Most men see yoga as “glorified stretching” with no strength or cardio involved. They are hesitant to walk into a yoga room because they either feel they won’t benefit from it, or they don’t really understand what yoga is all about. Yet yoga is very much a physical exercise and quite strenuous – the modern man would absolutely find a wide range of benefits from yoga.
Many yoga poses are held for a series of breaths which allow the muscles to lengthen and strengthen simultaneously. Yoga works on the muscle fiber which allows the muscles to grow toward the cellular level as the cells are enlarged.
When you combine weightlifting with yoga, the normally ignored sections of muscles are activated. For instance, the subtle “boxer’s muscles” or serratus anterior is strengthened and visible, which helps give the abdominal muscles a more “cut” appearance.
Yoga also practices many different breathing techniques that do more than build strength in our lungs. The deep abdominal breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system which lowers the levels of cortisol – a hormone that makes our body hold belly fat. When you practice deep breathing, you effectively reduce stress and cortisol levels in the body – something everyone can benefit from.
If you think beginning a yoga practice will not give you a cardiovascular workout, you are mistaken. Vinyasa yoga builds strength in the cardiovascular system and raises your heart rate. Your lungs will become stronger and your ability to breathe deeply and fully will improve – which provides more oxygen in the body and improves your endurance overall.
Last but not least – yoga increases libido and improves sexual performance. The breathing techniques gained from your yoga practice and the increase in concentration helps men channel their sexual energy and build endurance. If you are looking for more ways yoga helps you be a better lover, check out this article.
Yoga is amazing for both the men and women – but there are certain yoga poses that are very beneficial for men in particular.
Here are ten yoga poses that are perfect for the male yogi:
1. Utkatasana or Chair Pose
Chair pose or Utkatasana can be arduous even for the extremely fit male. This pose builds strength in the ankles, shoulders, quadriceps and glutes. It is also great to build stability and to stimulate the abdominal organs.
How to practice Utkatasana:
- Begin standing at the top of your mat with your feet hip distance apart
- Inhale your arms overhead and as you exhale, bend the knees and lower your pelvis down as if you are sitting on a chair
- Bring the weight into the heels, keep the core engaged and the shoulders relaxed
- Arms can remain reaching overhead or reaching forward and parallel to the ground with palms facing down
- Be sure to continue to breathe as you hold this pose
2. Navasana or Boat Pose
If you want to strengthen your deep core, your hip flexors and spine . . . practice Boat pose. This posture is especially beneficial for men as it stimulates the prostate gland, reduces tension in the pelvic region and aids the digestive system.
How to practice Navasana:
- Lie flat on your back with your arms by your side and keep your breath normal
- When you’re ready, inhale and lift both legs off the mat – knees can be bent or straight to increase the challenge
- Lead with your chest as you lift your upper body off the mat and reach your arms skyward
- Keep your core activated and spine straight
- Remain here for 15 to 20 seconds, or longer to continue to build core strength
3. Uttanasana or Standing Forward Fold
Uttanasana helps stretch the muscles, increase blood circulation and relieve stress. It is a great pose for active men to nurture themselves and reclaim their center. A Standing Forward Fold invites the back body to open including the hamstrings, calves and knees. This pose can also relieve tension in the spine, neck, and back and improve digestion.
How to practice Uttanasana:
- Begin standing at the top of your mat, inhale arms overhead. Exhale, hinge at the hips and bend forward – allow your head to hang between your arms
- If the hamstrings are tight – keep the knees bent and rest your torso over your thighs as you hold opposite elbows
- In either variation, be sure to keep the upper body completely relaxed and heavy, which creates a deeper opening of the back body
4. Adho Mukha Svanasana or Downward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog has become a staple in our yoga practice, and for good reason! This pose appears simple but can be very challenging. Down Dog gives the body well-rounded benefits and specifically strengthens your back, hips, calves, hamstrings, and shoulders. It’s a great posture for men because it’s a full body stretch, a great warm-up and also helps quiet the mind.
How to practice Downward Facing Dog:
- Begin in a tabletop position and tuck the toes as you lift your hips up and back
- Your wrist creases should be parallel to the top of the mat and the fingers pointed forward
- Come onto the toes, bend the knees and lift your hips towards the ceiling. With a flat back, slowly straighten the legs to form an upside-down “V” shape
- Your head and neck are relaxed as you remain here and connect to your breath
5. Anjaneyasana or Low Lunge
Low Lunge is fantastic for men because it allows the hip flexors to open and a great way to practice balance. This pose lengthens and strengthens much of the body including hips, chest, spine, knees and ankles.
How to practice Anjaneyasana:
- Begin in Downward Facing Dog. Inhale and place your right foot forward between your hands
- Be sure your right knee forms a right angle by keeping the knee over the ankle and the thigh parallel to the floor
- You have the option to keep your left knee on the mat or keep it straight and lifted
- Your hands can be placed on the mat, in prayer at your heart or extended overhead
- Keep the inner thighs and core engaged to help keep your balance
6. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana or Bridge Pose
It is not unusual for men to experience tight muscles throughout the torso. Bridge pose can help tremendously to open the upper body and release tight muscles. A regular practice of Bridge pose will generate more space in the chest, and also helps with insomnia, fatigue, anxiety and headaches.
How to practice Bridge Pose:
- Begin on your back with your knees bent and feet on the mat, heels close enough to your seat that you can touch them with your fingers, palms facing down
- Press your feet into the mat to use your legs to lift your hips high
- Keep your knees close together and thighs parallel to the floor. Arms continue to actively press into the mat
- Remain in this position for 30 seconds
7. Ardha Kapotasana or Half Pigeon Pose
Half Pigeon pose can be a challenge if you have tight hips, but is also very beneficial for the hips. This pose helps you find length in the hamstrings, glutes, adductors and hip flexors. Those who are active in a lot of physical activity and carry heavy objects will greatly benefit from this pose. Half Pigeon is a favorite among yoga practitioners because when we open our tight hips, we are able to find relief in other areas like the lower back.
How to practice Half Pigeon:
- From Downward Facing Dog Pose, place your right knee behind your right wrist, close to the edge of the mat
- The right foot crosses toward the left side of the mat
- Allow your left leg to stretch back and slowly lower the hips toward the floor
- If your hips are not square to the front and your right hip is not on the mat, place a yoga block or blanket under the right hip
- Straighten your spine by maintaining an Up Dog motion through the chest
- Remain in this position for 1-2 minutes while you breathe and release the tension
- Repeat on left side
8. Supta Padangusthasana or Reclining Hand to Big Toe Pose
Reclining Hand to Big Toe is a fantastic pose to allow a slow and gentle opening of the body. In a reclined position, we can really focus on our breath and releasing tension. This pose opens the low back and hamstrings and is helpful to those with high blood pressure. It also helps to stimulate the prostate gland and improve digestion.
How to practice Reclining Hand to Big Toe:
- Begin on your back with the legs extended long
- Bring your right knee towards your chest, loop a strap (or towel) around the arch of the right foot and extend it toward the ceiling. If you don’t have a prop available, just straighten into the leg as much as you can comfortably
- Keep your shoulders on the mat and keep the left leg relaxed on the floor
- Breathe here for a few minutes
- Repeat the sequence with the other leg
9. Virabhadrasana I or Warrior I
This pose is a great way to build full body strength. It opens the hips, chest and shoulders and strengthens the ankles, calves, and thighs.
How to practice Warrior I Pose:
- Begin in Low Lunge with your right foot forward. Turn your left toes towards the left side of your mat and press your heel down
- Inhale your arms up overhead with your palms facing each other
- Relax your shoulders and keep a 90 degree angle in the right knee
- Hold and breathe for at least 30 seconds
- Repeat on the opposite side
10. Bhujangasana or Cobra Pose
This pose is great for the male athletes as well and anyone who does a lot of physical work as it strengthens the low back. Any sport that involves running, jumping or dynamic movements generates tension in the low back. If we continue these activities and avoid stretching and releasing tension in the muscles, this increases risk for injury. Cobra pose will help the male yogi find relief as well as build strength in the spine.
How to practice Cobra Pose:
- Lie on your stomach with your legs extended long
- Keep the tops of your feet flat on the floor and forehead resting on the ground
- Palms are flat on the ground beneath your shoulders
- Press your legs and tops of the feet firmly into the mat as you press the palms down and lift the torso, straightening into the arms
- Keep length in your spine by lifting the chest up as you find a gentle backbend
Alright men, it’s time to practice! Start with these ten yoga poses to stretch your tightest areas like the shoulders, hips, and groin. Your challenge is to keep coming back to these poses and continue deepening your practice so you can experience the immense physical and mental benefits that these poses will bring you.