Ira Bloom calls himself a yoga "evangelist." By day,
the 52-year-old Bloom is a practicing dentist. Two or three times a week,
though, after leaving his office, you'll find Bloom at the Greater Baltimore
Yoga Center. There, for an hour and a half, he practices a form of hatha yoga
known as Iyengar.
Bloom came to yoga quite by accident about five years ago. An
ad offering a free week of yoga classes spurred him on, and he's been hooked
ever since. "It's a great way to improve your strength, become more
flexible, and relieve stress," says Bloom. "It really calms the
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Though Bloom says that his ultimate goal is to practice yoga
every day, he admits that a hectic schedule makes that difficult. But, he adds,
even the two or three times a week he does make it to yoga class has a strong
influence on his daily routine. "It just spills over into your everyday
life," he says. "You learn to do your life like you do your yoga ... to
be centered, to breathe more calmly, and to be focused. Little things don't
bother you as much."
Calming the mind not only makes day-to-day living easier, says
Robert Bulgarelli, DO, FACC, who practices integrative and preventive
cardiovascular medicine at Cardiovascular Associates of Southeastern
Pennsylvania, it also has far-reaching effects when it comes to protecting men
(and women, too) from the physical damages of stress.
"Yoga, with its combination of meditation and breathing,
helps get the mind and body in sync," says Bulgarelli. Men, he goes on to
say, frequently downplay the stress that they're feeling, and as a result, tend
to develop heart disease at an earlier age than women.
Dealing With Stress
"Women are more in tune with their emotions,"
Bulgarelli says, "and are better able to handle daily stressors. Men often
ignore signs of stress and as a result, their heart rate goes up, their blood
pressure rises, their platelets get stickier. ..."
Along with the physical changes brought by stress itself, says
Bulgarelli, are the more subtle behavioral changes that accompany stress --
eating less healthfully, exercising less, and engaging in more high-risk
behaviors such as drinking and smoking.
"To take 20 to 40 minutes out of your day to sit and be
quiet, to gently stretch, and to breathe deeply," says Bulgarelli, "is
a tremendous way to reduce stress." Studies have shown, he says, that the
various forms of yoga can help reduce blood pressure, body temperature, and
heart rate, improve respiratory function, and even change brain waves.
"Yoga has tremendous implications for everyone," says
Bulgarelli, "but especially for men, by allowing them to decompress and
Bulgarelli says that in addition to its potential to prevent
and even manage heart disease, yoga is a good antidote to depression as well,
which is epidemic among men in the United States.
"Yoga gives you the opportunity to strip yourself down, to
quiet yourself, to just really 'be,'" says Bulgarelli, "and for any
men, that may be the first time they've ever done that. The meditative aspect
of yoga is the perfect avenue to help you figure out what's going on in your