Yoga has become more and more mainstream over the years. While it wasn’t a very common practice just a few decades ago, today most people know what yoga is and that it is a great way to develop flexibility, mindset, health, and overall well-being.
Even so, only about 28% of yoga practitioners in the U.S. are men! Men often hesitate to practice because…
- They don’t think they’re flexible enough (hint: yoga helps you become flexible, it isn’t a prerequisite)
- They’re unfamiliar with the poses, tricky words, or intimidating studio atmosphere (that’s why we don’t use Sanskrit terms and help you build a safe practice from the comfort of your own home)
- They assume yoga is only about breathing and meditating (have you ever done a yoga push-up? It’ll make you WORK!)
The purpose of this blog is to provide the information and know-how to make yoga feel more approachable and accessible to men. We’ll explore the unique benefits of yoga for men, help you feel prepared to start practicing at home, and offer the best yoga postures for men.
Benefits of Yoga for Men
Yoga is beneficial to men of all ages and abilities. There is truly something for everyone. Whether you work at a desk all day or live a very active lifestyle, yoga can help you feel more comfortable, confident, and relaxed. Even just a few yoga poses each day can make a difference.
Flexibility & Injury Prevention
The good news is, you don’t have to be flexible to start yoga. In fact, a lack of flexibility is a great reason to start your yoga practice. Men often experience tightness in areas like the shoulders and hips. A regular yoga practice can help you develop flexibility throughout the body which can relieve tension, pain, and tightness. In addition, when you improve your flexibility you prevent the risk of injury. This is great news for men who enjoy other athletic activities like running, golfing, biking, and climbing. Yoga postures like Downward Dog and the Warrior Poses can improve your range of motion, stability, and flexibility.
Yoga develops strength differently. While pumping iron can help develop your muscles, yoga requires no equipment- just your own bodyweight and resistance! Yoga postures like the Yoga Push-up and High Plank will help you strengthen your core while toning the upper body. In addition, this kind of bodyweight strength training Increases blood flow to oxygenate your muscles. This helps you build muscle while also helping with the muscle-repair process.
Our daily lives can be extremely stressful. Yoga offers stress relief in a variety of ways. First, physical activity helps to boost endorphins and improves overall mood. In addition, yoga will help you learn to quiet the mind as you focus on your postures and breathing. Yoga is a disciplined practice that will help you develop your mindset, focus, and determination both on and off your mat.
Correct Your Posture
It’s easy to forget to sit up straight, especially if you have a job that involves sitting at a desk all day. Yoga offers opportunities to counter all the sitting-down you do throughout the day. Postures like Camel Pose and Bow Pulling Pose can help to open the frontline of the body while strengthening the muscles that support the spine. Spine twists bring mobility into the spine, while Warrior III encourages you to lengthen the spine, creating space in between the vertebrae of the spine. Practicing poses like this consistently can alleviate low back pain and improve your overall spine mobility. This means you don’t have to worry about tweaking your back every time you pick up the newspaper from the end of your driveway.
Can I learn yoga at home?
Yes! You don’t need to pay boutique studio prices to squeeze in a good yoga practice. Plus, we believe you can get all the amazing benefits of yoga in less than 30 minutes a day (instead of 60 or 75-minute classes most studios offer). A home practice is a great way to save you both time and money.
For men, practicing yoga at home is a perfect way to familiarize yourself with the practice before joining in-studio, public classes.
As you get started, Body by Yoga offers an extensive, free library of Yoga Posture Tutorials. We also created a program specifically for men, Guyoga, that will provide you with the guidance, structure, and inspiration you need to start to learn yoga at home.
What Do I Need To Practice Yoga At Home?
The beauty of yoga is you don’t need much to get started and you can easily practice from the comfort of your own home. All you truly need is yourself, but some props and tools can help make your practice more comfortable and accessible.
We’ll also include suggestions that you can use in the meantime if you don’t have access to all of these props just yet. We want to make sure there are no barriers in your way so you can start reaping the benefits of yoga for men right away.
The Best Props for Men’s Yoga
We recommend our Extra-Large Size Cork Mat for men. Men are taller and your arms and legs may not fit on a standard size mat. Give yourself the space you need. Yoga mats keep you from slipping and sliding on the floor. We suggest a mat with some cushion, but beware: extra squishy pilates mats will make it impossible to balance!
Two Yoga Blocks
Our Cork Yoga Blocks will help make poses accessible and can “bring the floor to you.” Pro tip: books are a great substitute if you don’t have yoga blocks just yet!
Straps are great tools to use as you are developing flexibility in the hamstrings. They can also extend your reach for certain poses. A towel works as an alternative.
Comfortable, unrestrictive clothing
(AKA not jeans) Make sure you wear something that offers coverage, wicks away sweat, and won’t hinder your range of motion as you move through yoga postures.
The 3 best yoga poses for men (with common modifications)
Yoga is meant to serve your body, your body shouldn’t feel like it’s serving the postures. Here we’ll break down some of the best yoga poses for men with common modifications to help you feel successful in your practice.
This is an extremely common yoga posture, but it can feel inaccessible for some men who are just starting their yoga practice. Many teachers refer to this posture as a “Rest” posture which can be so frustrating to those of us who have to work hard here. Plus, Downward Dog should really be an active, engaged posture, not a passive one!
With time, this posture can improve your shoulder mobility, lengthen your spine, and stretch the hamstrings. But, if you’re in pain or just plain uncomfortable in this pose, you can adjust the posture to suit your body.
How to Get Into Downward Dog
To get into Downward Dog Pose, start in a plank position. Lift your hips toward the ceiling, press your palms into the mat with fingers spread wide, and soften your heels toward the floor while engaging the quads. Gaze up at your belly button. Hold and breathe.
Downward Dog Modification #1: Bend Your Knees
Don’t force your legs to straighten. Bend your knees as much as you need and allow your heels to hover above the floor. With time your legs will strengthen and one day your heels may touch the mat (but even if they don’t that is not the point).
Downward Dog Modification #2: Grab a Block
If your hands are tight or your wrists start to hurt, place your palms on two blocks instead of the mat. You’ll likely feel more stable and reduce pressure on your joints.
Downward Dog Modification #3: Straps
Use a strap above your elbows to engage your shoulders properly. This can help ensure you aren’t dumping your weight into your biceps or your wrists.
Downward Dog Modification #4: Use the wall
The wall is an excellent yoga prop. Find the same downward dog shape with your palms on the wall and your feet planted into the floor. Press your palms actively into the wall and adjust your stance to feel a stretch that works for your body.
Men tend to have tighter hips than women, so it’s important to target the hips and hip flexors in your yoga practice. Lizard pose will help you to loosen up your tight hips, let go of tension in your low back, and counteract the effects of sitting for extended periods of time.
How to Get Into Lizard Pose
From a low lung bend your back knee until it meets the mat. Keep your front knee stacked over your ankle and frame your hands around your front foot. Slowly and mindfully shift your front foot very slightly out toward the edge of your mat. Place both palms on the mat inside the arch of the front foot. To deepen the stretch, your back leg can extend toward the back of your mat to widen the lunge. Keep your chest lifted as you hold the posture for several breaths. Switch sides when you’re ready.
Lizard Pose Modification #1: Shorten your stance
If the sensation in your hip is too much, don’t walk your foot out. Keep your front foot in as much as you need to start. No need to extend your back leg more right off the bat. Shorten your lunge as much as needed.
Lizard Pose Modification #2: Bring out the block
Place a block on the inner arch of your front foot and allow your palms to rest here. Bringing the floor to you in this way will help you control the hip opening so you don’t cause injury. This also makes it easier to keep your chest open and lifted so that you can focus on proper form and alignment while your flexibility develops.
The Yoga Push-up
The yoga push-up isn’t like your standard, run-of-the-mill push-up. It’s often used as a transition posture from high plank to downward dog. Form and control are essential as you build upper body strength using the combination of resistance (gravity) and your own bodyweight.
How To Get Into a Yoga Push-up
Start in a high plank with your palms firmly planted into the mat and your fingers spread wide. Hug the arms in tight to the side of your body. Fingers point toward the front of your mat and the elbows should bend, pointing directly up to the ceiling (not bowing out wide). Engage your core and your quads and lower until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle, elbows stacked directly above your wrists. Move slowly, mindfully, and with intention to get the full-body strengthening benefits.
Yoga Push-up Modification #1: Fists
If your wrists or hands hurt in this posture there is a simple solution to alleviate joint pain and pressure. Instead of keeping your palms flat, make fists with your hands and press the knuckles into the mat instead.
Yoga Push-up Modification #2: Knees, chest, chin
As you develop your form and strength in this posture, you can choose a common modification. This will help you avoid muscling through the posture and collapsing into the shoulders. Start in your high plank. Rest your knees on the mat. Keep your arms squeezing into the side body as you bend your elbows (don’t let them fall out wide). Next, lower your chest down to the floor and then touch your chin to the mat.
Looking for more challenging postures for men? Check out this guest blog by Ronni Mott that explores 5 more postures with modifications specifically for men’s yoga.
Yoga is For Every Body
Yoga offers something for everyone and there are so many postures and styles of yoga, you’ll inevitably find the yoga practice that works for you and your body. We look forward to supporting and encouraging more and more men as they discover the benefits of yoga for themselves in a way that feels approachable, empowering, and accessible.
Whether you’re brand new to yoga or are looking to find a new practice, our Yoga For Men program was designed with you in mind. Men & women have different bodies, different anatomies, and have often trained in different ways. Some men may have focused on resistance and weight training which tends to produce tight muscles, specific joint and ligament problems, and particular issues in the lower back. Because of those differences, many traditional yoga poses can be challenging, painful, and sometimes, even impossible for men.
That’s why we created our Guyoga program specifically for men. It’s included for free with any Body by Yoga All-access Pass. Our on-demand classes will help you practice with confidence whether you’re at home, at the gym, or on the road! You can get started today with our FREE, 14-day trial.