Want to try yoga but not sure where to start? Try these moves to get your practice going.
The toughest step to make is the first one.
That truism applies to just about everything in life, but goes double for when you want to give a new fitness regimen a try. If you’re holding out against giving an activity like yoga a try, consider this your push to branch out. Everyone is a beginner at some point—and if you don’t give a new activity a fair shake, you’ll never know what you might be missing out on.
Holding onto common misconceptions will make your adjustment to the new practice twice as hard. “As an instructor who has worked with a lot of beginner yogis, I’ve heard it all: ‘you have to be flexible to do yoga’, ‘the only people I know who practice yoga are women’, and my personal favorite, ‘yoga is not challenging’,” says Michelle Baldino, a Certified Yoga Instructor for Bulldog Online who has been teaching full-time since 2012. “It’s ironic since the physical practice of yoga that was designed in India over 5,000 years ago was created exclusively for men. It’s just taken us Westerners, particularly men, a little longer to realize the physical and mental benefits of yoga.”
The Benefits of Yoga
But yoga has tons of benefits for guys, no matter what its reputation may be in your gym. “For starters, yoga is going to improve your overall well being by training you to stay present. Being more present means improved concentration, better sleep habits and reduced stress,” Baldino says. “Yoga keeps your body strong and works flexibility and balance. And we know we need both as we age to stay healthy and eliminate pain and injury. Yoga can also improve heart health and sexual performance because it lowers stress levels in the body.”
If you’re nervous to kick off your yoga practice in public, Baldino shared these eight yoga poses for beginners to help tentative guys. Once you’re ready to really expand, check out the Bulldog Online service or sign up for a class at your local studio. “Know that when you are ready to take a public class, you will be challenged, you will most likely sweat, and you will not be the only dude in the room,” Baldino says.
8 Great Yoga Poses for Beginners
Stretches hamstrings, calves, and hips; strengthens legs and knees; releases tension around neck and shoulders
Baldino says: This pose is perfect for all the “non-bendy” men out there. There are so many ways to make this pose accessible so have no fear if you are one of those guys who can’t touch their toes.
Start standing with feet hip distance apart. Hinging from the hips, slowly roll your spine forward, bringing your chest towards your thighs. Knees can be bent here. In fact it’s a good idea to keep them somewhat bent when starting out to allow the hamstrings to gently stretch and not put too much pressure on the knees. Let gravity take over to release tension around your neck and shoulders. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths. Come back to standing by rolling back up one vertebra at a time.
Stretches hips and shoulders; strengthens thighs and core
Baldino says: This pose hits all the tight spots for men—hips and shoulders. It’s also an incredible way to build strength in the lower body. It builds muscles in the quads and around the knees which means more stability in any other sport or athletic activity you do.
Start in a table top position. Step one foot between your hands. Tuck the back toes and start to lift the back knee off the mat. From there start to reach your arms out in front of you to bring the chest upright. Once the shoulders are stacked over the hips try to straighten out the arms as best as you can. Keep the back heel lifted to feel the stretch in the front of the hips. A modification is to keep the back knee on the mat. Hold for 5-10 breaths before releasing. Repeat on the other side.
Warrior 2 Pose
Stretches hips, groin, chest and shoulders
Baldino says: This iconic yoga pose is a great way to challenge the body and mind all at once. For men who sit behind a desk or are in their cars most of the day, Warrior 2 will improve groin mobility which can improve low back pain. It’s also a strength pose meant to increase stamina and concentration.
Turn to face the side of your mat and then separate your feet as wide as you can. Turn one foot towards the top of the mat and bend the knee to a 90 degree angle. The back toes should be turned in slightly and the balls of your feet are in line with each other. Now start to extend your arms out long, bringing them into “T” position. Keep the shoulders over the hips and take 5 to 10 breaths here. Release by straightening the leg that is bent, return to the starting position and then turn the opposite foot out to now face the back of the mat and find Warrior 2 on this side.
Strengthens ankles, quads, glutes, core and shoulders
Baldino says: Have a leg day or two built into your weekly strength routine? Let’s test out those legs and glutes with this pose. Believe me, if sitting in chair pose makes you want to shake and then run for the hills then good news—you are doing it correctly.
Stand tall with your big toes touching, heels 1 to 2 inches apart. As you inhale, reach the arms overhead. As you exhale, bend your knees into a squat. Peek down and make sure you can see all 10 toes. Imagine squeezing a block between your inner thighs and squat as low as you can. Keep your core engaged so your chest can remain open as you sit deeper into your legs. Stay for 5 to 10 breaths and press through your feet to return to standing. A great modification when starting is to separate your feet hip distance apart and work on pulling all your muscular energy to your midline. Over time bring the feet closer together.
Downward Facing Dog
Stretches feet, calves, hamstrings, and shoulders; strengthens arms, shoulders and core
Baldino says: Another iconic yoga pose that just makes you feel good. Yes it’s going to strengthen your arms, shoulders and core but the stretch you’ll feel in your lower back, feet, calves and hamstrings will feel like a small slice of heaven. S
tart in a table top position. Step one foot back at a time until you are in a high plank. Take a deep breath in here. On your exhale begin to send your hips towards the ceiling, making an upside down “V” with your body. Knees can be somewhat bent here and your heels never have to touch the mat. Think of pressing your chest towards your tights to keep the hips elevated and the core engaged. You should feel length through your spine and a deep stretch throughout the entire back of your body. Stay for 5 breaths then shift weight forward to plank to release knees back to the tabletop position.
Upward Facing Dog
Stretches hips, chest, core and ankles; strengthens quads and glutes
Baldino says: Another great pose to learn if you sit behind a desk or wheel of a car most of the day. Upward Facing Dog opens up the chest and hips which tend to tighten when we sit. And because it opens up the chest, practicing this pose can also improve any breathing issues you might experience from stress or working out.
Lie on your stomach with arms by your sides. Place your palms by your chest making sure wrists are directly underneath your elbows. Draw your elbows towards each other and start to engage your glutes and legs. From there press into palms and the top of your feet to straighten the arms and lift your chest and knees off the mat. Keep your neck neutral by setting your gaze over the tip of your nose. Stay for 2 to 3 breaths then slowly lower back to the mat.
Stretches hip flexors, quads, and chest; strengthens glutes, hamstrings, lower back and core
Baldino says: It’s pretty common for men to get tight chest and hip muscles. And when those areas in the body are tight, it’s harder for us to perform other activities to our fullest. Bridge pose is going to open up the chest and hips in a way few other poses can—and because you start by lying on your back, it’s not an intimidating pose to come into.
Lie on your back. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the mat hip-width apart. You should be able to feel the backs of your heels with your hands. Place your arms by your side with palms down, and as you inhale, lift your hips off the floor. Really engage your glutes, hamstrings and core here to list the hips as high as you can. Keep your knees directly over your heels. For an added shoulder stretch, bring your arms under your body, interlace your fingers, and press the backs of your arms and shoulders into the floor as you continue to lift your hips. This will keep the weight out of your neck. With each breath, let your hips lift a little higher. Exhale when you lower your hips.
Stretches hips, glutes and low back
Baldino says: Okay, so this pose doesn’t seem like much at first glance but in reality there is a lot more going on here than meets the eye. Hectic schedules, finding a balance between work and home life, finances and family can all make up for feeling pretty stressed out. And most of us will carry that stress in our lower backs. Child’s pose can combat all the stress, tension and compression we store there but gently opening up the lower back. With bent knees it also encourages the spine to lengthen making this an all around A+ pose for our backs.
Start in the tabletop position and walk your big toes to touch. Separate your knees wider than your hips and draw your hips towards your heels. As your chest comes closer to the mat, walk your hands out in front of you, eventually bringing your forehead to the mat. Stay for 30 to 60 seconds. Walk your hands back towards the knees to release back to the tabletop or a seated position.