Yoga for Men: Dealing with Stress and Pain Before it Gets Out of Control
Andrew Beaumont, M.D., Ph.D., was inspired to become a yoga instructor after seeing so many patients in his neurosurgery practice with back and neck pain and few options for self help. In addition to his medical work, he now teaches Viniyoga and yoga therapy focused on helping men and women tackle their structural issues as well as stress.
“I realized the benefits of yoga after trying to deal with my own injuries,” Beaumont explained. “I wanted to bring those benefits to others.”
While men and women are equally affected by back and neck problems, Beaumont’s experience is that men tend to get into more pain before they seek help. “Some men have a fear of showing weakness, or complaining about pain. They can be less likely to take care of themselves with preventive strategies,” he said.
Beaumont sees two consistent and related problems men endure.
The first is increased muscle tension, which can cause neck, back, leg and pelvic pain and headaches. The second is stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety make muscle tension worse, and increased muscle tension and pain makes stress worse.
“The accumulated pain and stress can start to influence relationships with wives and children and extended family, which in turn causes more stress,” he explained.
“Men and women in middle age are often wearing many hats. They are still raising children, but might be caring for parents as well. They often have to do physical work at their own place of residence and sometimes at their parents as well. There may be workplace stress that compounds all this.”
Beaumont finds that men dealing with these issues often react to the stress by tensing up and holding that tension in their back and necks, hunching their shoulders over and walking with a flexed posture. This is a physically defensive position, brought about by the mental stress. All this muscle tension leads to fatigue and pain.
“Yoga can help relieve muscle tension,” he explained. “Through breath work and meditation, it can also help with anxiety and stress. So with regular yoga practice you can begin to unravel the vicious cycle of muscle tension, pain, stress and fatigue.”
For men in particular, yoga therapy can help in several ways:
- Stress reduction
- Muscular relaxation
- General and cardiac fitness
- Help with neck and low back pain
- Improved relationships with family and friends
“Men and women are prone to developing structural spine problems in middle age,” he said. “The most common symptom is pain. It can be hard to distinguish the pain of muscle tension and stress from the pain of structural spine problems. Numbness, tingling, pain shooting into the arms or legs and weakness would all be unusual symptoms for muscle tension and stress, and these symptoms should make you think of underlying spine problems.”
Yoga therapy, when performed with a yoga therapist, has the ability to help with spinal disorders too, and regular yoga and other exercise is an important tool to help prevent flares of symptoms related to degenerative spine disease.
“To get the benefits from yoga, it is important to have a regular practice. When you are tired, stressed and in pain, it can help heal you, but it’s also really useful as a way to prevent the build up of stress,” Beaumont added. “Keeping up with that ‘you time’ is key to being able to keep going through all the stress and physical demands we face in life.”
With Father’s Day just around the corner, consider giving a 5 Koshas gift card to the men in your life HERE. Gift cards can be used toward exploring various classes and getting started with a new practice to help ease pain and stress.