If there’s one area that I need to most work and discipline with regards to my body, it isn’t in dieting, nor training, but stretching. I’m not stretching’s biggest fan, yet I do it because it needs to be done. I understand its importance, but I need routine. I love routine. And so, not all that long ago, maybe 6 months ago, I tried yoga.
The stretching was okay, but the humming and moaning and all that spiritual hoopla that the yoga teacher was peddling without truly understanding the gravity of it, was annoying. I came there to strength, to help with my injuries, not to enact an ancient form of prayer to Hindu gods, a religion of which I’m not a participant of.
Walking out of that sweat box filled with babes wearing Lulu’s and a hippie teacher with her head in the clouds praying to gods she does not know, letting some spiritual void bring her to the hippified world of yoga, I thought, I wish some athlete would take this form of stretching and somehow make it real, practical, removing all this hippie nonsense and leave us with a good, solid stretching routine.
And not long after that, Dean gave me a shout with an introduction to Man Flow Yoga. My interest was piqued, largely because of the timing of the intro, but I was still a skeptic when it came to yoga. He, however, was able to change my mind, and hopefully he’ll help you with your stretching routine as well.
I founded Man Flow Yoga to bring yoga to more men in a way that was more relatable to them – all about the physical benefits of yoga, and minimizing the spiritual or meditative aspects. I was a lacrosse player for the University of Wisconsin when I started yoga, and although I really enjoyed the physical aspects of yoga, the spiritual and more introspective elements made me uncomfortable a lot of the time. I thought that there must be a lot of people like me, so I founded Man Flow Yoga and made it my full-time job in January. So far it has been a huge success. Man Flow Yoga is the most popular form of yoga for men on Facebook (with over 13,000 likes) and one of the most popular yoga for men YouTube channels.
Maybe it’s because I spend all day working with yoga in some shape or form, but I am constantly reminded of just how little people know about yoga. I recently jokingly told a friend who is moving to Austin to not worry, and that I would make him do any yoga if he wanted to stay with me for a couple of days. He responded, “I could definitely use some work on flexibility.” I wasn’t mad at his response, but just kind of surprised. I thought to myself, “Shit, are we still only here with yoga? Is it only understood as flexibility training?”
I get asked on an almost daily basis on what my diet and exercise regimen consists of. The diet takes at least a couple of sentences to explain, but the exercise only takes one: “All I do is yoga and pull-ups.” Then the incredulous stare, followed by, “You only do yoga? No weights?” Nope, no weights. Setting aside the fact that I do a specific type of yoga (Man Flow Yoga) that I have developed out of my own experiences, yoga has all the necessary ingredients to help people achieve the toned, muscular look that they are looking for. To be sure, some people put on muscle and develop toned muscle more easily than others, but there is no reason why the movements involved in yoga (and specifically in Man Flow Yoga) will not help you build muscle, develop core strength and body control, and build endurance while simultaneously improving flexibility, and thus reducing the risk of injury, improving strength, and speeding the rate of recovery.
If you have done yoga before, you will know that a yoga workout is much more than a stretching class, and that you are working on so much more than flexibility. If you have not taken a yoga class before, let me explain it like this: Think of doing variations of wall-sits and planks. Got it? Okay. Now do that for an entire hour. That is what Man Flow Yoga workout consists of. Minimal time is wasted in transitioning from one pose to the other. One exercise is followed by an exercise that works the exact opposite muscle group, so that muscles switch from lengthening (stretching, working on flexibility) to contracting (flexing, working on endurance and strength) for the ENTIRE hour. More than that, your entire body is involved. Even if you are concentrating on flexing the front knee to contract the hamstring and work on endurance in your thighs, at the same time you are extending the back knee to work on flexibility in the opposite leg as well as endurance in the quadriceps (the front of the thigh). On top of that, your abdomen is engaged and your arm muscles are flexed. There is so much going on in one movement that it is impossible that you are only working on flexibility.
A Man Flow Yoga workout is not stretching: it is body-weight resistance exercise. It is often misinterpreted as stretching because it is unique from other forms of body-weight resistance exercise in that there is an emphasis on flexibility IN ADDITION TO holding up your own body-weight for an entire hour. Here are a few exercises found in yoga that you have most certainly done if you have a background in physical exercise or sports: Lunges, squats, push-ups, pull-ups, planks, side-planks, leg-lifts, and handstands. I guarantee you that ANYONE could get the body that they want using only the above exercises as long as they were utilizing proper form, doing enough reps and allowing their body enough time to recover, and eating properly. I guarantee it. Man Flow Yoga combines all of these exercises into an hour long full-body workout that emphasizes extremely exact execution (three cheers for alliteration) in order to promote complete control over your body, expand total body efficiency, increase range of motion (flexibility), and TONE THE SHIT OUT OF YOUR MUSCLES. It is the constant refinement of body-weight exercises in reps that last minutes instead of seconds. There are no breaks. That is why I can only do yoga (Man Flow Yoga) and look the way that I do, and there is absolutely no reason why it will not work for you as well.
So, to summarize: Man Flow Yoga (and most yoga, in general) is not stretching; it is a physical exercise that focuses on the refinement of body-weight resistance exercises. Instead of doing sets or reps, poses are held so that muscles are constantly lengthening or contracting. Low-impact so that anyone can do it, but enough muscle engagement to make you look like a swimsuit model.