSix in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
“In men, the upper body muscles are usually more developed, compromising shoulder and back mobility, which is why backbends are definitely a big issue,” he adds.
Yoga helps increase range of motion through improved flexibility, which reduces muscle tension and allows for greater joint movement, according to a 2016 study published in the International Journal of Yoga (3).
In that research, male college athletes did 10 weeks of biweekly yoga sessions and showed significant improvements in flexibility and balance. The researchers suggested this could enhance overall athletic performance.
Improve sexual performance
Now we have your attention. Two of the most prominent aspects of sexual performance are having optimal testosterone levels and better parasympathetic nerve activity—which research has linked to more sexual stimulation (4). Yoga helps with both.
In a 2020 study in The Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, researchers noted that both testosterone and sensitivity get a boost through yoga (5). When assessing the effects of a single 90-minute yoga session on men who were new to yoga, researchers found increased testosterone concentration as well as enhanced parasympathetic activity and decreased stress.
Not only could these benefits boost sexual performance, but the researchers suggested this combination could be a boon for increasing life expectancy.
Promote better sleep
When your sleep is off, it can lead to a range of health issues, from poor cardiovascular function to a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Insomina can also have a more insidious impact by prompting anxiety, depression, and fatigue.
Some researchers wanted to see if yoga could improve sleep quality, but also the serious health impacts of not clocking enough Zs. They studied people who had insomnia, and found that yoga helped them feel less tired during the day and improved their mood by reducing anxiety and depression. (6). The results were so significant that the researchers said yoga could be a good alternative to insomnia-focused cognitive behavioral therapy.
Yoga and Your Mind
Any type of exercise—from running marathons to powerlifting—can offer a mental boost. But the combination of body awareness and deep breathing that you need to tap into when doing yoga make it a supercharged way to battle stress.
Cultivating more mental clarity through practicing yoga can have a ripple effect across various aspects of your life, from relationships to work performance. Studies suggest yoga can improve mental well-being by reducing depression and anxiety, improving emotional reactivity, and improving brain function (7, 8, 9, 10).
Which Type of Yoga Is Best for Men?
Much like anything: It’s personal and depends exactly which benefits you’re hoping to reap. That said, most men gravitate toward these styles:
Vinyasa and power yoga
In this style, you move quickly and hold each pose for one breath, so the class zips along through dozens of poses. This type of yoga is also described as a “flow,” meaning, you flow from one pose to the next without many breaks.
Yin and restorative yoga
In contrast to a power yoga, yin or restorative yoga includes poses with long hold times. They’re more about reflecting and building emotional—not physical—strength. You might settle into a pose and hold it for two minutes or longer.
Restorative yoga can also involve props like bolsters and blankets, and be more passive in nature, making it great for stress relief.
Ashtanga, Iyengar, and hot yoga
These classes are done at a moderate pace and tend to have a strong emphasis on alignment. You typically hold a pose for three to five breaths to build greater awareness of your posture while still getting the benefit of lots of movement.
Hatha yoga also includes a deep focus on postural alignment, yet can sometimes be slower or easier in pace.
How to Max Your Yoga Benefits
To make the most of any yoga class—including those you might do at home with an app or YouTube video—is to pay attention to your breath, suggests Wollenheit. Focusing on taking deep breaths as you move and exhaling during moments of effort can help you feel more present and in control, he says.
In general, the benefits of yoga for men can be wide-ranging and affect everyone at a deeper level, Wollenheit adds. “I would say that yoga is a total reboot; it can have amazing benefits,” he says. “Yoga creates a deeper awareness that allows us to feel completely connected to our bodies.”