Practicing yoga offers a lot of benefits to both men and women of all age groups. For men over 50, the benefits of yoga can help to improve quality of life and overall health including enhancing flexibility, balance, strength and improving heart health and sexual health as well as stress management and can also be a pathway to cultivating spiritual study.
Don’t be put off by some of the latest trends that make yoga seems like a contortionist practice for young people on social media.
If you look beyond the current self-marketing craze of the uber fit and flexible, you’ll find that this millennial practice has ample benefits for all sizes, genders, levels of flexibility and ages.
Yoga for older men has many benefits in store. If you fall into this category or want to encourage a 50+ man in your life to practice yoga, here are some great reasons to start.
Benefit #1 Greater flexibility
It’s true that men generally are less flexible than women. That’s because they have greater muscle mass which tends to make them both stronger and more rigid. In yoga, men’s upper body strength can be a great benefit to even novice practitioners in performing poses such as Chaturangas and Handstands.
However, inflexible guys might start sweating bullets when faced with poses such as Forward Folds, Seated Head to Knee or Seated Wide Legged Forward Fold. In fact, even sitting in a simple cross-legged position on the floor for a brief 5-minute opening meditation practice can leave a lot of men feeling discomfort.
A yoga practice can help loosen up the ligaments and connective tissues around the joints to permit for greater flexibility, which in turn increases mobility.
As people tend to lose flexibility as they age, doing a practice like yoga can help stem the loss of flexibility and lubricate the joints, alleviating joint pain and increasing range of motion in day-to-day activities and reducing the likeliness of injury. This is particularly important for men over 50 who tend to have less flexibility.
The groin is an area where many men are particularly inflexible. By gradually gaining flexibility in the groin, many men will find that other areas that are stiff and tense become more relaxed, such as the lower back, shoulders and neck, and even the knees.
Additionally, men who lift weights tend to have limited flexibility in the arms and chest and certain yoga poses such as Standing Wide Legged Forward Fold with the hands clasped and the arms straight or using a strap instead of joining the hands, can help open up the chest and shoulders, reducing neck and shoulder tension.
Benefit #2 Improve balance
Any yoga class will offer a range of postures from standing poses, twists, inversions, back bends, forward bends and lateral bends as well as balancing poses. Even the flow of movement from one pose to the next offers a chance to practice balance as you shift the position of your body to enter the next pose. Poses like Tree pose, Warrior III and Eagle pose can improve both strength and balance.
Enhancing balance is especially beneficial to men over 50 as it can help to increase agility and prevent falls. An additional benefit of balancing poses is that they require concentration in order to achieve them, thereby enhancing mental focus.
Benefit #3 Increases strength
As we age, our muscle mass tends to decrease which is why practicing yoga can be a great boon to men over 50.
In addition to the cardiovascular endurance gained in a yoga class, practitioners also have moments where they hold poses for several breaths, providing an isometric workout which helps to strengthen and stabilize muscles as well as increase muscle mass. Having more muscle mass means being able to perform daily tasks with more ease and with less risk of injury.
Benefit #4 Improve heart health
Heart health is a serious issue for men over 50. Heart disease is the number one cause of death for men in the United States, with the chances of a heart attack increasing significantly for men after the age of 45.
For men over 50 who are sedentary or who don’t practice an activity that raises the heart rate regularly, a gentle, yet fluid style of yoga such as Hatha Yoga or a gentle Vinyasa class can be a great way to start building up cardiovascular health.
These classes would be ideal for men who enjoy some level of health and are able to accompany the majority of the movements, even if occasional modifications are needed. For those in optimal shape, a more vigorous Vinyasa or Ashtanga style class would be great for supporting cardiovascular health.
If you’re not able to practice the poses on the floor, you can still benefit from practicing modified poses with a chair or wall. Yoga is accessible to all levels of fitness, it’s just a question of finding the right class and instructor.
One way that yoga benefits heart health is that there are generally moments of greater intensity, followed by more restful moments, supporting heart rate variability which is important for heart health.
In getting the heart rate up, fresh oxygen and blood are pushed through the arteries, helping to strengthen the arterial walls, benefitting the functioning of the circulatory system.
Additionally, poses where the head is below the heart can help to lower blood pressure. Poses such as Child’s pose, Legs up the Wall and Bridge pose can be beneficial to those with high blood pressure.
Benefit #5 Improve sexual health
It’s common for men over 50 to experience decreased libido and erectile dysfunction. The combination of greater flexibility in the groin and improved circulation can help men in this category to experience increased libido and stronger erectile function.
Though Viagra and other similar drugs can be effective in restoring erectile function, these drugs are vasodilators and may not be safe for men with heart conditions.
Yoga can be a great boost for sustaining or regaining sexual health over 50, greatly improving quality of life. Besides the obvious benefit of having a better sex life, improved sexual health can help enhance confidence, mood and improve relationships with partners.
Benefit #6 Stress management
Stress is the number one contributing factor for the majority of illnesses, making stress management an essential part of health. Research has shown that men more often cite work as their main stressor and in fact, work-related stress can more often lead to depression in men than in women.
Whether you have a stressful career or other source of stress, yoga is a powerful tool for learning to manage emotions, including feelings of being angry, overwhelmed, depressed, stressed and more.
The reason that yoga helps with this is simple: one of the most important facets of yoga is the connection of the movement with the breath. This connection of movement with breath helps calm the mind, stilling thoughts and lulling you into a rhythmic state of motion.
Believe the memes, you know the ones that show before and after photos of people going to a yoga class. It’s very common for practitioners to express that they arrived to class feeling anxious, stressed, angry, sad or some other negative emotion and left feeling calmer, lighter, more at peace, happier and more able to feel gratitude.
In addition to the body-breath connection, moments of meditation, inspiring music and a sense of community in yoga class also contribute to this feeling of well-being.
While this is a valuable experience to have and many people savor the post-yoga class well-being buzz, you might ask how this temporary experience you have during and after class can help you with your overall stress levels?
Of course, you can’t drop and do a Vinyasa during a difficult business meeting or a busy shift or in the middle of an argument, but you can use the basic concept of connecting to your breath and staying present in the moment to help calm your emotions, not only reducing your stress but also potentially saving the situation from escalating.
Benefit #7 Cultivating a spiritual life
It’s more common for people past middle age to start cultivating a spiritual life than it is for younger people.
This stage of life is actually perfect for such a pursuit for several reasons: Men over 50 tend to have more financial stability than they did when they were younger; the drive of hormones and demands of family life may have calmed down significantly by then and priorities may have shifted; additionally, and importantly, they have likely been faced with loss in the form of death of parents and friends, illnesses and other issues that bring about the existential question of, “What is the meaning of Life?” In such moments, spirituality seems to offer guidance and comfort that can’t be found elsewhere.
Many people who start practicing yoga also develop a meditation practice. Traditionally, according to the Eight Limbs of Yoga, meditation is a part of the practice of yoga and not a separate practice.
What we call yoga in the West today is actually asana practice, the physical practicing of different poses, which is just one facet of traditional yoga practice.
There are many forms of meditation, Tibetan, Vipassana, Mindfulness and other schools of meditation whose aim is self-observation and self-study. Many practitioners report the benefits of meditation as having a greater sense of self-awareness, greater control over their thoughts and emotions, less anxiety, a sharper sense of concentration, greater sensitivity to one’s surroundings and other more esoteric benefits such as a feeling of unity and connection with divinity.
In addition to asana and meditation, some students are also drawn to the studying of philosophical texts such as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, or sacred texts such as The Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads through the study of Vedanta or other traditions of sacred scripture study.
For men over 50, yoga doesn’t only offer physical benefits, it can also be a pathway to spiritual study and self-study.
Life after 50 can be enhanced for men by cultivating a yoga practice. Be sure to consult your doctor before starting a practice and find a class that is suitable to your level of fitness and an instructor who is able to offer modifications to ensure your safety throughout the practice.
There are a lot of benefits of yoga for older men, from enhanced heart and sexual health to greater flexibility and strength and the cultivation of spiritual study.
For those who believe they missed the boat, and that yoga is for the young and fit, remember, there is no best age to start yoga. The best age is the age you are today. Namaste