The only man on the mat: study finds yoga helps men’s mental health

Deakin University’s new study has shown that men who practice Yoga have significant benefits in terms of their mental and physical health. However, the biggest obstacle for most is the courage to attend a class.

Associate Professor Melissa O’Shea of the Deakin School of Psychology stated that yoga studios are often seen as women’s areas. Some men find this intimidating and feel embarrassed to work out with women.

Associate Professor O’Shea stated, “Yog  is a combination of breathing exercises, physical postures, and meditation. It has been shown to reduce depression and anxiety. However, men make up less than 20% of the participants in Australian Yoga classes.”

We wanted to know what stopped more men from taking up regular yoga practice, given the benefits it has on their physical and mental health.

According to a separate study published last year, up to 25 percent of Australian males aged 10 to 55 have had a mental disorder diagnosed in their lifetime.

Associate Professor O’Shea stated that “we know that many more men suffer alone, undiagnosed, as they are less inclined than women to seek support for mental health and, when men do, dropout rates are as high at 44 percent.”

In our study, we asked men engaged in Yoga what mental benefits they experienced, if any. We also asked what barriers they had to overcome when they were considering taking up Yoga.

The research findings, according to Associate Professor O’Shea, were raw and revealing.

The men said they felt intimidated by the number of women and girls who were super flexible, all looking like they knew what they were doing.

The men found a place where they could laugh and enjoy each other and felt like a safe environment.

Participants reported that they felt better physically but also mentally. One participant said that he thought “calmer” in every situation. . . a lot calmer”.

Eleven of the fourteen participants in the research started practicing Yoga after they turned 40. One participant stated that “it was really bothering me that I felt old” and increasingly frail and stiff.”

The participants said that they saw yoga as an activity they could continue as they aged and that the low-impact nature of yoga was beneficial to their mental health as well.

This study shows that Yoga is an effective way for men to manage their mental health. “Increasing the availability and accessibility of men’s-only yoga classes could be an effective way to encourage men to take their first steps onto the mat,” said Associate Professor O’Shea.

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