Dudes, this one’s for you. Yoga is not just for women. You Y-chromosome carriers can reap some huge rewards by getting on a yoga mat and getting your body moving. In fact, men may benefit even more from certain yoga postures than women, thanks to the larger and tighter muscles men generally boast.
If the idea of propping yourself up in a backbend or twisting and binding is a little too intimidating, fear not. You can still experience asanas galore that open the legs, hips, chest and shoulders and even some that help build muscle throughout the body. Try these 10 to get you started.
1. Standing Forward Fold
Uttanasana, or Standing Forward Fold, opens the back of the legs, the hips and the back. Making this pose even more appealing for non-bendy men is that it’s easily modified. If you can’t reach the floor, keep your hands on your thighs, calves or ankles or use blocks to shorten the distance.
In addition to stretching muscles, Standing Forward Fold lowers blood pressure, eases headaches, improves circulation and helps you sleep better. And if you allow gravity to do its job in this pose and relax your head and neck, you can also reduce the tension you carry in your upper body.
2. Warrior One
This iconic posture stretches men where they need it most—the hips and shoulders. On top of opening these tight areas, Virabhadrasana is a strengthening posture. It builds the muscle of the thighs along with the areas around the knees, which means more stability and protection for sensitive joints during high impact sports.
Want more powerful shoulders? Try holding this pose for 10-15 breaths and you’ll never again question whether yoga is physically challenging.
3. Chair Pose
Back to that question about whether yoga is physically demanding for tough guys?
Chair pose, or Utkatasana, may bring even the macho-est man to tears. Chair pose works the quads, ankles, butt and shoulders, while also opening the chest—helping you develop greater stability. It’s also useful for improving flat feet and stimulating the abdominal organs.
4. Downward Facing Dog
It’s the pose that just makes you say aaaah. Downward Dog, or Adho Mukha Svanasana, brings the attention to all of those tight areas that challenge men—the hamstrings, calves, arms, shoulders, back, hips and more. And while it stretches the body, Down Dog also strengthens the arms and legs.
Perhaps even more important for men is what Downward Facing Dog does for the heart. This amazing asana strengthens the heart as it improves circulation, reduces stress and helps high blood pressure.
5. Upward Facing Dog
The other dog posture, Urdvha Mukha Svansana, can help to open the chest and strengthen the back and arms. This posture will help anyone who sits behind a desk or a wheel for far too many hours each day by opening the abdomen and hip flexors.
For men who also enjoy more strenuous forms of exercise, Upward Facing Dog is a great way to warm up and get the muscles stretched and blood flowing before expecting the body to go all out.
Up Dog also helps anyone struggling with breathing difficulties.
6. Boat Pose
Another amazing strengthening posture, Boat pose, or Navasana, will give you rock hard abs as it also strengthens the hips flexors and spine. This posture is particularly beneficial to men for what it does to stimulate the prostate gland and even just raise awareness and reduce tension in the pelvic region.
If you’re the type of guy whose key to your heart is through your stomach, you’ll enjoy boat pose for its ability to stimulate the digestive system and keep everything moving smoothly.
7. Butterfly Pose
Baddha Konasana increases blood flow to the pelvis, kidneys, prostate and bladder...and I don’t need to tell you what other part of your life can be helped by better blood flow to the pelvic region.
Butterfly pose is also a good way to draw attention to mula bandha, the root lock, which also brings awareness and more energy to the area around the hips. (wink, wink)
8. Half Pigeon
Tight hips? Half Pigeon will be your best friend. This posture is a challenging one, but you can ease yourself into it as your hips open more and more. Since it’s a powerful way to open the glutes, hamstrings, adductors and hip flexors, Half Pigeon can help you when you take part in physical activities, carrying heavy objects, etc.
Once you release the tension in your hips, you’ll also feel the benefit in your lower back and other areas of your body.
9. Bridge Pose
It’s not unusual for men to experience tight muscles throughout the torso, but Bridge pose can help open the upper body and release those tight muscles. Whether you realize it or not, tightness in this area make for shallow breathing and can even make other physical activities more challenging.
Over time, practicing bridge pose will create more space in the chest and make for easier, fuller breathing.
10. Reclining Hand To Big Toe
Here's another one that may be hard at first, but this posture opens the lower back to get energy moving more freely, and when it does, it also stimulates the prostate gland and improves digestion.
Women may still outnumber men in yoga studios, but the tides are changing. A growing number of men are making their way to the mat to stretch, strengthen, breathe and open. If you’ve been wanting to try it but have been slightly intimidated, try these postures at home until you’re comfortable with the idea and see how much yoga can help every aspect of your life.
From there, give yoga classes a try. Who knows, you may soon be inviting your buddies to join you for yoga class.