Lebron James, Joe Rogan, the NY Giants, and Liverpool FC are just some of the athletes and teams who are using yoga to get better results. Even so, , when it comes to yoga, there can sometimes be a common misconception in western society that yoga is not for men. This idea is troubling because it prevents a good portion of the population from feeling comfortable stepping onto a yoga mat or into a studio. The problem is that yoga is often marketed to women as a way to promote wellness. The truth is that yoga is great for wellness, and it isn’t only for one gender. In fact, yoga for men is actually more common than you might think.
Anybody can do yoga, and everybody should do yoga. The practice holds so many benefits for the mind and body.
Why Should Men be Doing Yoga?
Many men focus more on building muscle and less on keeping those same muscles open and flexible. When this happens, the ligaments and tendons also become less mobile, making yoga more difficult. This is especially true for men who have never tried any form of yoga before.
Having a yoga practice can actually help other exercise practices as well. If you are a runner or enjoy cardio-based exercise, you might find that yoga increases your endurance. If you are prone to stress, yoga can help to release that tension and promote more mindfulness and focus. If you enjoy weight lifting, yoga can aid in creating more flexibility.If you want to lose weight, burn fat, and even gain more muscle, you should definitely start a yoga practice. If you are looking to increase your balance or stability for any reason, yoga can assist you with this as well.
With so many benefits, you can see why yoga is so important for everybody to be doing.
With this in mind, it is also important to note that we all have different bodies, so the practice that works for one person might be completely different for another. Just as every body is unique, there are many differences when it comes to the anatomies of males and females.
Anatomical Differences Between Men and Women
Let’s take a look at some of the common anatomical differences between males and females. Keep in mind that this isn’t necessarily true for every person. However, on average, there are some noticeable differences to take into account.
Flexibility- On average, women tend to be more flexible. Female bodies have naturally wider hips to allow for the ability to carry babies and give birth. In addition, their ligaments and tendons are naturally stretchier so that they can shift if needed for birth. This is caused by estrogen levels.
Muscle mass- Males tend to have a higher muscle mass due to testosterone levels. They are more likely to have stronger muscles in the upper body for the same reason. However, testosterone can make the muscles, ligaments, and tendons less flexible as well. One study looked into the upper body strength differences between males and females. The study examined five males and five females while practicing flat bench presses. Four muscle groups in the upper body were analyzed. As the participants continued to do sets of the bench press, it was found that the longer females continued to lift, the more muscle groups started working to keep up. This finding showed that with less upper body strength, females had to utilize more muscles in order to continue lifting. (Gołaś, et al.)
Fat content- We all have body fat, but women, on average, have higher levels due to estrogen. This does not mean women are more obese, just that they have more fat within their bodies naturally. While women keep more of their fat in their thighs and glutes, men are more prone to collecting fat around the belly. (Blair, 2007)
Types of exercise- Due to their higher muscle mass, males are more likely to practice strength training, and are usually capable of lifting heavier weights than females. This is not the same for everybody. Each person is different. We are simply looking at averages here. Weight training can also cause tightness in the muscles as well as problems for the joints and ligaments. Intense weight training can also cause lower back pain and issues over time. With a proper yoga practice, some of these problems can be avoided.
Societal norms- Many men are raised to feel that they have to fit a certain role in society. For some, the idea of yoga might not be as appealing. For others, they might have grown up practicing. It totally depends on the person and their experience. It is important to never try to fit into any kind of box. Instead, be yourself. Try out different activities. Wear what makes you comfortable. You might have a really awesome practice out there that you never even considered trying.
Due to the differences noted above, for some men, many traditional poses might be more difficult to do. The problem is that some classes are designed more towards female anatomy, and this can make males feel that they do not have a practice for them. A good yoga instructor will be aware of the fact that there are many different body types in one classroom. Taking into account everything we just learned about the male anatomy, it is easy to see the importance of having a yoga practice
Benefits of Yoga for Men
Everybody has dealt with stress at some point in their life. The problem is that society often tells men that they are not supposed to share their emotions and feel their feelings. It is important to face your stressors and be able to work through them, and having yoga practice is a great way to do this! The body can store stress, anxiety, and even trauma on a somatic level. When practicing and holding specific poses, you are able to open up the different tense areas within the body to face what you are holding onto. In addition, the mindfulness, breathing techniques, and meditation practices within a yoga class are very helpful for dealing with negative feelings.
Did you know that yoga can actually make your other workouts and physical activities easier by increasing your endurance? Yoga is great for stamina, helping you to strengthen muscles through poses, increase lung capacity through breathing techniques, and improve mobility overall. In addition, yoga improves balance which is very helpful for other exercises and everyday life in general. This means that you will be able to gain a new practice through yoga while improving your other physical routines as well.
Due to having more muscle mass and tighter connective tissues, male bodies are naturally less flexible than female bodies. This means that increasing flexibility is especially important for men. In addition, men often focus more on muscle building exercises. As the muscles continue to grow, if you are not stretching, you can easily lose even more flexibility. (Gołaś, et al.)
Weight Loss and Muscle Building
There are many yoga practices, such as power yoga, that can both help you to lose weight and build muscle! Yoga classes with more movement help to burn fast and water weight while increasing muscle mass. In addition, many poses help with joint stability as well, making it easier to keep working on the muscles. When practicing poses, you are actually working with your own weight instead of using weights in a gym. This can be very effective for strength building and weight loss.
Types of Yoga for Men
Is there a certain type of yoga that males should be doing?
The truth is that there is no one specific yoga practice that is best based on just gender. The choice of practice truly depends on each individual person and their personal needs. Yoga has many different benefits, and learning about the different practices allows a person to pick which one makes the most sense for them to be doing.
Let’s take a look at some common types of yoga and how they can help you. Keep in mind that we are only looking into a few types of practices, and there are always more out there. If you don’t see one that resonates with you, feel free to do your research. You can also always try out some classes and see which one makes the most sense and which one you enjoy the most.
Common Types of Yoga Practices for Men
Vinyasa yoga– Vinyasa yoga is a practice that involves flowing from one pose to the next while linking the movements with the breath. This practice is a flow and involves pretty constant movement. It is a wonderful exercise and promotes concentration, flexibility, strength, and even endurance.
Yin yoga- This is a wonderful practice where the student will stay on the mat for the entire class. Each pose will be held for longer periods of time (at least a few minutes each) and helps to target the connective tissues of the body. If you focus a lot on strength and muscles during exercise, this might be a great way to add some flexibility to your routines. Yin yoga is also very healthy for the nervous system and promotes circulation throughout the body as well.
Restorative yoga- This practice is similar to yin yoga, but it is better for those who are looking for more of a recovery-based class. It is a good option for those who have suffered from past injuries. However, please note that if you do have or are recovering from an injury, it is very important to let your instructor know ahead of time to make sure you are being safe. This practice will usually involve props to keep the poses more gentle, and it also involves holding the poses for longer periods of time to experience the benefits. It is also a great stress reliever and can help with anxiety as well. For some, it might even help to break down old scar tissue, promoting better flexibility and mobility, but this varies person to person.
Ashtanga yoga- Ashtanga yoga is very unique in that it only involves a specific group of poses in predetermined sequences. It was made popular by K. Pattabhi Jois in the 20th century and is still going strong today. There are five separate series that are practiced in ashtanga yoga, and each one has different levels of difficulty. Since the flows are predetermined, they are easier to remember and work with. This is great for focus, balance, flexibility, mobility, and awareness. The poses are also wonderful for strengthening the limbs and core, making the practice a great exercise.
Power yoga- This is very similar to vinyasa yoga, but it focuses more on strength. While vinyasa targets the union of the body as a whole, power yoga focuses more on the body and strengthening it. If you are looking for more of a muscle-building workout, then this might be a great option for you. Keep in mind that this practice is more intense than many of the other ones. It is faster and more speed-based, making it much more of a whole body, physical exercise.
The Best Type of Yoga for Men
So, this brings us to the question, what is generally the best type of yoga practice for men?
Overall, the best yoga practice for men would be one that is more gentle and uses more props and modifications. Look for a gentle vinyasa beginner’s class or a restorative yoga class. In addition, the more personal attention you have from your instructor, the better. Since many men are beginners when it comes to yoga, finding a class that is aimed for those just starting out is often best. If you have prior experience in yoga, that is another story, but if you are just starting out, look for a class with a very helpful instructor, modifications, and a gentle practice overall.
Yoga props are amazing and super helpful. They can assist you to get deeper into a pose, making a practice both safer and easier. For new yogis, or those who have experienced injuries in the past that prevent certain poses, props may be a great solution for you. The most common yoga props are yoga blocks and straps.
Did you know that we even sell our own yoga blocks that are specifically designed to support your practice? We recommend using a block that isn’t slippery, so cork is always a great option. This is why we sell our own cork yoga blocks! We offer several designs and sets, and our blocks also include an extra-long, 100% cotton yoga strap as well!
How do you use a block or strap? Let’s look at some examples below.
- Bridge pose- If you have tighter hamstrings, this pose might be more difficult for you. Bridge pose is usually done by bringing the feet flat to the ground with the knees bent, and taking the arms down by the sides. As you press down through the hands, you would lift the hips up on an inhale, and bring the hands together beneath you on an exhale. Now, let’s say that you have tight hamstrings, and this pose is harder for you to do. In this case, you would bring a block under your glutes to support the pose and keep the hands down by the sides. This takes the pressure out of the legs and hips, and many men have very tight thighs and hamstrings, so this modification can be very helpful.
- Seated forward fold- As the name suggests, this pose is done by touching the toes while sitting. You would start by bringing the feet out in front of you and flexing them to protect the hamstrings. From here, you would inhale and bring your arms up to the sky, and then exhale to fold forward, reaching towards the toes. Here’s the thing: the majority of people cannot actually touch their toes, and forcing yourself to reach towards them can actually be dangerous. If you have to round the back, you are doing the pose wrong. The spine should always be long. Therefore, using a strap can be very helpful here. You would do the pose pretty much the same way, but you would wrap a strap around the feet, grabbing both sides of it with the hands and holding onto the strap instead of the toes. This makes the pose much safer for tight hamstrings and avoids injuries while still giving you the benefits of the pose.
Yoga for Men who Are Not Flexible
Remember, it is okay to not be super flexible. In fast, many people are not. While males tend to have less flexibility, this does not mean that they should not feel safe starting a yoga practice. Just as everybody has specific needs in a class, your needs can be met. There are many beginner classes out there that are specifically designed for people who have not done yoga before. This is a great place to start for those who want a more gentle practice that offers more support and guidance. You do not need to jump right into a more advanced practice, the same way you would not begin your first weight training session by lifting the heaviest weights.
You have to build your way up to a more intense practice, and that is okay. That is exactly how it should be. Nobody is a mastered yogi going into their first practice. Do not feel intimidated. Instead, enjoy the experience and the process as a whole. Remember, everything is a journey.
If you find that you struggle with a specific yoga class, there is always another one out there for you that might be better!
Five Yoga Poses That are Traditionally More Difficult for Men and How to Modify Them
Some yoga poses happen to be more difficult for men than others. This doesn’t mean that this is the case for every person, but for the majority of men who are beginners when it comes to yoga, the following five poses tend to be harder to do. Let’s take a look at these poses and some modifications as well.
Downward Facing Dog
This is a very common yoga pose, and it is done by starting in a plank position, and pressing the hips up and back as you drive the hands into the ground and push into the toes. Due to the fact that this requires some flexibility in the hips, thighs, and lower back, this pose tends to be more difficult for a lot of men to do.
Many people try to keep the legs straight here, but if you have tight hamstrings, you can gently bend the knees to take the stress out of the lower back and thighs. As long as you keep your back nice and long, you can always have a bend in the knees if needed. In addition, do not force the heels down to the ground unless it makes sense for you to do so.
Eagle Pose is both challenging and fun to do, but it requires a lot of flexibility in the hips and groin as well as the chest and arms, making it harder for many men to do. If you were starting on the right side, you would step the left foot into the center and bring the right leg up, wrapping the right leg over the left thigh and winding the right foot around the left calf. At the same time, you would wrap your arms around one another with the left arm on top, winding them around until the palms are pressed flat together. This pose takes a lot of flexibility, balance, and endurance. Due to the flexibility needed, the pose becomes much more difficult for men and/or those who are not very flexible.
Now, if this pose is too difficult for you, there are many modifications to try instead.
For one, you can bring a chair in front of you to hold onto, keeping the arms crossed over the back of the chair instead of wrapping them around and together. You can always try this pose sitting down in a chair to make it easier. If you can’t wrap your arms all the way around, you can give yourself a hug instead. If it is too hard to bring your leg all the way over the other, you can always cross it over the shin and bring your foot to rest on a yoga block outside of the leg.
These are only some of the many modifications possible for this pose.
Again, this pose requires a lot of flexibility in the hips, and it is a stretch where you need to be very careful so that you do not get hurt. This pose is typically done by starting on the hands and knees. From there, if you are starting on the right side, you would bring your right knee to your right wrist and, keeping your foot flexed, slide your ankle towards your left wrist. Then, the left leg would be straightened out behind you with the top of the foot flat on the ground. Some people even fold over the front leg here. As you can see, this would be a very difficult pose for those who have tight hips.
One modification for this pose would be to place a block under the hip of the back leg to support you here. In addition, if the stretch for the front leg is too intense, you can also gently bring it closer in towards the body as long as the foot is flexed. Checkout some more modifications for pigeon pose by clicking here.
There are many ways to do this pose, and the majority of new yogis need a modification for tree pose. If you have tight, inflexible hips, you might find this pose to be a bit more difficult to do. Usually, tree pose involves bringing one foot flat to the opposite thigh with the knee out to the side. From here, the arms would be straightened up above the head for the full pose. Now, this isn’t doable for everyone. For this reason, there are some alternatives.
If you are unable to bring your foot up to your thigh, you can either rest the toes on the ground with your heel on the opposite ankle, or you can bring your foot flat to your shin. As long as you are not pressing into the knee, you are good to go. If you have trouble bringing your hands all the way up, you can either take them out to the sides, or flat together. If this is still too difficult, feel free to hold onto a wall or a chair for support. It helps to find one unmoving point of focus to rest the eyes. This naturally helps with balance.
This pose is great for stretching out the hips and groin as well as the chest and arms. The problem is, since men tend to be less flexible in these areas, the pose can be harder to do.
To practice this pose, you would step the feet about three to four feet apart with the back foot turned in at a 45-degree angle and the front foot pointing forwards. The front heel should align with the arch of the back foot. From here, you would bend into the front knee, keeping the knee at a ninety-degree angle, and the back leg would stay straight. Then, you would bring your arms out to the sides, keeping them in a straight line from the tips of the fingers on one hand to the tips of the fingers on the other as you look over the front hand.
Now, if this pose is too difficult, there are always modifications to try. For example, you could practice this pose while sitting in a chair and using the seat to support you as you bring your legs out to the sides and continue the pose normally.
You can also practice this pose while keeping a chair in front of you and holding onto the back of it for support.
Six Poses that are Best for Men’s Health
Now, let’s take a look at six yoga poses that have health benefits for men:
- Hip Mobility- A great pose for stretching and strengthening the hips and legs is Warrior I. It also stretches the arms and upper body. This pose is done by stepping the feet about three to four feet apart with one behind you and one in front of you. From here, you would bend into your front knee, keeping the toes straight out in front of you, and you would turn the back foot out about 45- degrees so that the heel of your front foot is pointing towards the arch of your back foot. You would then bring your arms straight up above you. Due to the stretch along the whole body, this pose is great for men because of the increase in flexibility and balance.
- Strength- Chair Pose is a great pose for strengthening the hips and thighs while building up balance in the legs. This is done by starting with the feet hip-width distance apart and sitting back as if you are sitting in a chair. Form here, you would bring the arms up at an angle, as if you are reaching to where the wall and ceiling meet, and then you would hold this for a few deep breaths.
- Core Strengthener- Boat Pose is a great core strengthener and is done by starting with the legs out in front of you . You would then bring the legs up, balancing on the glutes, and take the arms up and out in front of your. Use the core to hold yourself up here. This is a great pose for building up strength in the core while stretching out the back of the body and the limbs.
- Back and Shoulder Stretch- Upward Facing Dog is great for stretching out the back, chest, and shoulders. This pose is done by starting on the belly and bringing the hands flat down by the sides of the chest. Press into the hands and the tops of your feet to lift up. Keep the knees off of the ground at all times and keep the heart nice and open. This pose is wonderful for men to be doing because it is a great stretch for the upper body. Men have a lot of stretch in their chest and arms, meaning that the muscles will be tighter in these areas. Upward facing dog helps to open up these muscles and stretch them out.
- Back pain- For back pain, try a Reclining Twist. This is done by starting on the back with the knees bent, the arms straight out at the sides, and the feet flat on the ground. You would then drop the knees to one side and turn your head to the opposite side while keeping the shoulders flat on the ground. This is a great stretch for the back of the body and helps to keep your back in good shape. It is also wonderful for opening up the muscles in the back of your body as well. For men with tighter upper bodies, who have a lot of muscles in the chest and back, this is a great stretch.
- Shoulder Health and Mobility- Thread the Needle is a fun yoga pose that really stretches out the shoulders, chest, and arms while giving you a nice twist! This pose is done by starting on the hands and knees. On the inhale, you would bring one arm up, and on the exhale, you would thread it under and through your other arm, bringing your head to the ground as you stretch your opposite arm up and overhead. You can always modify the pose by brining a block between the knees or pressing the dropping the hips down to take the pressure out of the knees. You can also place a block under your shoulder if you need a bit of support here. For some more Threat the Needle modifications, click here!
Yoga for Men: How to Know if a Yoga Class is Right for You
As you now know, there is no one specific class that will work for everyone. So, which practice should you do, and how can you learn more about the perfect class for you?
A great way to discover your yoga practice more is to try different types out. You can do your research as well, and there is a lot of information online that can walk you through the process, but actually experiencing a practice will let you know how your body reacts to it, and if it gives you the benefits you are looking for. it is important to note that there is no right or wrong practice.
The practice that is right for you depends on who you are and what makes the most sense to you.
Yoga is all about listening to the body. Yoga directly translates to union, and this means union of many things, including union of the mind and body. By listening to your body and paying attention to what you feel it needs, you can learn more about it. This is something that everybody should be doing, regardless of gender, age, or previous experience. There is always a practice out there for you.
Yoga involves more than just poses. Oftentimes, a class will include breathing techniques, mindfulness, and meditation. All of these practices will aid in learning more about yourself and your personal needs.
When to Talk to Your Instructor
If you are new to yoga, you should always consult with your instructor ahead of time. A yoga teacher is trained to know exactly how to walk you through a practice, and can help you with any questions that you have. If there is anything you are not able to do, your instructor can give you alternative poses. If you can do a pose but need a bit of help to get into it, your teacher will recommend props.
Using props or alternative poses is not something you should be ashamed about. In fact, yoga is all about learning how your body moves, and if you have taken the time to discover what you need in a practice, then you are doing exactly what you need to be. The more aware of your body that you are, the better.
Yoga for Men from Home
While doing yoga in a studio is always a great way to get started, there are also lots of ways to practice at home. Maybe going to a studio isn’t practical for you. Perhaps, you prefer to do your yoga practice in a quiet space that is your. Whatever the case, you can always check out yoga videos online by searching for the types of class you are looking for on youtube or Vimeo.
Did you know we even have our own youtube channel packed with videos to choose from? You can check them out here!
We even have a playlist filled with videos that are specifically aimed for men who are new to yoga and/or looking to start more of a practice. Check those out here!
Doing yoga at home is also a great way to ensure that you are practicing more often. As long as you have a great virtual video or guide to follow, you are off to a great start. For men, having a daily practice can be especially helpful for stretching out the muscles and increasing flexibility. Many men workout and do strength training throughout the week, and adding an ongoing yoga practice can be just as useful and beneficial. So start your practice today!
There are always many resources online for you to start your own practice at home. In fact, we offer many resources for you. Did you know we have trainings specifically designed for men who want to start a yoga practice? This training is called Guyoga and you can click here to check it out!
Guyoga involves four yoga workouts, and this training is available with any all access plan!
How is Body By Yoga Different From Other Yoga Programs?
Body By Yoga has classes and trainings for everyone, making them accessible to all. Our workouts and equipment are designed with our students in mind! Our program differs from other classes because we focus more on the anatomy and personal needs of our students and less on the spiritual side of yoga. We aim to help with building up your strength, mobility, flexibility, weight loss, recovery, and so much more!
Why should you choose our program?
In most yoga classes, everyone winds up doing the same flow, but in our programs, each class is specifically designed with each individual’s needs in mind. You can find which of our programs works best for you to take a practice directly catered to your individual needs.
References: Blair M. L. (2007). Sex-based differences in physiology: what should we teach in the medical curriculum?. Advances in physiology education, 31(1), 23–25. https://doi.org/10.1152/advan.00118.2006 Gołaś, A., Maszczyk, A., Pietraszewski, P., Wilk, M., Stastny, P., Strońska, K., Studencki, M., & Zając, A. (2018). Muscular activity patterns of female and male athletes during the flat bench press. Biology of sport, 35(2), 175–179. https://doi.org/10.5114/biolsport.2018.74193