Depending on where you are, the idea of yoga may be associated with images related to gender and body type. But the truth is, yoga is for everyone! People of all ages and genders experience stress in their bodies. The benefits of yoga are worthwhile, even if you can only squeeze in a few poses a day. Daily yoga practice has been shown to help people reduce stress, lower blood pressure, improve sleep and relieve muscle tension. Here are five yoga poses that men can practice daily to help relieve muscle tension in the shoulders and lower back while building strength in the core and pelvic floor.
Always talk to your doctor before starting a new workout routine. All you need for these poses is an open space and a yoga mat or rug that will not slide. You can use pillows and blankets to help make each pose more comfortable.
Puppy dog pose
Get on your hands and knees. Make sure your shoulders are over your wrists and your hips are right over your knees. Take a deep breath in. As you exhale, walk your hands slowly forward until you can comfortably stretch no further. Tighten the muscles in your torso to protect your lower back. Keep your hips over your knees. If you start to feel pain, ease out of the stretch until you are comfortable. Your forehead or chest may touch the floor. If they don’t, you can place a blanket or pillow under your head for support. Relax here and breathe two or three deep breaths.
Thread the needle
You may start on your hands and knees or you can come into this pose from puppy dog pose. From puppy dog pose, slowly walk your hands toward you until they are under your shoulders again. On your next exhale, slide your right arm under your left arm. With your left palm on the floor, reach your right arm toward the left side of the room. Slide your left hand forward on the floor to make room for your right arm. Continue to reach your right arm to the side until your right shoulder touches the floor. If this stretch is too deep, you can place a pillow or blanket under your right shoulder. Allow your right cheek to rest on the floor or on a blanket or pillow. Stay here for two or three rounds of breath. When you are ready, exhale slowly and come back to your hands and knees. Repeat these steps for the other side.
You can take this pose standing or seated.
Standing: On a non-slippery surface, like a yoga mat or carpet, bring your feet about hip-width apart. Breathe in and step your right foot two or three feet behind you. Do whatever distance feels comfortable without straining. Angle your back foot to about 45 degrees, or find a comfortable angle. If you are on a yoga mat, point your toes toward the top left corner of the mat. Bend into your front leg so that your knee is in line with your ankle or a little behind it. Find a position that feels right. When you are ready, engage your core so that your torso is upright. Extend your left arm forward and your right arm back. Relax your shoulders and breathe here for a few rounds of breath. On your last exhale, step the back foot forward to meet the front. You may hold onto the wall or nearby table to steady yourself while you do this. When you are ready, repeat the steps for the other side.
Seated: Come to the edge of your chair and place the soles of your feet on the ground. While seated, turn to the left and point your left knee toward the left side of the room. The soles of both feet should still be on the ground. Engage your core and extend your right leg in the opposite direction. Reach your left arm forward and your right arm back. Stay here for a few rounds of breath. When you are ready, bring your legs back together in front of you. You may grab the seat of your chair to steady yourself. Repeat the steps for the other side.
Sphinx pose into upward dog
Lie down on your belly. Bring your elbows underneath your shoulders with your palms to the ground. Relax your shoulders and stay here for a few rounds of breath. You can stay in sphinx pose if this is a comfortable gentle stretch. For a deeper stretch, slide your forearms 2 or 3 inches forward and push the palms of your hands into the floor. Press your upper body off the floor and engage your lower body. Remember to keep your breath slow and steady. Straighten your arms as much as you can without locking your elbows. You can slide your hands forward to make this stretch more comfortable. Stay here for a few rounds of breath before bringing your elbows back to the floor and coming out of the pose.
Find a comfortable seat on the floor or yoga mat. Bring the soles of your feet together in front of you and slide them forward a few inches. Sit up straight to lengthen your lower back. Bring your hands to your shins or grab onto your feet. Lead with your chest and lean forward. Only go as far as you can without feeling any pain. Stay in the pose for a few rounds of breath.