Yoga Benefits for Arthritis
Get the details on how practicing yoga regularly can reduce pain, increase flexibility, improve function and lower stress in people with arthritis.
Yoga Benefits for Arthritis
By Susan Bernstein
Yoga is a practice that comes in many different forms, and includes poses, breathing techniques and meditation. It started in ancient India and has been touted as a way to boost physical and mental health for 5,000 years. In fact, yoga is proven to help people with arthritis improve many physical symptoms like pain and stiffness, and psychological issues like stress and anxiety. People with various types of arthritis who practice yoga regularly can reduce joint pain, improve joint flexibility and function, and lower stress and tension to promote better sleep.
Yoga’s Many Benefits
Many people turn to yoga as a way to exercise gently, as well as to reduce tension and improve joint flexibility. Yoga also can help a person with arthritis build muscle strength and improve balance, says Sharon Kolasinski, MD, a professor of clinical medicine and a rheumatologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. In addition, yoga offers people with arthritis a form of exercise that is enjoyable enough to do regularly.
Yoga’s Many Benefits
Add variety to your workout
Improve physical function
Create a mind-body connection
Yoga for other Conditions
Yoga and Osteoarthritis
Dr. Kolasinski, studied the effects of yoga on people with knee osteoarthritis (OA). She found that people taking 90-minute, modified Iyengar yoga classes once a week for eight weeks reported reductions in pain and improvements in physical function and joint stiffness. Yoga poses were modified and props were used to make the practice accessible to all participants.
“Yoga is definitely one option for people with arthritis. Not only for the exercise benefits, but it’s also beneficial in the mind/body area, promoting relaxation and stress reduction,” says Dr. Kolasinksi.
Still, Dr. Kolasinki warns: “You need to be taught by an instructor who understands your limitations.” Postures should be modified to suit your needs, and props should be used to help you balance during poses. Because it allows the use of aids, Iyengar yoga, in particular, is often recommended for people with arthritis.
A study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania showed that yoga could provide relief for people with hand osteoarthritis, a problem that can impair daily activities like dressing, driving a car or cooking. An eight-week yoga regimen improved hand pain, tenderness and finger range of motion in the participants.
Yoga and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Subhadra Evans, PhD, a researcher at the University of California at Los Angeles Medical Center conducted a small study of the effects of six weeks of Iyengar yoga on a group of women with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Evans was impressed by strong results showing yoga’s immediate, positive impact on people with a serious chronic disease.
Participants filled out questionnaires to measure pain, disability, mood, function and other symptoms, and also sat down for personal interviews with the researchers to gauge their feelings about the yoga program and its effects on their RA.
“They all said that day-to-day levels of pain hadn’t changed, but their relationship to the pain had changed. They were able to get through daily activities much more effectively, and had much more energy,” Evans says. “I think if we had had them do yoga longer, we may have seen more significant changes in pain and other symptoms.”
Improving RA Symptoms
Additional studies do show that yoga can help people with RA improve symptoms. A study conducted at the Dubai Bone and Joint Center in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, looked at the effects of a biweekly yoga program for people with RA. Twenty-six out of 47 study subjects participated in 12 yoga sessions and reported significant improvements in measurements of disease activity.
An Indian study looked at a week-long, intensive yoga program’s effects on people with RA. Sixty-four men and women with the disease were given tests for functional status, rheumatoid factor (a blood marker often associated with inflammation) and C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation). All the participants showed reduced disability scores tests measuring function, and reduced rheumatoid factor levels.
Do Yoga Regularly – Even Daily
Yoga is gentle enough for most people to do every day, says Dr. Kolasinski. Yoga classes or private instruction can be expensive, but you can practice a yoga routine on your own at home, using a DVD or online sources, once you’ve learned the moves from an instructor.
Finding the right instructor is key, says Howard. A good instructor not only understands that you have arthritis and shows you how to modify the moves, but should help create an overall program that fits with your goals. If you are less interested in the mind-body connection or meditation aspects of yoga than the physical poses and flexibility benefits, find an instructor or class that focuses on what you need.
Some yoga poses may need to be modified for people with arthritis, Dr. Kolasinski adds. Downward facing dog, for example, involves kneeling on the floor and raising your body with your arms. People with arthritis may also need to use a chair, a block, a strap or other aids to help maintain balance during some poses, she says.
Get Moving with Yoga
Yoga is a popular choice among a wide variety of people with various health conditions. Dr. Kolasinski believes yoga is a good choice of physical activity for people with arthritis.
Most Americans do not get enough physical activity, a factor that contributes to higher rates of obesity and health problems like arthritis. “Getting people moving is key,” Dr. Kolasinksi says. Before starting a yoga regimen, speak to your rheumatologist or primary-care physician to ensure that yoga is right for you. In addition, discuss what type of modifications might be appropriate for your unique condition, Dr. Kolasinski says. Just be careful not to overdo it, and be mindful if you experience any pain or discomfort. Don’t overtax a joint that’s flaring.
It can help you find your bliss, and some say yoga may also help you shed those extra pounds.
Jennifer Aniston does it. Reports are that Liv Tyler, Halle Berry, Madonna, David Duchovny and supermodel Christy Turlington do it, too. Many professional athletes are said to be doing it in an effort to improve their games.
The “it” is yoga, a sophisticated mind-body exercise many believe can do everything from tighten your buns to change your outlook on life.
But can this no-strain, work-at-your-own-level exercise really help you lose weight?
It’s true most types of yoga don’t have anything near the calorie-burning power of aerobic exercise. A 150-pound person will burn 150 calories in an hour of doing regular yoga, compared to 311 calories for an hour of walking at 3 mph. But it is exercise, after all, and many practitioners believe yoga can indeed help people take off extra pounds.
“Yoga is a phenomenal way to put you in touch with your body the way nothing else can, and yes, it can help you lose weight,” says instructor Dana Edison, director of Radius Yoga in North Redding, Mass., and a certified personal trainer with the American College of Sports Medicine.
Celebrity yoga trainers Ana Brett and Ravi Singh, who have worked with such hotties as Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow, also believe in yoga’s weight-loss powers.
“We have seen it in ourselves, we have seen it in our clients – yoga can give you a real workout even if you are a beginner,” says Brett, who, with Singh, created the best-selling DVD program Fat Free Yoga.
How Does It Work?
In 2005, medical researcher and practicing yogi Alan Kristal, DPH, MPH, set out to do a medical study on the weight-loss effects of yoga.
With funding from the National Cancer Institute, Kristal and colleagues at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle led a trial involving 15,500 healthy, middle-aged men and women. All completed a survey recalling their physical activity (including yoga) and their weight between the ages of 45 and 55. Researchers then analyzed the data, teasing out other factors that could influence weight change – such as diet or other forms of exercise.
The end result: They found yoga could indeed help people shed pounds, or at least keep them from gaining weight.
“Those practicing yoga who were overweight to start with lost about 5 pounds during the same time period those not practicing yoga gained 14 pounds,” says Kristal.
For the study, he says, practicing yoga was defined as at least one 30-minute session per week for four or more years.
Kristal says it’s not clear just how yoga might help people keep off the pounds, at least from a scientific standpoint. His own opinion is that the effects are subtle, and related to yoga’s mind-body aspects.
“The buzzword here is mindfulness — the ability to observe what is happening internally in a non-reactive fashion,” he says. “That is what helps change the relationship of mind to body, and eventually to food and eating.”
Adds Edison: “Yoga makes you more susceptible to influence for change – so if you are thinking you want to change your lifestyle, you want to change the way you think about food, you want to get over destructive eating patterns, yoga will help give you the spiritual connection to your body that can help you make those changes.”
Another idea is that yoga forges a strong mind-body connection that ultimately helps make you more aware of what you eat and how it feels to be full.
“Essentially, in yoga you learn your body is not your enemy, and the conscious awareness of the body that you gain translates into better appetite control,” Edison says.
Power Yoga: The New Attitude
While some say yoga is too tame for extreme weight loss, many devotees of the practice known as “power yoga” disagree.
Power yoga is an Americanized version of traditional Kundalini techniques. Instructors like Singh and Brett believe it can offer all the fat-burning potential – and heart benefits — of an aerobic workout.
While traditional types of yoga are based on breathing techniques paired with static poses, Singh says, power yoga combines meditative breathing with faster, more active movements. The result, he says, is a workout that can be more aerobic than . . . aerobics!
“Aerobic means to exercise in the presence of oxygen, so when you are doing the traditional yoga breathing along with the more active exercises, you’re doing exactly that,” he says. “Our ‘breath of fire’ technique, for example, is one of many we use to help you burn calories while you breathe.”
Edison concedes power yoga may help some people lose weight, but she questions whether it could work for the yoga novice, or the average out-of-shape dieter.
“Can yoga build muscle? Yes. Is a fast-paced, power class aerobic? Sometimes. And can you sweat out water weight in a 105-degree room? Sure. But can the average overweight person effectively shed pounds through a one-size-fits-all physical yoga practice? Not realistically or safely,” Edison tells WebMD.
What about using power yoga to jump-start a weight loss plan? Kristal says even the most forceful power yoga techniques won’t equal the health benefits of a cardiovascular workout — nor will yoga ever burn calories quickly at a significant level.
“It’s just not medically feasible – it’s not going to happen,” he says.
Still, Brett and Singh say they’ve seen firsthand that it can work, even for beginners.
“People come to yoga for many different reasons, but we have seen many success stories in terms of losing weight and learning to control weight,” says Brett. “Active yoga, even for the novice, can change your body and your life.”
Making Yoga Work for You
One thing all our experts agree on is that yoga can be a terrific introduction to the world of fitness.
To help get you started, they offer these tips:
- Practice in a room without mirrors, and put the emphasis on your internal experience rather than your outer performance.
- Learn to experience the sensation of movement, down to the tiniest micro movement.
- Always try to find your “edge” — the place where your body feels challenged, but not overwhelmed. When you achieve this, keep an open, accepting state of mind.
- Give yourself permission to rest when you’re tired.
- Combine your yoga session with positive self-talk. Appreciate your efforts and praise your inner goodness.
- Go to class faithfully. If you work out at home, set a specific day and time for your yoga session and stick to it.
- Recognize that you are not only working on your body, but are also working to develop qualities like patience, discipline, wisdom, kindness and gratitude.
- Look for a teacher (in a class or on video) who you feel offers a balance between gentleness and firmness, and who inspires you to practice.
- Recognize that simply buying a yoga DVD or attending the class is a step toward creating a better you. Use it as momentum to keep going.
- Realize your efforts are not just inspiring you, but also inspiring others as you become more attuned to who you are, inside and out.
Ashtanga. Power. Hot. Aerial. Laughter. And yes, even goat. Yoga is more popular — and unique — than ever before.
Any online search for yoga classes today reveals yoga’s skyrocketing popularity with many Americans — and that interest is driving a whole new generation of yogis who are willing to spend a lot of money to find their om.
As a yoga instructor or event creator, it’s important to understand the motivations of your yogis. But data on their habits and trends can be scarce. That’s why Eventbrite teamed up with OnePoll to survey 2,000 Americans on their yoga practices, monthly yoga budgets, and more.
Here are some surprising statistics about the growth of yoga you need to know for 2019.
Get all the yoga statistics and insights from the survey in The Rise of Yoga Events: New Data on How to Grow Your Yoga Business .
The yoga market at a glance
Yoga is big business in the U.S . The average yogi spends $62,640 over their lifetime on classes, workshops, and accessories — or nearly $90 per month. They practice regularly, with a majority (44%) going 2-3 times a week, preferably in the morning (34%) or evening (18%).
The financial cost (and opportunity for you, as an yoga teacher or event creator), doesn’t stop there. The average yogi is willing to spend $40 on a single, special, one-time yoga experience. And 6% of people are willing to spend more than $100 on a memorable yoga experience.
So what motivates people to practice? Reasons range from expected to surprising, including:
- Release tension (54%)
- Get stronger physically and mentally (52%)
- Feel happier (43%)
- Get more “me” time (27%)
- Feel less lonely (21%)
- Unplug from tech (20%)
Statistics on the growth of yoga
The future looks rosy for the yoga community. Not only are more people practicing in the U.S., they also want to practice more in the year ahead. When asked about their plans for the new year, 64% of yogis said they wanted to do more yoga in 2019.
So what do these yogis want from their practice? Happiness, variety, and a space to support them on their wellness journey , according to our research. And they’re interested in exploring experimental yoga experiences, especially ones that prioritize creating happy vibes.
Three trends to be aware of as you plan and market your yoga events this year:
- 47% of people are more likely to maintain a wellness routine when held accountable by a class or teacher
- 38% of yogis plan on engaging in more wellness activities off the mat in 2019
- In addition to in-person classes, people also turn to yoga guided by video or app (24%) and meditation guided by video or app (22%) to de-stress
- A whopping 86% report experiencing a positive improvement in mood after doing yoga and 43% say they feel very happy after yoga
The most common yoga demographics
Of the 2,000 people who took our survey, there were a variety of yoga experience levels:
- 12% identified as advanced yoga practitioners
- 22% intermediate
- 27% beginner
- 37% brand new
When it comes to finding new classes or workshops to attend, these yoga demographics all have a similar approach. Word of mouth reigns supreme, with 45% of yogis saying they discover yoga offerings through friends or coworkers. Facebook was the next top source (44%), followed by online ads (35%).
As for where they practice, the majority of respondents (67%) do yoga at home, followed by:
- Gym (43%)
- Yoga studio (38%)
- Outdoors (32%)
- Yoga or wellness festival (20%)
- Special event a unique venue (20%)
Unique yoga trends on the rise
While yoga is thousands of years old, the results from our survey show that new trends are on the rise. People wish they were taking more classes in experimental settings beyond the typical yoga studio than they actually are. Currently, 66% of people do at least one class per year in an experimental setting, but 83% wish they did.
What are these experimental forms of yoga? 20% of yogis want to give laughter yoga a try, while silent disco yoga, aerial yoga, beer yoga, and naked yoga made it on the list as well.
Another yoga trend gaining popularity: people want other wellness elements incorporated in their yoga classes and events, such as in-person guided meditation (17%), spa treatments (21%), massages (39%), dance class (21%), and spin class (12%). Depending on your interests, you can marry the two together for an irresistible event.
Dive deeper into these 2019 yoga statistics
These are just a few of the findings and yoga statistics revealed by our survey of 2,000 Americans. Discover how to put all this data to good use in The Rise of Yoga Events: New Data on How to Grow Your Yoga Business .
At crowded New York City yoga classes, rooms can be filled wall-to-wall with 60 or more students — but it’s likely that fewer of those people are men than you can count on one hand.
A recent Washington Post article points out that many still view yoga as a “women’s practice,” although its benefits for physical health and well-being extend to both sexes. In the piece, writer Eric Niiler posed (no pun intended) the simple question: “Why are there so few men in yoga?”
Niiler argues that commonly-perpetuated “yoga myths” are what keep men sitting on the couch or on a spin bike instead of in lotus pose. “Yoga isn’t a decent workout; it’s too touchy-feely; you have to be flexible to do it; men’s bodies just aren’t built for pretzellike poses,” are just a few of these myths, he explains. By Niiler’s estimation, men shy away from yoga because they may be intimidated by poses that require more flexibility, and they might be turned off by various spiritual aspects of the practice, such as “Om”-chanting or naming poses in Sanskrit.
“If it’s flaky and too New Agey, soft or touchy-feely, that can be a turnoff unless it’s explained in a way that is understandable to a male audience,” Ian Mishalove, co-owner of Flow Yoga Center in Washington, DC, told the Washington Post. (And yet meditation, another “New Age” practice, is a growing trend among business leaders, many of them male.)
In the picture Niiler paints, men’s fragile egos are bruised by being unable to perform poses that are easier for women, men are uninterested in “touchy-feely” spirituality, and when they do come to class, it’s to be surrounded by women in tight pants. “You want to be where the women are,” one male practitioner told Niiler.
Niiler may not give male yoga practitioners much credit, but he’s right about one thing: Despite the fact that nearly everyone seems to be an aspiring yogi these days, the yoga community is still heavily female-dominated (or as Niiler puts it, “not a man’s world”). The ancient practice has exploded into a $27 billion dollar industry in the U.S. with more than 20 million practitioners, 83 percent of them women, according to a 2012 Yoga Journal report. The industry has made a killing selling, largely to women, a premium yoga lifestyle — as one Bustle writer says, “inner peace comes with a high price tag.” That lifestyle includes, in addition to classes, designer sportswear, mats, towels, water bottles, juice cleanses and retreats. It’s part of a larger, $290 million marketplace, dubbed Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS), comprised of “goods and services focused on health, the environment, social justice, personal development and sustainable living,” whose consumers make up an estimated 13-19 percent of the population.
Though he points to some very real myths about the practice, Niiler’s analysis neglects to mention a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to the feminization of yoga: The fact that the yoga industry has long been using images of thin, statuesque, often white women to sell its products — and so, unsurprisingly, our wellness-obsessed culture has come to associate yoga with a certain ideal of female perfection.
Karlyn Crowley, professor of English and director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at St. Norbert College, recently told ELLE that we’ve come to think of the “yoga body” as female, slender and taut.
“The yoga body is Gwyneth Paltrow’s body — the elongated feminine form,” Crowley said. “That is still the way yoga is represented in mainstream media.”
A more inclusive media portrayal of yoga — one that better represents both genders, as well as a greater variety of body types and races — would be a step in the right direction towards diversifying the practice. But given the current marketing tactics employed by the yoga industry (yes, there is actually a “Yoga Teacher Barbie”), it’s unsurprising that women, and particularly those of a certain body type, are the ones who seem to be most at home in yoga studios.
“If you ask the average person what yoga is, they immediately think of a beautiful woman doing stretches and bends — that tells you how commercialized it has become, and how limited,” Phillip Golderg, spiritual teacher and author of “American Veda,” recently told the Huffington Post. “What yoga has meant for thousands of years is not just that.”
And what yoga actually meant for thousands of years — stilling the thoughts of the mind in order to connect with the self — is a pretty equal-opportunity pursuit. Men and women of all races and body types could stand to practice a little self-reflection, and it’s important to remember that anybody practicing yoga has a “yoga body.”
“The beauty of yoga is that it meets you where you are,” Lauren Walker of Mother Nature Network wrote in a recent blog post. “Yoga can hold us all, and can hold all of us.”
Namaste to that.
Also on The Huffington Post:
Diamond Dallas Page originally developed DDP Yoga for athletes like himself who had suffered years of injuries due to high-impact sports. For the first 42 years of his life, Dallas was a guy who “wouldn’t be caught dead” doing yoga, or anything like it.
When he ruptured his L4 and L5 spinal discs during the height of his professional wrestling career, he was so desperate to keep his childhood dream alive, he was willing to try anything. So he tried yoga for the first time in his life.
Because Dallas (DDP) had so much experience in many other areas of fitness, he quickly started mixing elements of yoga with his rehab and traditional calisthenics. For almost a decade, DDP has refined his program and has become a master at teaching it to others, as well as motivating individuals to believe that anything is possible with dedication and hard work.
Along the way, Dallas learned that very deconditioned men and women could do DDP Yoga as well — he was amazed to see stories of people doing DDP Yoga losing literally hundreds of pounds! As Dallas puts it, “weight loss just happens to be a really AWESOME side effect of DDP Yoga!”
DDP Yoga combines the very best of yoga, old-school calisthenics, sports rehabilitation therapy and dynamic resistance to create one of the most effective fitness plans in existence today. It allows anyone to:
- Get a kick-ass cardio workout
- Increase flexibility
- Strengthen core muscles
- Experience almost no joint impact
DDP Yoga is CardiYoga!
About DDP Yoga
Diamond Dallas Page originally developed DDP YOGA for athletes like himself who had suffered years of injuries due to high impact sports.
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This was NOT your ordinary flow.
About a year ago, a friend told me about a men’s-only naked yoga class in Manhattan. While I thought a naked yoga class was an interesting idea, it ultimately seemed unnecessary to me: I wasn’t sure exactly what would be added to my yoga experience by practicing in my birthday suit. Wouldn’t it just be awkward? Penises flopping around. Body odors free to roam the studio without clothing to prevent their escape.
The class was part of a larger wellness institution called MMX, which unofficially caters to queer men. I wondered if the queer focus would somehow affect the dynamic of the class: Would it be more sexual? And if so, how does that translate when you’re in downward dog?
Then last week, out of the blue, I was contacted by Seneca, the fitness director at MMX. He asked if I’d be interested in attending a class to write about it. At the end of the day, I’m down to try anything once, and have no qualms getting naked with others, so I decided to give it a try.
“Centuries ago in India, yoga was initially practiced in the nude,” Seneca told me prior to class. “And there’s something incredibly freeing about practicing yoga without clothing.” He said nudity is “instrumental in terms of learning how positions should sit on the body,” and that removing your clothing makes for “another less thing to worry about so you can be completely centered on your yoga practice.”
With Seneca’s points fresh in my memory, I went into the studio with an open mind and heart (which totally sounds like something a naked yoga instructor would say).
Located in the heart of Chelsea, MMX is a cute studio on the fourth floor of a nondescript building. It has the ambiance of any other yoga studio: calming music in the waiting room, dim lights, and Buddhist statues and other decorations paying homage to yoga’s Indian origins. When you walk in, people aren’t naked yet.
I met Seneca, who showed me around and told me I could enter the actual studio to start stretching. I grabbed a mat. then realized I wasn’t sure if I should get naked right there. I was the first one in the studio, and didn’t know if it was an “Alright, you may all proceed to strip now” type deal, or if you were meant to come in and get naked on your own.
I figured, What the hell, I’ll just get naked. So I did, placing my clothing in the cubbies toward the entrance of the room. It turned out to be the right thing to do. Other men started trickling in minutes before the class, removing all their clothing before they began stretching.
Even as someone who’s been to countless sex parties and nudist resorts, I always need a moment to settle into my public nudity. The relative quietness of the studio sounded piercing.
I also get anxiety boners when I’m naked in public. It’s not because I’m getting aroused by the other naked people there, though there surely were enough hot dudes at MMX to get me hard at the studio. It’s because I know I shouldn’t be getting hard, and for some reason, that gets me hard. Every time I do a nude photo shoot, I get an erection. There’s just too much excitement going on.
Seneca had previously told me that getting an erection is one of the biggest worries of men who enter the studio. “You’re going to be working far too hard to maintain it even if you get it. So don’t worry about that,” is what he tells them. “And essentially, it’s about being in your body and allowing your body to experience its natural evolution.”
Eventually, the instructor, Phillip, came in naked and quickly broke any tension (and my fear of getting an erection) with his big smile and booming voice. “Wow, you guys are quiet. How are we all feeling?”
We then went around, said our names, and replied “fine” or “good.”
After a brief warm-up, Phillip transitioned us into an intense, quick flow between positions. Immediately, any reservations I had about being nude or getting hard with a bunch of men were gone. I was sweating bullets, trying to keep up, and failing miserably.
At this point, I remembered, Oh yeah, I hate yoga. As someone who lifts weights five days a week and derives joy from being at the gym, yoga has never been a thing for me. I’ve tried it countless times on dates, with friends, and family members, but I’ve never liked it.
After about 45 minutes of hell, the hard part of the class was over. At this point, I’d completely forgotten we were all naked—that is, until we moved into the couple’s portion of the class, which had very intimate partner poses.
Now, even though MMX’s website doesn’t use the word gay or queer once, the language and imagery of the site make it clear that this is a studio for men who are into other men. After creating an account online, you create a profile, à la Tinder or Grindr, and can message other men to see if they’d be interested in meeting up to massage or something more. In that regard, MMX does work hard to foster a friendly, queer, and sex-positive community.
Up until this point, the class didn’t feel explicitly queer. It was just men practicing yoga naked. The partner portion of the class, was—and I’m just going to say it point blank—very gay.
Phillip told us all our first partner would be the man whose mat was across from ours. Mind you, this was someone I hadn’t met before. Together, with Phillip’s guidance, we entered into a pose where one person bends forward while the other stands behind him, like in a standing doggy style position. The bent-over person then twists his body, looking back at the “top” person, who stabilizes the bent-over person by grabbing his butt and chest.
This is when I got hard, and it was no anxiety boner: This partner pose was extremely sexual and arousing. Then, he got hard. After we finished the pose, we hugged, looked each other in the eyes. and kissed. It just felt like the thing to do. I looked around afterward to see that other men, although not all, were kissing their partners, too. Then I switched partners, per Phillip’s directions. After two more tender partner poses, the class ended with everyone linking up in a circle, crossing arms, and doing a backbend together as a unit. Everyone was supported by the person next to them.
MMX is kind of genius when you think about it. It starts off slightly awkward, but the ice is quickly broken by having an extremely charismatic instructor who makes you feel welcome. In the beginning you introduce yourselves, so you already start to build a sense of community within the class. Quickly, you’re working out, exhausted, and nudity is the last thing on your mind. While your endorphins are flowing and you feel more relaxed, you start the partner poses, which are beautiful, intimate, and something you feel comfortable doing after having been through the rest of the strenuous class with these other men.
Don’t get me wrong, I still hate yoga. But by the collective backbend, I felt like I’d become best friends with everyone in the room. And maybe I even loved them all? Is that possible?
Human societies weren’t always male-dominated. The switch came when we became farmers – and that suggests ways to roll back towards a more equal system
Harriet Lee Merrion
THE vast majority of cultures are patriarchies, where men are more likely than women to hold positions of social, economic and political power. So it is tempting to assume that this is the natural state of affairs, perhaps because men are, on average, stronger than women. But a study of humanity’s roots suggests this answer is too simple.
Chimpanzees are not a proxy for our ancestors – they have been evolving since our two family trees split between 7 and 10 million years ago – but their social structures can tell us something about the conditions that male dominance thrives in. Common chimpanzee groups are manifestly patriarchal. Males are vicious towards females, they take their food, forcibly copulate with females that are ovulating and even kill them merely for spending time away from the group.
Special report: The origins of sexism
The imbalance of power between men and women is being hotly debated. But no one benefits from a patriarchal society, so how did we get here, and where should we go next?
Males also spend their lives in the group they were born into, whereas females leave at adolescence. As a result, males in a group are more closely related to each other than the females. And because relatives tend to help one another, they have an advantage.
The same is true in human societies: in places where women move to live with their husband’s family, men tend to have more power and privilege. Patrilocal residence, as it is called, is associated with patriarchy, says anthropologist and primatologist Sarah Hrdy at the University of California at Davis.
For most of our history, we have been hunter-gatherers, and patrilocal residence is not the norm among modern hunter-gatherer societies. Instead, either partner may move to live with the “in-laws”, or a couple may relocate away from both their families. According to Hrdy, a degree of egalitarianism is built into these systems. If they reflect what prehistoric hunter-gatherers did, women in those early societies would have had the choice of support from the group they grew up with, or the option to move away from oppression.
According to one school of thought, things changed around 12,000 years ago. With the advent of agriculture and homesteading, people began settling down. They acquired resources to defend, and power shifted to the physically stronger males. Fathers, sons, uncles and grandfathers began living near each other, property was passed down the male line, and female autonomy was eroded. As a result, the argument goes, patriarchy emerged.
This origin story is supported by a study published in 2004. Researchers at the Sapienza University of Rome, Italy, studied mitochondrial DNA (inherited from mothers) and genetic markers on the Y chromosome (inherited from fathers) in 40 populations from sub-Saharan Africa. This suggested that women in hunter-gatherer populations, such as the !Kung and Hadza, were more likely to remain with their mothers after marriage than women from food-producing populations. It was the reverse for men, suggesting that agriculture is indeed correlated with patrilocal societies.
“It’s tempting to assume male dominance is the natural state of human society. It isn’t”
In righting things, solidarity is crucial, says Amy Parish at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. She studies bonobo societies, which are patrilocal but female-dominated. Females weigh 15 per cent less than males – similarly to humans and chimps – yet Parish says they have the upper hand because they cooperate and form alliances. She sees a parallel with feminist movements: “The goal is to behave with unrelated females as if they are your sisters.”
It’s not as easy as it seems (see “Why the patriarchy isn’t good for men and how to fix it”). “The #MeToo movement is about female cooperation,” says Hrdy, “but getting cooperation among non-kin is difficult.” Competitive instincts can prevail, or events can cause cooperation to fall apart – for instance in times of war, Hrdy says. “Women start to look out for the safety of their own children and their husbands.” She worries that conflict could erode gains from recent decades. “None of this stuff is certain,” she says. “It’s what I tell my daughters: don’t take any of this that you have now for granted.”
Restoring and strengthening equality will require effort on multiple fronts, she says. If patriarchy originated in sedentary social structures that formalised male ownership and inheritance, then laws that give women the right to own property in their own name, for instance, can help.
But such laws exist in many 21st century societies – so why does the patriarchy persist? Ultimately, real change will only come when societies embody the values espoused by the laws, argues Lise Eliot, a neuroscientist at the Rosalind Franklin University in Chicago: “The laws are the first step, the internalised values come later.”
This article appeared in print under the headline “The Origins of the Patriarchy”
Yoga teacher and part of the DoYou editorial team.
Dudes, this one’s for you. Yoga is not just for women. You Y-chromosome carriers can reap some huge rewards by getting on a yoga mat and getting your body moving. In fact, men may benefit even more from certain yoga postures than women, thanks to the larger and tighter muscles men generally boast.
If the idea of propping yourself up in a backbend or twisting and binding is a little too intimidating, fear not. You can still experience asanas galore that open the legs, hips, chest and shoulders and even some that help build muscle throughout the body.
If you want to make things more interesting, you can even go for this free 30-Day Yoga Challenge so you have daily motivation to get on your mat. Now if you’re all set and ready to go, try these 10 yoga poses to get you started.
1. Standing Forward Fold
Uttanasana, or Standing Forward Fold, opens the back of the legs, the hips and the back. Making this pose even more appealing for non-bendy men is that it’s easily modified. If you can’t reach the floor, keep your hands on your thighs, calves or ankles or use blocks to shorten the distance.
In addition to stretching muscles, Standing Forward Fold lowers blood pressure, eases headaches, improves circulation and helps you sleep better. And if you allow gravity to do its job in this pose and relax your head and neck, you can also reduce the tension you carry in your upper body.
2. Warrior One
This iconic posture stretches men where they need it most—the hips and shoulders. On top of opening these tight areas, Virabhadrasana is a strengthening posture. It builds the muscle of the thighs along with the areas around the knees, which means more stability and protection for sensitive joints during high impact sports.
Want more powerful shoulders? Try holding this pose for 10-15 breaths and you’ll never again question whether yoga is physically challenging.
3. Chair Pose
Back to that question about whether yoga is physically demanding for tough guys?
Chair pose, or Utkatasana, may bring even the macho-est man to tears. Chair pose works the quads, ankles, butt and shoulders, while also opening the chest—helping you develop greater stability. It’s also useful for improving flat feet and stimulating the abdominal organs.
4. Downward Facing Dog
It’s the pose that just makes you say aaaah. Downward Dog, or Adho Mukha Svanasana, brings the attention to all of those tight areas that challenge men—the hamstrings, calves, arms, shoulders, back, hips and more. And while it stretches the body, Down Dog also strengthens the arms and legs.
Perhaps even more important for men is what Downward Facing Dog does for the heart. This amazing asana strengthens the heart as it improves circulation, reduces stress and helps high blood pressure.
5. Upward Facing Dog
The other dog posture, Urdvha Mukha Svansana, can help to open the chest and strengthen the back and arms. This posture will help anyone who sits behind a desk or a wheel for far too many hours each day by opening the abdomen and hip flexors.
For men who also enjoy more strenuous forms of exercise, Upward Facing Dog is a great way to warm up and get the muscles stretched and blood flowing before expecting the body to go all out.
Up Dog also helps anyone struggling with breathing difficulties.
6. Boat Pose
Another amazing strengthening posture, Boat pose, or Navasana, will give you rock hard abs as it also strengthens the hips flexors and spine. This posture is particularly beneficial to men for what it does to stimulate the prostate gland and even just raise awareness and reduce tension in the pelvic region.
If you’re the type of guy whose key to your heart is through your stomach, you’ll enjoy boat pose for its ability to stimulate the digestive system and keep everything moving smoothly.
7. Butterfly Pose
Baddha Konasana increases blood flow to the pelvis, kidneys, prostate and bladder…and I don’t need to tell you what other part of your life can be helped by better blood flow to the pelvic region.
Butterfly pose is also a good way to draw attention to mula bandha, the root lock, which also brings awareness and more energy to the area around the hips. (wink, wink)
8. Half Pigeon
Tight hips? Half Pigeon will be your best friend. This posture is a challenging one, but you can ease yourself into it as your hips open more and more. Since it’s a powerful way to open the glutes, hamstrings, adductors and hip flexors, Half Pigeon can help you when you take part in physical activities, carrying heavy objects, etc.
Once you release the tension in your hips, you’ll also feel the benefit in your lower back and other areas of your body.
9. Bridge Pose
It’s not unusual for men to experience tight muscles throughout the torso, but Bridge pose can help open the upper body and release those tight muscles. Whether you realize it or not, tightness in this area make for shallow breathing and can even make other physical activities more challenging.
Over time, practicing bridge pose will create more space in the chest and make for easier, fuller breathing.
10. Reclining Hand To Big Toe
Here’s another one that may be hard at first, but this posture opens the lower back to get energy moving more freely, and when it does, it also stimulates the prostate gland and improves digestion.
Women may still outnumber men in yoga studios, but the tides are changing. A growing number of men are making their way to the mat to stretch, strengthen, breathe and open. If you’ve been wanting to try it but have been slightly intimidated, try these postures at home until you’re comfortable with the idea and see how much yoga can help every aspect of your life.
From there, give yoga classes a try. Who knows, you may soon be inviting your buddies to join you for yoga class.
Yoga teacher and part of the DoYou editorial team.
Myth: Men don’t care if women have orgasms. Truth: They care a great deal.
- The Fundamentals of Sex
- Find a sex therapist near me
Many surveys show that during partner lovemaking, men have orgasms around 95 percent of the time, but for women, the figure is only 50 to 70 percent. Some women complain that men just want to get off and don’t care if women do.
But over the 40 years in which I’ve answered sex questions, many men have asked how to help their lovers climax. In addition, the distress many men feel about their own sex problems—penis size, premature ejaculation, difficulty climaxing, and erection problems—stems in part from the belief that their issues interfere with their partners’ enjoyment and orgasms. Actually, size, getting it up, lasting forever, and coming on cue has much less to do with women’s sexual satisfaction than most men believe. But in my experience, many men care deeply about their partners’ ability to work up to orgasm.
A recent study corroborates my opinion.
She Climaxed. I’m a Stud.
Researchers at the University of Michigan randomly assigned 810 men to read either of two erotic stories. In one, the man brought his gal to orgasm. In the other, he didn’t. Then the investigators asked participants to rate their own masculinity and sexual self-esteem. Those who read the she-came story rated themselves more masculine and studly, suggesting that they valued helping women have orgasms.
Gentlemen, if you want to maximize women’s chances of orgasm.
- The clitoris! Most women enjoy kissing, cuddling, breast fondling, fingering, and intercourse. But their orgasm-triggering body part is the clitoris, the little nub located outside the vagina, an inch or two above it, beneath the top junction of the vaginal lips. Once she’s erotically aroused, gently caress her clit. Touch, kiss, and lick it for a long time every time. But be careful: The clitoris has as many nerve endings as the head of the penis, but they’re packed into a space only one-tenth the size. If you play rough with the clitoris, your lover may experience discomfort or pain that impairs her ability to work up to orgasm. As you touch or kiss her, ask, “Is this okay? Please coach me.”
- Mammoth erections don’t produce women’s orgasms.Porn stories and men’s locker room talk maintain that a huge one stretches the vagina and drives women wild. Actually, vaginal stretching has little to do with most women’s orgasms. Stretching rarely stimulates the clitoris. Any size penis can provide great pleasure for men, but it’s estimated that only 25 percent of women have orgasms during intercourse no matter what the man’s size or how long he lasts. Most intercourse doesn’t provide much clitoral stimulation. That’s why men should always provide gentle, extended clitoral caresses and cunnilingus.
- Lasting forever doesn’t make women come. Popular songs tout making love “all night long.” Meanwhile, throughout the lifespan, premature ejaculation (PE) is men’s leading sex problem, affecting one-quarter to one-third of men in every adult age group. On the Q&A site I publish, the top-selling product is an e-booklet which presents a do-it-yourself approach to the sex therapy program that teaches men reliable ejaculatory control. If you want to last longer, you can. But don’t expect lasting forever to bring women to orgasm.
- Before reaching between women’s legs, provide 20 minutes of kissing, cuddling, and whole-body massage. Many men rush into intercourse. That’s a ticket to both disappointed women and male sex problems. For the best sex, unless women request otherwise, postpone genital play until you’ve enjoyed extended mutual whole-body massage. Before you reach for her breasts or genitals, touch her gently everywhere else for at least 20 minutes—if you do it to music, five or six typical songs. Extending sensual warm-up time is a win-win. It’s absolutely essential to most women’s ability to have orgasms. And it helps your little buddy function the way you want.
- Use lubricant. Wetter is usually better. Women with dry vulvas and vaginas may experience discomfort or pain during sex. But with moistened genitals, they become more erotically aroused and responsive. Lubes take only seconds to apply. Saliva is the world’s most popular lube. Or try commercial lubricants available at pharmacies. Look near the condoms.
- Consider a threesome: the two of you and a vibrator. Even with extended whole-body massage, gentle clitoral touch, and plenty of oral, some perfectly normal women (and men) still have trouble climaxing. Meanwhile, more than half of American women own vibrators, and almost all women can come using them. Around 10 percent of lovers use vibes in partner lovemaking. Consider joining them. Ask if your partner has a vibrator. If so, suggest incorporating it into your partner play. Vibes generate intense stimulation so many women prefer using them on themselves. But as she does, hold her, caress her, and tell her how desirable she is. Or ask her to coach you how to use her vibrator on her. If she doesn’t own one, you might suggest shopping together for one.
- No one “gives” anyone orgasms. Orgasms are like laughter. Comedians don’t simply “make” us laugh. They help us express the laughter that’s waiting within us. The same goes for orgasm. Lovers can help or hinder the process, but people work up to orgasm themselves. Ask her what helps and hurts her erotic journey to a happy ending.
- Consider sex coaching or therapy. During the 1960s, one of early sex therapy’s successes was teaching “pre-orgasmic” women to come. If you embrace all the suggestions above and she still has problems, sex coaching or therapy usually help. If you’re unfamiliar with sex coaching and therapy, the professional does not have sex with you and does not watch you have sex. Sex coaching provides helpful direction. Sex therapy is a form of talk-based psychotherapy. Both involve erotic “homework.” Sex coaches usually charge less than sex therapists. (See the film Hope Springs with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones.) To find a sex coach near you, visit the World Association of Sex Coaches.
- “Did you come?” Finally, if you wonder how to recognize women’s orgasms, see my previous post on the subject.
Women Care About Men’s Orgasms
Just as women’s orgasms are key to men’s sexual self-esteem, many women’s sexual self-esteem depends on men’s orgasms. German researchers surveyed 240 heterosexual women. More than half rated male orgasm “very important” to their sexual satisfaction. Many wanted their man to come before they did. After their men climaxed, the women found it easier to relax, focus on their own pleasure, and work up to orgasm.
Some men don’t care if their lovers have orgasms, but most care deeply.