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In any given year, it is estimated that 1 in 7 Australian men experience anxiety and/or depression.

In reality, this statistic may be much higher due to pandemic stress and a lack of reliable reporting methods for men’s mental health in surveys. If left untreated and unaddressed, mental health concerns can lead to reduced quality of life and a lower life expectancy. 

Men's Mental health

According to Lifeline:

  • Nine Australians die every day by suicide. That’s more than double the road toll.
  • 75% of those who take their own life are male.

Yoga and mindfulness are an excellent way to maintain positive health outcomes, with an increasing number of male participants ‘having a go’ by attending a yoga class, practising yoga activities at home or switching on a mindfulness meditation to de-stress.

However, in the Western world, men’s participation in yoga and mindfulness is significantly lower than women’s. Sometimes, men can perceive yoga and mindfulness as ‘feminine’, preferring more competitive team sports or assuming yoga isn’t challenging enough (Cagas, Biddle, & Vergeer 2021).

If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re already aware of the benefits of yoga. Studies have shown that yoga, when compared to regular physical exercise such as gym workouts, can improve men’s body image satisfaction more than the gym (Flaherty 2014). Higher self-esteem leads to better overall mental health outcomes. Yoga and mindful movement also offer benefits to physical health. Studies have shown that regular yoga practices can improve the cardiovascular, or heart health, of men who are considered ‘at risk’ of heart disease (Damodaran et al. 2002). 

We are here to address perceived barriers and we’re on a mission to empower men to participate in mindful movement! Can you help us by sharing these resources around?

 

Did you know?

Interestingly, in India, where yoga originated, physical yoga practices were historically for men only!

At Yogazeit, we are passionate about inclusivity and believe that yoga is for every body – including all who identify as male! Our activities are non-religious and accessible. Help us spread the word about the benefits of yoga and mindful movement by sharing the below activities with other men in your life. You could adapt these to suit chair yoga for a Senior male, or practise them together at home to start a shared mindfulness practice. 

“The practice of yoga has allowed me to tune inwards. The stretching and strengthening part of yoga help me gain momentum in competitive sports. The mindfulness and centering help me understand who I am as a person. Starting Yoga has been the best decision in my life.” Josh, 24.

Yoga for Men's Mental Health

Activities for you to try

Breathing practises

Yogic breathing practises are an accessible and highly effective way to calm the central nervous system, reducing anxiety and stress. The below ‘breathing tool’ is one of our favourites at Yogazeit, as it is fast enough to do a few rounds before a big meeting, during life transitions (such as between work and home) and whenever you feel the physical symptoms of stress. By slowing down our breathing, we can slow our heart rates down and begin to send signals to the body to ‘rest and digest’ and relax.

This breathing practise also helps to clear the sinuses, so have a few tissues handy if you’re experiencing the sniffles as the weather starts to get a little cooler! The even nature of this exercise brings a sense of balance to the body and the mind, supporting a state of calm. It may take a little coordination to get started – just think of it as ‘yoga for the mind’ as well as yoga for the body and breath.

Alternate Nostril Breathing 

Alternate Nostril Breathing

when you are ready…  

  • Let’s begin sitting with a tall spine.
  • Let’s point both of our index (pointer)  fingers, on each hand. 
  • Press the left nostril down, breathe in  through the right nostril.  
  • Swap hands and press the right nostril  down.  
  • Release the left nostril and breathe out.
  • Breathe in through the same nostril (left).
  • Block the left, breathe out through the right.
  • Breathe in through the right, block and swap.
  • Repeat.  

Simple Instructions: 

IN right > Block & swap > OUT left > IN left >  Block & swap > OUT right 

Physical yoga shapes

Getting the body warmed up and introducing some mindful movement can help us process bothersome recurring thoughts and bring us into the ‘present moment’. Below are three physical yoga exercises you can try at home, without the need for any special equipment. We’ve included a twisting shape, to wring out the body and provide a balance challenge. We’ve also included a classic restorative shape that helps release tension through the neck and shoulders, decompressing the lower back – parts of the body we can tend to store ‘stress’. Then, when you’re feeling warmed up, you might like to build strength in the body and see just how challenging yoga can be with a Side Plank. Have fun and listen to your body!

Twisted Chair

Twisted Chair

When you are ready… 

  • Stand tall with a mindful, straight spine. 
  • Let’s breathe out, moving our hips back and bending our knees to Chair.
  • Let’s breathe in, stretching our arms up towards the sky. 
  • Stretching our spines, squeezing our bellies. 
  • Let’s bring both palms together at heart centre. 
  • Leaning forward slightly, let’s tilt our torsos to face the right.
  • Let’s bring our left elbows to the outer edge of our right knees, keeping our palms pressing together.
  • Take some long, slow breaths in, shining the chest up to the sky.

Repeat for the left side. 

Forward Fold

When you are ready… 

  • Stand tall with a mindful, straight spine. 
  • Let’s breathe out, hinging at the hips.
  • Let’s roll down through the spine and hang here.
  • Nodding our heads like we’re saying yes, shaking our heads like we’re saying no – releasing any tension in the back of our necks.
  • Let’s bend our knees as much as we need to feel that our backs are completely relaxed.
  • Let’s stay here for a few breaths, imagining all our worries sliding down our backs and out onto the mat.

Side Plank

Side Plank

When you are ready…

  • Let’s begin in Plank, or modified Plank with the knees down. This looks like the top of a push up.
    • Breathe in and bring the left hand to the middle.
    • Breathe out, stacking the left shoulder directly above the left wrist, let’s turn to the outer blade edge of the left foot and reach the right hand up to the sky. 
  • Let’s get strong through the belly muscles and lift our hips up a little higher.
  • If this is too much, feel free to lower on to the left knee and keep the right leg reaching back.
  • Breathe. 
  • Let’s hold for 3 breaths, maybe stacking the feet on top of one another.
  • If you’d like a challenge today, try lifting the left foot up to the sky!

Repeat on the other side.

 

Other resources

If you are in need of crisis support contact Lifeline at 13 11 44 

Men’s Sheds of WA (https://mensshedswa.org.au/) offer a welcoming community where all men are accepted to create, have a yarn, share hobbies and give back to their community. There is probably a shed near you – have a look using this handy tool: https://mensshedswa.org.au/find-a-shed/ 

MensLine Australia professional counsellors are here to provide information and support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call us on 1300 78 99 78 

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References
  • Cagas, Jonathan Y., Stuart JH Biddle, and Ineke Vergeer. “Yoga not a (physical) culture for men? Understanding the barriers for yoga participation among men.” Complementary therapies in clinical practice 42 (2021): 101262.
  • Damodaran, Aswath, et al. “Therapeutic potential of yoga practices in modifying cardiovascular risk profile in middle aged men and women.” The Journal of the Association of Physicians of India 50.5 (2002): 633-640.
  • Flaherty, Mary. “Influence of yoga on body image satisfaction in men.” Perceptual and Motor Skills 119.1 (2014): 203-214.