If you are a guy, there’s a good chance that you have problems in the flexibility area. It’s a guy thing. At some point, a well-meaning person will probably tell you that you need to take yoga classes, but before you decide to visit the Land of OM, step back and consider the research studies of New York Times science reporter William J. Broad, author of The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards.
Pushing the Limits of Male Flexibility
Yoga has fewer devotees of the masculine gender, but according to Broad, proportionally, “they are reporting damage more frequently than women, and their doctors are diagnosing more serious injuries — strokes and fractures, dead nerves and shattered backs.” Some yoga teachers say that whilst women see yoga class as refuge, men view it as a challenge, and will use their muscular strength to push their bodies into postures that their muscles are not quite ready to assume. This always ends badly. While the wider pelvic areas of female yoga enthusiasts facilitate this extreme flexibility, men simply are not built that way.
Gentle Exercise? Not Really
The reputation of yoga as a gentle exercise is well known, but little about the dangers of yoga reach the general public, even though the first reports of yoga injuries appeared decades ago in respected journals such as Neurology, The British Medical Journal and The Journal of the American Medical Association. There are frequent reports of a condition known as yoga drop foot, which doctors trace to an unresponsive nerve in the peripheral branch of the sciatic. This nerve runs from the lower part of the spinal column, down through the buttocks and the legs. Long term sitting in some yoga postures deprives the branch of oxygen and deadens the nerve. The result is an impaired ability to walk, run and climb stairs.
The Exorcist Effect
The British Medical Journal also posted articles about the ability of yoga to cause strokes in young, healthy people. Under normal circumstances, Normally, your neck can stretch backward 75 degrees, forward 40 degrees and sideways 45 degrees. It can also rotate about 50 degrees on its axis. Yoga enthusiasts typically push the limits on neck mobility. This is a serious safety issue for both men and women. Despite the fact that the yoga guru Iyengar encouraged neck hyperflexion, the exorcist effect does not really portray an image of health.
Why Pilates is Better?
Joseph Pilates studied yoga and incorporated some of the techniques into his method. There are, however, some distinct differences. To begin, the yogis did not design yoga as a form of exercise. The poses were supposed to initiate the calm required for seated meditation.
In contrast, Pilates was developed as a logical and systematic approach to physical and mental conditioning. It never involves sitting and holding poses. Pilates is about movement, which develops dynamic, functional flexibility. In some of the exercises, you will be encouraged to avoid going through the full range of motion, because doing so will sacrifice joint stability in favor of excessive flexibility.
Whilst Yoga and Pilates are breath-based disciplines, the styles of breathing differ dramatically. Yoga breathing is belly-breathing, which encourages you to pod your belly out like a Buddha. In contrast, Pilates encourages constant deep contraction of the core muscles, so your belly will never stick out during a Pilates workout. Pilates will not make you as flexible as yoga will, but it gives you enough flexibility to be functional and pain free.
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