Real Men Do Yoga
Meet Matt Miller — or “Miller the Pillar” to his mates — the pro bodybuilder who left behind sunny Californian muscle beaches to introduce Broga to other parts of the world. It’s the blokiest thing to happen to yoga in its 5,000-year history…
1. People have this concept of yoga being women in tight Lycra pants and crop tops with their butts in the air. But yoga actually started off as a men’s activity — women weren’t allowed to do it. And if you look at the statistics, there’s been a huge growth in the number of men going to classes. It’s going back to its roots — men, who started it in the first place, are starting to rediscover it.
2. The scope of yoga is massive: on one end of the spectrum, you have yoga classes where you chant for an hour and a half, and on the other end, you can be doing gymnastic strength moves. Hatha yoga is like a warm massage; Vinyasa is more dancey, and Ashtanga (or “Power Yoga”) is the most athletic. I’ve been to classes where you lie under a blanket with a pillow under your legs — I’m not saying they’re not valid or that there isn’t a place for them but, as a male athlete, that’s not helping me out. Go to your local gym and find a level-one Ashtanga class.
3. You might be used to a dynamic workout or a cardio workout, but yoga is more of an isometric workout, where you’re asking your muscles to be strong in stillness. If you look at wrestlers in a hold, it doesn’t look like they’re doing anything. Yet at that moment, every muscle is engaged and they’re working incredibly hard. Holding a position requires you to use muscle cells that you haven’t used before; you’re used to being dynamic, you’re used to running, but you’re not used to just holding the muscle fibre in a contracted position. Yoga is about finding power in stillness.
4. Sport is all about repetitive movements: if I’m a boxer, a tennis player or a swimmer, there’s constant repetitive motion in a forward direction. There needs to be a balance for that, something that pulls everything back. If there’s no balance, then those connective tissues are going to structure themselves for that movement and become tighter and tighter. Flexibility leads to injury prevention, and you can’t compare a five-minute stretching warm-up before or after your physical activity to an hour of yoga.
5. Every athlete has experienced “the zone” – that moment where you’re able to block everything else out, you’re in complete control over yourself and your body and it feels like everything else around you doesn’t exist. Time has almost slowed or stopped. That’s the magic moment for an athlete. It’s almost spiritual. Yoga has that at its core – teaching you to access that zone.
6. It all starts with control of your breathing. If you have control over one of your most primary functions, one that you don’t normally think about, you’re automatically creating more neurological connections and you have more control over the rest of your body. I even apply these breathing techniques in the gym. If your breathing isn’t controlled and you’re under very high stress physically, the failure rate is much higher than if you’re controlling your breathing.
7. Normally, we isolate our muscles — whether that’s through a chest workout, a back workout or a cardio workout — but yoga requires you to use your muscles together. Teaching people to use their muscles in a new way like that is beneficial for every other bit of training that they do, be it in the gym, running, cycling, tennis — everything benefits from that. But you can’t just do yoga. It’s about balance.
8. Bring a towel, because you’re going to sweat. And water, because it can be a harder workout than you expect. Most importantly, wear something that isn’t loose. I don’t like to wear cotton when I’m doing yoga; I like something more form-fitting because the last thing you want is to be inverted upside down with your sweaty shirt hanging in your face.