MIAMI (CBSMiami) — In these stressful times, more and more people, especially men, are turning to yoga to help them relax and get in shape.
But a new report suggests a growing number of men are stretching beyond the limit, leading many to experience more pain than gain.
In an early morning session at a yoga studio, men may well outnumber women. Fitness center owner Rachel Moncayo said the phenomenon is a change compared to just one year ago.
“Many of them are athletes, really enjoying the health benefit that they’re getting from the practice,” Moncayo said.
Nearly 20 percent of yoga practitioners are now men, such as Ed Fuller, who said he started two months ago and is now hooked.
“It’s very strenuous, and it works the muscle groups you may not work in any other kind of sport,” said Fuller, a triathlete.
But experts said Fuller and other male practitioners are at a greater risk of overworking those muscle groups – much more so than women – and that is leading to an increase in severe injuries.
“Men, with their increased muscle mass and decreased flexibility, are pushing those joints beyond their appropriate physiologic limits,” said sports specialist Dr. Tanya Hagan.
Former yogi Michael Conti said he knows about it all too well. He suffered permanent nerve damage in his leg, and he said yoga is to blame.
“I thought maybe I tweaked my knee or something, and then it turned out to be much more serious,” Conti said.
Criticizing the ancient practice of yoga may seem like bad karma, but author William Broad wrote a book investigating the risk and rewards of the beloved exercise, and investigated yoga injuries in men.
“Most of the letters I’m getting about serious injuries have been from guys,” Broad said.
Broad found that although men make up only 16 percent of his study, they accounted for 24 percent of the dislocations, 30 percent of the fractures, and a whopping 71 percent of nerve damage injuries linked to yoga.
By contrast, women accounted for the vast majority of fainting episodes.
“Women see it as relaxation and a release,” Hagan said. “Men are often coming to it with a competitive edge, with ‘I can push it harder.’”
The bottom line, according to experts, is that yoga should never be looked as a competition or a sport. It is more of a way of life for which you need to be physically and mentally prepared.
Studies showed most yoga injuries occur in class rather than at home.