For many men the mere thought of getting into a downward dog is enough to leave them running to the comfort of the weights room. But if you can brave the yoga mat, the benefits for both body and mind will improve all areas of your health and fitness. Beyond feeling greater strength and flexibility, regular yoga will also affords valuable headspace – and anyone can do it.
“For some, there is a stigma that yoga is just for women,” says Adriene Mishler of Yoga With Adriene fame. “Simply put, it’s not and never has been.”
Mishler’s popular YouTube channel has 10.2 million subscribers. Her mantra is ‘a little goes a long way’, making her videos the ideal introduction for men unsure about attending a studio-based class.
“In my experience, practising for five to 20 minutes regularly is going to yield more benefits than just hitting a 90-minute power class every once in a while. Regular yoga practice offers you the time and space to connect to your breath and body in a way that keeps the systems of the body happy and healthy. Especially in a world of fast-paced screen time, we need daily practices that calm the nervous system and connect us back to ourselves.”
1. Child’s Pose
Hold for up to 5 mins
Calms the mind, stretches the lower back and upper body, and opens the hips.
- Kneel with your bum resting on your heels and the tops of your feet on the floor.
- Exhale and bend forward so your torso folds over your thighs and your forehead rests on the floor.
- Either rest your arms by the sides of your legs, stretch them out in front of you, or cross them on the floor in front of you and rest your forehead on them.
- Relax your head and neck, and feel your body sink down to the floor.
TIP: If your forehead doesn’t reach the ground, rest it on a book or block.
2. Cat Cow
Do 5-10 reps
Warms up and stretches the spine and upper body.
- Begin on your hands and knees in table pose, with a neutral spine.
- As you inhale and move into cow pose, lift your sit bones upward, press your chest forward and allow your stomach to sink.
- Lift your head, relax your shoulders away from your ears, and gaze straight ahead.
- As you exhale, come into cat pose while rounding your spine outward, tucking in your tailbone, and drawing your pubic bone forward.
- Release your head toward the floor — just don’t force your chin to your chest.
3. Thread the Needle
Do 5 reps each side
Stretches the sides of the body, and stimulates breath and digestion.
- Start on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
- Inhale and lift your left arm up to the ceiling, rotating your torso as you do, so you end up looking at your left hand.
- Exhale, and bring your left arm down and under your right shoulder.
- Bend your left elbow in a right angle, lower your hips a little and lower your head to the floor.
Hold for 3-5 breaths
Improves balance and strengthens the core.
- Begin by sitting on the floor with your legs extended in front of you and your arms by your sides.
- Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor.
- Place your hands several inches behind your hips, shoulder-width apart.
- Press your palms flat on the floor and turn your fingertips inwards so they’re facing towards your toes.
- Inhale, press firmly into your hands and feet, straighten your elbows and lift your hips up towards the ceiling.
- Exhale, draw your shoulder blades into your back and lift your chest.
- Stretch your tailbone towards the back of your mat and your head towards the front to lengthen your spine.
5. Deep Squat
Hold for 5-10 deep breaths
Builds focus and relieves tension, while strengthening the quads and stretching the Achilles.
- Stand with feet hip-distance apart and slightly turned out.
- Inhale, and place your hands in a prayer position.
- Exhale, and lower, bending your knees as if trying to sit on a chair.
- Keeping your chest and shoulders open and your knees apart, lower your hips down further until your torso is between your knees.
- Separate your feet as much as you need to keep your ankles on the floor (you might need to turn them out a little more) and sink your heels into the floor.
- Press your elbows against your inner thighs and your hands together in prayer position.
Hold for 1 min each side
Stretches the sides of the body and stimulates digestion.
- Kneel on the floor.
- Stretch your left leg out to the side and press your left foot flat onto the floor.
- Keep your right knee below your right hip and align your left heel with your right knee.
- Rotate your pelvis to the left and your upper back to the right.
- Take your arms out to the sides, so they’re parallel to the floor.
- Place your left hand on your left shin and reach to your right.
- Bring your right arm up and over to your right ear and turn your upper torso away from the floor.
7. Prone Pec Stretch
Hold for 10 breaths each side
Gives a deep stretch to the pectoral muscles and improves circulation.
- Lie on your stomach with your legs extended, ankles together and toes pointed.
- Place your arms on the floor at right angles to your torso.
- Turn your head to the right and place your right fingertips on the floor in line with your shoulder.
- Keep your right elbow bent and feel the stretch in your pec.
- Take 5 deep breaths.
- Keeping your arms and head in the same position, lift your right leg, bend your knee and bring your right toes to the floor behind your left buttock to deepen the chest stretch.
- Take 5 more breaths, then repeat on the other side.
8. Half Lord of the Fishes
Hold for at least 30 secs each side
Stretches the spine and strengthens the core.
- Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you.
- Bend your knees and put your feet on the floor.
- Step your right foot over your left leg and stand it on the floor outside your left hip, so your right knee is pointing up at the ceiling.
- Bring your left foot round to the outside of your right hip.
- Lay your left leg outside your right thigh.
- Exhale and twist your torso towards the inside of your right thigh.
- Press your right hand onto the floor behind your right buttock, and set your left upper arm on the outside of your right thigh.
- Pull your torso and right thigh together and lengthen your body, pushing your right foot into the ground.
- Turn your head to the right.
- Breathe, and with every inhalation deepen the twist, remembering to lift up through your sternum.
Photography: Eddie Macdonald | Model: Marvin Books (W Models)