Yoga and Pilates — Not Just For Women

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Why men should stop tagging certain fitness programs as “feminine”

By Alicia Schoroth 

Brought to you by Optimum Nutrition
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Want workout tips from professional athletes? Ask some players in the NHL, the NFL, or the NBA, and you may hear Cadillac or reformer; maybe even chaturanga. Confused? Don’t be. Many athletes from all sports are practising yoga and Pilates.

There is still a perception that these workouts are “just for girls.” When yoga first came west from India, it was the workout of the elite. Now, it is almost trendy to be a “yogi.” Advertisers use attractive, slender women to promote their gear, and yoga wear has become street-wear. What most people don’t realize, however, is that yoga was origi-
nally intended for men. It was believed that only they had the upper-body strength to hold many of the common poses. Still, many men avoid it because they think it’s flaky, too “touchy feely,” or lacks the no-pain-no-gain factor.

Pilates, a system of mind-body (you have to think about what you are doing for maximum benefit and to activate certain muscle groups) exercises done on a mat or special apparatus, was developed from the rehabilitation exercises of Joseph Pilates during World War 1 to address poor health from our modern lifestyle, bad posture, and inefficient breathing.

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It took a few decades to really catch on with the mainstream, as the modern Pilates craze didn’t get its start until the ’80s.

Like yoga, Pilates was also originally the workout of the elite. More recently, several female celebrities declared they use Pilates to get long, lean muscles, and suddenly women were racing to studios. Both practices are much harder than one would think, though. Yoga, a series of specific body postures, combines flexibility and strength, focusing on breathing and core strength. It helps tight muscles and is excellent for all physical levels. LeBron James of NBA fame credits yoga for relieving back pain, cramping issues, and for injury prevention.

Pilates trains several muscle groups at once, increases flexibility, benefits ligaments and tendons, and strengthens the body through a complete range of motion for all joints. The whole body is trained to integrate the upper and lower extremities of the trunk. Whole-body conditioning eliminates muscle imbalances, improves sports performance, and can also help prevent injuries.

This is why it has become a mandatory workout component for many professional sports teams. Pilates supports the spine by getting deep into the abdominals. All moves start with the “powerhouse,” which includes the abdominals, pelvic floor, glutes, and hip muscles. Core strength is essential for balance and core stability helps generate more power. NFL wide receivers, for example, require precision, balance, and flexibility for their mobile positions. Golfers use the powerhouse as their primary source of movement. Pilates can help improve their swing and reduce injury. Tiger Woods was practising Pilates at the height of his career.

Pilates addresses postural issues to cre- ate functional, ideal posture alignment and helps muscles match in length on each side. For example, anterior pelvic tilting, caused by tight hip flexors, shortens the lower back muscles and stretches the hamstrings, so injuries are more common. Hockey players, for example, benefit from posture correction, as they spend a great deal of time in a bent-over position.

An instructor will address postural issues and tailor a workout accordingly. The repertoire combined with the apparatus and props creates limitless options for people regardless of age or physical ability. It is low-impact and safe enough for use in physical therapy. It helps people gain more strength and mobility simultaneously.

At the age of 86, Joseph Pilates said, “I must be right. Never an aspirin. Never injured a day in my life. The whole country, the whole world, should be doing my exercises. They’d be happier.”

And that logic applies to you, too, guys. Whether you are a competitive athlete or a weekend warrior, it is definitely worth considering adding yoga and Pilates to your workout schedule.

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