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Yoga Bliss Gambia: Yoga for Mens Health

My Magazine 2023/05
5 min
Author: Melissa Kuwahata Daswani
As a yoga instructor and practitioner, I only see a handful of men in class compared to women. It is considered by some that yoga is ‘feminine’ and is a form of ‘glorified stretching’ or contortions but certainly, this is just a media wash that has portrayed this impression over the years by using predominantly women models to showcase yoga.

Traditionally yoga is studied as a wholesome practice in order to unite the body, mind and spirit, to help people become more aware of their nature. Since yoga is a way of life encompassing range of life principles, it is certainly applicable to anyone and everyone. Out of the many principles that build up the yogic lifestyle, the 4 pillars of yoga: asana, pranayama, meditation, and diet are those that most commonly adapted into individual's life, as these alone can bring about profound changes to our body and mind.

From an array of asana and pranayama, there are those which are particularly beneficial to men. Through regular practice of yoga, their hormone and sexual functions stay in good condition. It brings balance, strength, and flexibility, reducing injury and stiffness. As a result, you can experience a reduction in stress, increase in immunity and productivity. Additionally, yoga is a great tool for those who work out with weights, play sports, or do any high-intensity workout. Yoga is supplementary in that it can increase the range of motion, stability, flexibility, and provide body and mind control.

Before we begin, do make sure you're wearing comfortable clothing that doesn't restrict movement, you have a quiet space where you can dedicate to yourself, either a yoga mat, exercise mat, or a large towel to practice on. It is always nice to practice yoga after a morning or an evening shower, when you feel more fresh and alert. Try to abstain from food at least a couple of hours before practice. Please keep in mind that if you have any medical conditions to get a clearance from your Doctor first before attempting any asana (postures).

Come into your practice space. Standing on your feet, keeping them hip’s width apart. Allow your arms to comfortably be by your side, while keeping the palms faced forward. Close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths in and out through your nose. Notice your posture, try to adjust your posture so it’s centered and erect, feeling some extension in your spine. Just make sure not to bring tension to your neck and shoulders. Wiggle the toes, the fingers, and soften your face. Release any tension that you may be holding in your jaw, eyebrows, behind the ears. Start to bring your mind back to your breathing. Notice how your breath feels through your nose, notice how it feels through the back of your throat, and then notice how it fills and empties your lungs. Now notice your rhythm of your breath, and the depth of your breath. Are you settled in your breath?

Slowly start to deepen your breathing. Fill your lungs by allowing your stomach to expand and your ribcage to expand. Then start to slowly release by exhaling and releasing the pressure out from your belly, drawing the stomach back in towards the spine, and allowing your ribcage to relax back. Take 5 more deep belly breaths.

Inhale to extend the arms up, stretching the spine and the arms, and maintain your balance. Hold for 5 deep breaths.

 

Chair pose (Utkatasana)

stretches the chest, shoulders, and helps strengthens the thighs, knees and ankles

From the standing position, bend the knees, maintaining an open chest. Arms extended slightly above shoulder height. Gaze in the space between the palms. Hold for 10 deep breaths and repeat.

Standing forward fold (Uttanasana)

improves circulation, reduces stress, opens hamstrings, calves, knees.

From the standing posture, exhale and bend at the hips to bring your chest and arms forward and down towards the legs. If your hamstrings are tight, you may need to keep your knees bent. Try to tilt your hips externally. Relax your upper body, shoulders and neck.

Low lunge (Anjaneyasana)

improves balance, strengthens hips, spine, chest, ankles and knees.

From standing forward fold, bend your knees enough so that you can place the palms flat to the mat. Step your right foot back as far as you can, coming into a lunge stance. Lower your right knee to the mat and untuck your toes. Once you have your stability inhale your arms up. Make sure your hips are forward-facing and your chest is open. Hold for 10 breaths and then repeat on the left leg.

Warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana II)

opens hips, chest, shoulders and strengthens ankles, calves and thighs.

Coming into a lunge pose by stepping your right leg back as far as you can. The left knee should be bent and stacked above the ankle. Turning the right foot externally and lower the right heel down to the mat. Allow your hips and chest to turn out, bring your left arm forward and your right arm back in line with your shoulders, keeping the shoulders down and arms engaged. Gaze to the left fingertips, focusing on your breath for 30 seconds. Perform on the opposite side.

Cobra (Bhujangasana)

strengthens lower back, improves posture and spine health.

Begin by lying on your stomach. Bring your hand to the side of your chest with palms to the mat, and the elbows bent along-side your ribs. Engage your legs, buttocks and lower back and start to lift the chest off the ground. Try to use your strength in your back to keep yourself lifted, rather than taking your weight onto the arms. Avoid shrugging your shoulders, gaze forward, or you may gaze upwards without crunching the back of your neck. Hold for 30 seconds. As you exhale, gently lower your chest back to the mat. Push your buttocks towards your heels to come into child pose (balasana).

Downward dog (Ardho mukha svanasana)

strengthens hips, back, calves, hamstrings and shoulders. 

From the child pose, tuck your toes under and lift the knees off the mat, creating an upside-down ‘V’ shape with your body. Keep the hips high and externally rotated, the hamstrings stretched, and the heels pushing down towards the mat. Try to keep your spine extended, including the back of your neck. Avoid scrunching the shoulders, and maintain space between the shoulder blades, as well as between the shoulders and neck. Your spine should be straight and not rounded. If you feel that your back is rounding, try to bend your knees slightly and adjust your spine. Hold for 30 seconds.

Half Pidgeon (Ardha Kapotasana)

lengthen glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors and adductors. It helps to open the hips, relieving lower back pain.

From the downward dog, take your left knee forward towards your left wrist. Lowering your shin down to the mat, extend your right leg down the back. Keep your hips parallel to the top of the mat and chest open. If you feel any pressure in your knees or you’re not able to open the hips enough to maintain a levelled hip, you may like to place a rolled towel under your right buttocks. Keeping an extended spine, start to lower your chest forward. If you’re able to take your chest to the mat, rest your forehead down on the back of your hand. Try to maintain even hips and stay for 1 minute. Repeat on the opposite side.

To end your practice always spend some time in corpse pose (Savasana).

Lying on your back, keep your palms turned upwards, your arms and shoulders relaxed close your eyes. Relax your legs, buttocks and your back, allowing it to rest into the mat. Bring your awareness back to your breath until you feel settled and peaceful. Stay in Savasana for as long as you need.

I encourage men to incorporate yoga asana practice into their daily routine. Yoga is beneficial to everyone, and certain asanas can benefit men's health more than others. Why not keep these few asanas in your morning and evening routine and see how it improves your overall health!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Melissa Kuwahata Daswani
Founder, Yoga Bliss Gambia and Yoga Bliss Creations
Melissa Daswani is a professional yoga teacher trained and accredited in Hatha Yoga from Rishikesh, India. She was introduced to yoga in the early adolesce by her mother who often practised yoga at their home and still continues to practice to date.
Melissa started to indulge in yoga with a keen interest in her 20’s after researching the benefits of practising yoga.
In order to expand her knowledge and practice, she initially enrolled on official training in India during 2009. Her initial stint in yoga teaching began in 2012 in Togo, followed by expanding in the Gambia from 2016. Melissa’s style of teaching incorporates the fundamental and crucial steps of yoga called Hatha yoga, which encompasses the basis of all other styles of yoga. Melissa believes that every individual has something to gain from Yoga which is not limited to mental, physical or spiritual.
Yoga is not a religion but more a spiritual exercise as well as a practice that can universally be incorporated into your daily routine. Melissa offers regular weekly classes in Fajara, the Gambia, which is open to all levels.
She also runs a weekly beach yoga class which is very refreshing and energizing.
It’s her love and dedication towards teaching which allows her the opportunity to share the essence of yoga and its benefits to people from all walks of life.
Whether you reside in the Gambia or are a visitor in The Gambia, Yoga Bliss Gambia would love to welcome you to their next class.

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Portrait of an Artist: Muhammed "Dodo" Jatta, Tunbung Art Village
Traditional Dish Recipe: Nyambeh Nyebeh

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