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Yoga for Men

Yoga is becoming more popular among men, and for good reason: Besides getting rid of stress and increasing flexibility, it may lower the risk of heart disease, depression, and high blood pressure.

Part of Fitness Program

As if the possible benefits of yoga in terms of stress, heart disease, and depression weren't enough, there are additional advantages of yoga, especially for men, says Julio Kuperman, MD, head of neurology at St. Agnes Medical Center in Philadelphia and associate professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

Kuperman is also a yoga instructor and director of yoga teacher training at the Baptist Power Yoga Institute in Bryn Mawr, Penn., and has been practicing yoga himself for the past 25 years, long before many men turned to the discipline.

"I believe the present popularity of yoga in America will continue to grow by leaps and bounds as the baby boomers continue to age," says Kuperman. "The male population in particular remains a mostly untapped potential constituency, for yoga has much to offer my gender-mates as we age."

Yoga has much to offer men of any age, too, Kuperman says. It is one of the few physical activities that has a "de-compacting" effect on the body. (Swimming and gymnastics are other examples). This is essential, says Kuperman, to counter the effects of gravity associated with activities such as running or jogging. Yoga also provides much-needed "symmetry relief" to such asymmetric endeavors as racquet sports and golf, which torque the spine in only one direction.

Yoga also supplies flexibility that can help in safely practicing power sports and weight training, says Kuperman. And yoga itself is flexible in the sense that there is a broad variety of yoga styles, ranging from the intense, aerobic, and almost acrobatic practice of Ashtanga ("Power Yoga") to the more meditative style of Kripalu Yoga and the "Hot Yoga" (done in an overheated room) championed by Bikram Choudry, which can become an integral part of any program of physical activity.

"My emphasis as a teacher," says Kuperman, "is to help people incorporate yoga into their existing routines."

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