I know what you’re thinking: another article about why more men should do yoga.
But listen up, guys, because it’s time to get real. Below are seven hardcore facts to support incorporating a solid yoga practice into your life as well as six badass yoga poses for men. After all, one man’s loss is another man’s gain—and it’s time for more gains, bruh.
Excuses, excuses, excuses
Before we get down to the solution, let’s address the problem. I have heard all the excuses dudes give for not doing yoga. And for the fun of it, here are the top five.
1. Yoga is for chicks.
Yes, most yoga classes are filled with women, but I’m curious as to how many guys would complain about that. The notion that yoga is for women is a strange misconception, considering yoga was originally designed for men. Women were not allowed to practice until the early 20th century.
2. I’m not flexible enough.
Developing flexibility is exactly the reason you go to yoga. It’s a practice that you build into. You didn’t start bench-pressing 300 pounds the first time you went to the gym, and I’m sure you didn’t start with the excuse, “I’m not strong enough.”
Yoga improves muscle length and endurance of muscle tissue, while increasing joint mobility. More mobility means more gains, bruh.
Download Your Free Yoga for Men eBook
Learn all that there is to know about yoga for men with the help of this eBook! Plus, get exclusive tips and poses that will help you dive deeper into the practice.
3. Yoga is too easy.
I thought the same thing: Why would I pay for a stretching class when I stretch everyday? That was my excuse. When I took my first class, however, it was not easy, as I was trying to get through all the postures and move my body in ways it’s never been before. I was sore for days in places I didn’t know existed. No amount of weight lifting even came close to that impact.
4. I’m not into the spiritual mumbo jumbo.
Om nama shi…oh my bad. Not all classes are designed around the element of spiritualty or chanting. There are classes designed specifically for men, such as Broga and Man Flow Yoga, that are structured and built around strength, stability, and mobility without the yogic spiritual philosophy.
5. I may get sexually aroused in class.
You are on your own with that one! However, yoga does balance your sexual hormones and increase the release of pheromones, which draws sexual attention and increases libido. It also rids the body of toxins that affect sexual performance and reproductive health.
A 2010 study, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, revealed that yoga effectively improves all sexual functions in men. Is better sex something to fear, boys?
Sign Up for Tristan's Spinal Reset Teacher Training
Enroll in the ONLY training that bridges the gap between Physical Therapy and Yoga. Receive $200 off with this exclusive code!
Why real men do yoga
If any of these arguments resonated with you, you are not alone. Many guys have avoided yoga for these reasons and more. With all assumptions aside, let’s consider the benefits of yoga for the male body. Here are seven reasons why this epic practice should not be missed by any man.
1. Relieve stress and tension.
Yoga gives us a chance to unplug and withdraw from the daily grind and endless flurry of texts, emails, phone calls, and obligations. Yoga allows you a mental and physical detox by employing breathing (pranayama) techniques that are known for their relaxation effects. These techniques calm the central nervous system, which is responsible for the fight or flight response.
2. Increase flexibility.
Any sports or physical activity requires engagement of multiple muscles fibers to perform powerful, explosive, and strategic movement patterns. The physical practice of yoga, or asana, targets specific areas of muscle in the body to increase extensibility and endurance in the muscle fiber. This increases blood flow, nutrient delivery, and range of motion.
Greater range of motion equals more leverage, power, and agility during sporting activities in addition to greater gains in the gym.
3. Shred muscles and shed body fat.
Yoga utilizes postures which are held for extended periods of time. These poses tend to focus on multiple isometric contractions of various muscle groups in the body. Imagine holding a plank for 1-2 minutes after your upper body is already spent from other postures—easier said than done.
Yoga also jumpstarts your metabolism and releases healthy hormones, while balancing out your cortisol levels and in turn helps to burn unwanted fat to be turned into energy. Think of it as being green for your body.
Twisting postures help to sculpt and tone the midsection. Standing postures build a solid foundation for powerful, fine-tuned legs. Weight-bearing postures on the arms help to build and tone the entire upper body. This creates a total body workout and detox entirely built into a one-hour class—and even better, you get to chillax at the end.
Download Your Free Meditation for Men eBook
Learn all that there is to know about meditation for men by downloading this eBook.
4. Improve balance and stability.
Yoga employs multiple postures that challenge single leg balance, arm balance, bending forward with a split leg stance. All of which helps to improve overall postural stability and promotes deep core engagement and support, while strengthening supportive structures along the spine to allow for protection and stability.
5. Prevent injury.
The majority of injuries come from repetitive overuse and a lack of overall body maintenance in active or inactive individuals. Over tightening of the muscles can place you at higher risk for muscle and tendon strains, sprains and tears, making it extremely important to maintain healthy extensibility of the muscular tissues.
Yoga balances muscular connections in the body and allows for increase space and mobility in the body to create less joint compression and increased range of motion.
6. Improve endurance and cardiovascular health.
Heart disease is on the rise for men as we age. Vinyasa-style yoga employs moving through multiple postures and sequences to heat and warm the body and as a result, fires up the circulatory system and organically improves cardiac output. This supports building healthy heart tissue and delivering blood flow and nutrients to every nook and cranny of the body.
7. Clear mental fog and fatigue.
Traditionally, asana is employed to unlock and relax the body to prepare you to meditate comfortably and without interruption. Even taking five minutes to close yours eyes and just focus on your breathing can greatly improve mental clarity and improve energy levels. It allows the mind a short period to reboot from the endless stream of thoughts and information we receive on a daily basis.
It’s not all yoga pants and Namastes
With a plethora of fitness classes, body building programs, and sports activities at your fingertips, I can’t help but to keep coming back to yoga as a staple and pushing more guys to do the same. Our bodies only last so long; how we use them matters and this will change as we continue to age.
I once read somewhere, “Your wealth is in your health,” and I’ve taken that to heart much of my life. After being in the physical therapy world for a few years now, I’ve taken into account the injuries and loss of function that my patients suffer.
On one end, they are a result of overuse and repetitive motion injuries. On the opposite end, they are a result of underuse, where balance and stability decreases, and risk of falling rises. Motion is lotion—meaning we must keep it moving to lubricate and hydrate the entire body.
By utilizing activities such as yoga, we allow ourselves to move more intelligently, think more clearly, and live life to the fullest.
Yoga poses for men
As a medical professional and a yoga teacher trainer, I have seen the consequences of overuse and underuse of movement in the human body, whether they are male or female, young or old.
If I had a quarter for every time I heard a male patient say, “I can’t even touch my toes!” I would be a millionaire by now. This is because the majority of men are limited in tissue flexibility and extensibility in the back, legs, and hips.
Most men do nothing about it and some don’t even care, but let me reiterate guys, if you don’t keep your body healthy and balanced you run the risk of injury, decreased mobility, and chronic pain as you get older.
Let's talk hamstrings.
From an anatomical standpoint the hamstrings attach to the ischial tuberosities of the pelvis which many of us know as the sitting bones and insert onto the back and side of the tibia.
Their main function is knee flexion or bending of the knee and extension of the hip. The hamstrings control movements such as climbing the stairs, running, and walking through eccentric contraction, which means the muscles contract while maintaining the same muscle length.
The hamstrings allow for hip extension, which is crucial to functional movements such as sitting and standing, squatting, jumping, and propelling the body forward while running or walking. And many men suffer from frequently tight hamstrings, which can result in lower back pain and strain.
The downward pull on the attachments at the sitting bones from tight hamstrings force the pelvis into a posterior tilt which in return forces the spine into a forward flexed posture resulting in lower back pain.
Be patient with the hamstring muscles because they are a tough muscle group to tackle. Their first reaction, from a physiological standpoint, is to immediately resist stretching to protect the muscle from being overstretched and injured. You have to entice the stretch into the muscle by backing off slightly and then moving back into the edge of the stretch.
Hips don't lie.
A great area of concern for the male body is the Lumbo-pelvic-hip complex. This region consists of the muscles and connective tissues of the lumbar spine, pelvic girdle, and hip joint.
The majority of human movement originates here, as this area is where the center of gravity resides and what we would partially describe as the core's center point. When imbalanced or dysfunctional, this region of the body can become the culprit for lower back pain, hip and leg pain, and degenerative changes in the spine.
With the combination of hamstring tightness, paired with tightness in the muscles surrounding the hip joints and of the lumbar fascia, balance and coordination can become affected. As a result, the body can revert to compensatory patterns of movement, which eventually lead to muscular imbalance, pain, or repetitive motion injury.
Let me preface that if you suffer from posterior disc herniation or another lumbar pathology, be extra cautious with some of these stretches and make sure you keep your spine in a neutral position and avoid excessive rounding of the lower back or twisting motions.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s dive into these yoga poses for men that address hip tightness and allow for more freedom of movement and improved mobility of the hamstrings.
Hand to Big Toe pose in Supine
(Modified with strap or towel)
1. Grab a long towel and lay down on a firm surface or on your yoga mat.
2. Keep one foot on the mat to support your lower back and prevent your pelvis from tilting backward when you perform the stretch on the opposite leg. You may extend the bottom leg if it doesn’t bother your lower back, just make sure to squeeze the knee of the bottom leg to help stabilize your pelvis.
3. While holding the ends of the towel, hook under the arch of your foot and begin to extend your knee as you draw your leg up and toward you.
4. Continue to draw your straightened leg toward you until you feel the “edge of the stretch” in the back of your thigh. Stop there and just get comfortable with the sensation of the stretch.
5. Check yourself to make sure your pelvis isn’t rolling back, as it should be level with the floor.
6. To refine the stretch, flex your foot by drawing it back toward your shin while holding the stretch.
7. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds and then repeat on the opposite side.
8. Repeat three times on each side.
Sanskrit: Janu Sirsasana
1. If you have extremely tight hamstrings, do yourself a favor and roll up a towel to place underneath your sitting bones. This helps to shift your pelvis up and forward to get into the stretch.
2. Extend one leg out in front and place the sole of the opposite foot to the inside of your thigh. Feel free to start with a bent knee to allow for more space in the hamstrings.
3. Next, think about becoming very tall in your spine by imagining you are zippering a tight pair of pants or jacket. This helps to engage your deep core.
4. Keeping the length in your spine, begin to hinge forward at the hips without rounding the low back. Hinge until you feel the “edge of stretch” and pause. Breathe deeply. Hold up to 30 seconds.
5. Back off the stretch, regain the length in your spine, and slowly come back into the stretch. You may find that you get further each time.
1. Start in a split stance on your mat with enough space in your stance to keep the hips even—meaning not over extending your stance, which will result in the front hip jutting forward/inward and the other rolling back/outward.
2. Draw your core “up and in” like you are zipping up a tight pair of pants. Hands can be at your hips.
3. Soften up your knees and begin to gently hinge forward without losing your core support.
4. Once you find your first edge of stretch, slowly begin to extend the knees until your feel a greater stretch into the back of your front thigh. Pause and breathe deeply. Hold up to 30 seconds.
5. To back off the stretch, soften your knees again and step your front foot back to neutral stance.
1. Start by lying on your back on your mat.
2. For extra support, keep one foot on your mat with your knee bent. You may also have the supporting leg extended if there is no discomfort.
3. Draw your opposite knee in toward your chest and clasp on top of the knee to bring it closer to the body.
4. Relax the front of the hip and use your arm strength to hold yourself in the stretch. If you feel a pinch in the front of the hip, keep the knee toward the chest and slightly slide your thighbone out to the side parallel with the ribcage.
5. To stabilize this pose, engage your thigh muscles on the grounded leg by attempting to press the back of your knee into the mat.
6. Hold at lease 30 seconds or four slow deep breaths.
7. Repeat three times on each leg and then alternate.
Supine Spinal Twist
Sanskrit: Supta Matsyendrasana
1. Start by lying on your back on your mat.
2. Spread your arms out in a “T” formation with your palms facing upward.
3. Bring your right knee toward your chest and then gently roll your hips left and guide your knee across your body into the twist, only go as far as comfortable.
4. You may use your left hand on the outside of the knee to support the twist.
5. Take four deep breaths, and try to relax as much as possible on each exhale.
6. Gently return to your starting position and repeat on the opposite side. Three times on each side is sufficient.
Seated Pigeon pose
1. Start in a firm chair.
2. Cross your right ankle over the left knee and relax the inner groin.
3. Hold on to the shinbone for extra leverage and begin to sit up tall by “zippering up” the front of your body to use core support.
4. Without rounding the lower back, keep the length in your spine and slowly hinge forward. You will begin to feel a stretch sensation on the outside of your right hip.
5. Find your “edge of stretch” and maintain it for 30 seconds, remembering to not round your lower back.
Maintain the machine.
Just like we maintain our vehicles by changing the oil and fluid, the same must be done for the human body with movement, balance, and mobility training.
As a reminder, mobility means being able to move through your current joint range of motion with control and precision, where as, flexibility means how far your joints can move from point A to B.
The key to mobility and flexibility is consistency. One time won’t do the trick, so keep up with this one guys and you will be touching your toes in no time!