If you’re a dude who’s new to yoga, walking into most yoga classes can be pretty intimidating right off the bat. You’ve got ultra flexible bendy yogis, soccer moms in lululemon, and maybe even a few hippie ladies getting their zen on.
In spite of the numerous life-changing benefits of yoga for men, only around 28% of American yoga practitioners are male. Maybe that’s because many western men still think of yoga as an “easy workout” or merely deep stretching. Or they just think “yoga is for girls”. They couldn’t be more wrong.
Yoga is so much more than the feminine energy of pretzel-like poses and elegant flows. It is an opportunity to build and tone muscle, lose weight, improve balance, improve flexibility, and even upgrade your physical relationships.
A regular yoga practice can positively impact your cardiovascular system, strength, mental health, and physique. If you’ve been wanting to practice yoga but don’t know where to start, here is a simple introduction to 12 beginner yoga poses for men and how yoga can specifically cater to the male body.
- 1 The First Yogis Were Men
- 2 Benefits of Yoga for Men
- 3 Getting Started
- 4 12 Beginner Yoga Poses for Males
- 4.1 1. Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
- 4.2 2. Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
- 4.3 3. Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
- 4.4 4. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
- 4.5 5. Cat and Cow (Marjaiasana)
- 4.6 6. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
- 4.7 7. Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)
- 4.8 8. Low or High Crescent Lunge (Ashta Chandrasana)
- 4.9 9. Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
- 4.10 10. Dolphin Plank Pose (Makara Adho Mukha Svanasana)
- 4.11 11. Boat Pose (Navasana)
- 4.12 12. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
- 5 Yoga for Men on Youtube
- 6 FAQs
The First Yogis Were Men
Yoga is an ancient spiritual practice that originated in India amongst priests. In the western world, it’s a common misconception that yoga is a feminine workout, but the original yogis were actually all men. Masculinity is woven deep into the philosophy of yoga, which encompasses a physical practice (asanas or postures), breathing techniques, and spiritual disciplines.
The word yoga translates to “yolk” in ancient Sanskrit, demonstrating how yoga actually aims to balance the masculine and feminine energy in harmony. Rather than competing or trying to be better than others, yoga is an internal challenge focused on improving yourself and harnessing the mental benefits of introspection and focus.
Research has shown that incorporating yoga can be profoundly healing for men overcoming substance abuse and addiction. It is also a proven aid for dealing with depression, reducing back pain, and even premature ejaculation (yes, seriously).
A regular yoga practice improves your body awareness and mind-body connection, while offering a ton of other health benefits. It’s also just an amazing workout that can help take your health and fitness goals to the next level.
Benefits of Yoga for Men
I hear about a lot of men who shy away from yoga because they “aren’t very flexible” or “prefer weightlifting”, but these are two reasons why men actually need to be practicing yoga.
When my boyfriend finally took to the mat, he saw a huge improvement in his physique (more lean muscle tone) that complemented his weightlifting regimen. Yoga also helped him recover from a rotator cuff injury because yoga poses naturally work smaller muscle groups and tendons that strength training workouts can’t reach.
Needless to say, dudes who brave the initial discomfort of getting on the mat ultimately are able to reap huge rewards from their yoga practice.
Build and Tone Muscle
Specific yoga styles like power yoga and Bikram can help build some major upper body strength. All styles of yoga use your body weight resistance to strengthen tissues and muscles while increasing blood flow and oxygenation.
Like my boyfriend experienced, you can also active the smaller muscle groups that are otherwise missed in standard weight training exercises. The lean muscle tone often times this results in a more “ripped” appearance among male yogis, especially in the core area.
Improved Intimate Performance
You read that right. Doing yoga doesn’t make you an abstinent monk. In fact, research in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that men who practice yoga have better physical performance, including increased blood flow, better erections, and better ejaculation control. Yoga also has shown to improve overall men’s reproductive health and decrease anxiety in the bedroom.
Heart and Lung Health
Although most people don’t think of yoga as a cardio workout, Vinyasa yoga is a rigorous style of yoga that really raises your heart rate. It can drastically improve your cardiovascular health, while simultaneously strengthening your lungs and improving oxygenation in your blood. Many professional athletes like LeBron James and Aaron Rodgers use yoga to improve their lung capacity and endurance. There is even “Man Flow Yoga” focused specifically on strength building yoga poses for the male body.
Deep abdominal breathing is a common form of breath work used in yoga classes of all types. This slow, controlled breath activates the parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for “rest and digest”) to decrease overall stress levels in the body and put you in a calmer state.
As a result, men often experience drastically lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Interestingly, this stress reduction can actually lead to easier weight loss because cortisol causes your body to hold onto belly fat.
Depending on the style of yoga you practice, it can be a major fat loss workout that torches more calories than weight training. If you’re looking to cut down on body fat and tone up your physique, Bikram yoga, hot yoga, and Vinyasa are excellent options for working up a sweat and building strength while getting in your cardio at the same time.
Research has shown that yoga not only offers a useful exercise tool for weight loss, but it also catalyzes behavioral shifts toward eating healthier, participating in yoga culture, and more long lasting weight reduction compared to other weight loss programs.
If there’s anything that yoga is universally known for, it’s stretching. Let’s face it, most men are less flexible than women. Less flexibility is linked to a greater risk of injury during workouts and more discomfort in daily activities. If you have tight hips, tight hamstrings, or overall body tension, yoga will help you open up a little bit and complement any other workout routines you may have.
If you can barely touch your toes, don’t worry, you can still do yoga. In fact, you need to get on the mat right now! More joint mobility and fascia elasticity keeps you younger and more adaptable.
Unlike other sports, yoga is one of those awesome activities that doesn’t require a bunch of gear to get started. Technically, you just need your body, but a comfortable yoga mat and a few props help you feel just a little more at home.
Since a lot of modern yoga companies do cater to the female yogini demographic, we sorted out a few of the best yoga gear selections for men, including larger mat sizes, muted colors, and longer straps.
Best Yoga Mats for Men
Most yoga mats these days are too small for average or larger sized men, so you have to look for mats specifically designed with the male body in mind. You don’t want your practice interrupted by your feet or head against a cold studio floor. Here are our top yoga mat picks for men:
Best Sustainable Men’s Yoga Mat: The Luxuriant Cork Yoga Mat by Dudes Yoga
This 100% sustainable cork yoga mat was designed specifically for men. It is luxuriously grippy and warm-to-the-touch without any of that toxic plastic smell. It measures 72″ long by 26″ wide by 0.15″ (4 mm) thick. Basically the Cadillac of men’s yoga mats, this antimicrobial all natural mat is the best on the market.
Best Extra Large Men’s Yoga Mat: The Reversible Big Mat by lululemon
Extra long and wide for male yogis, this mat is made of natural rubber latex with a superb textured grip to keep you in place even during the sweatiest yoga classes. It measures 84″ long by 28″ wide and a 0.19″ (5 mm) thickness for extra padding and comfort. lululemon is top of the line for a reason and their men’s yoga gear never disappoints.
Best Budget Men’s Yoga Mat: Non Slip Mat with Body Alignment System by Heathyoga
This is one of the best options for beginners because it is super non-slip, grippy, and even includes guide lines to help you maintain alignment during your practice. It is 72″ long and 26″ wide and made of a certified TPE material that is 1/4″ thick for extra cushioning.
Props are super helpful for anyone who lacks flexibility or feels intimidated by balancing poses. A lot of men in my classes prefer to start with a yoga strap and block to help modify their poses as they gain confidence and deeper stretches. As you advance in your practice, you may want to invest in some resistance bands for extra strength-building regardless of the type of yoga class.
Best Prop Set: Yoga Block + Yoga Strap Combo Set by Gaiam
Gaiam has been a leader in the yoga industry for decades and this prop set is no different. The ideal set for beginners and men on a budget, this yoga block and strap will help you balance, flexbility, and move with more ease into poses that may initially feel uncomfortable.
Men tend to especially enjoy the yoga strap because it basically extends your arms and helps you maintain proper alignment while working up to those deeper stretches. This strap is 6 feet tall with an easily adjustable D-ring. The block is made of sturdy foam to help stabilize and prevent injuries.
Best Yoga Towel: Large Hot Yoga Mat Towel by Tatago
If you tend to sweat buckets during your workouts, it might get especially slippery on your mat during a hot yoga session. This extra large yoga towel is 85″ x 30″ so that even the tallest men can stay comfortable and slip-free. It is ultra absorbent and perfect to layer on top of your mat for added cushioning.
Best Resistance Bands: Elastic Resistance Bands by Hoocan
The great thing about a yoga practice is that pretty much every pose can be modified to be easier or more challenging. Resistance bands are popular amongst my male students because they add a greater strength challenge to build muscle in the arms, legs, or core.
These resistance bands can be used in everything from boat pose to warrior pose to planks and beyond. Get creative with how to incorporate more resistance and ask your yoga instructor to help cue opportunities to use the bands. This set includes 3 different resistance levels made of high quality rubber.
12 Beginner Yoga Poses for Males
Once you’ve got your gear and a yoga workout plan, you’re ready to dive into these simple yoga poses (asanas, or positions) for men. Whether in a studio or using yoga videos at home, remember to take things easy and slow to ensure proper alignment above all else.
Like I mentioned above, yoga is all about that yin-yang balance: too much forceful masculine energy will halt your progress toward body control, toning, flexibility, and stress relief. There is no rush and no judgement if you need props or multiple attempts to get properly into each pose.
1. Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Begin in standing position with the feet together. Inhale your arms up, then exhale and fold forward, hinging at the hips with a flat back and your belly button drawn in toward your spine. If you have tight muscles in your hamstrings, keep the knees bent. It’s more important to have a straight back than straight legs. Inhale into a “half lift” by bringing your hands onto your shins or quads, then exhale again and lengthen deeper.
This is the best beginning pose to start of your practice because it lengthens the hamstrings, releases the low back, and lets gravity do the work. Keep in mind this isn’t just your standard “bend over and touch your toes”. It’s important to keep the core engaged and avoid curving the back or locking the knees.
2. Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
From standing, move your feet hip width apart and inhale your arms up by your ears, palms facing inward and shoulder blades rolled down the back. Lift your chest and keep your thighs parallel as you sit your glutes back as if sitting in a chair. Keep your core engaged, expanding your chest and lengthening your spine with each inhale, then sitting deeper on each exhale.
Hold for as long as you can, drawing your weight into the heels. Chair pose challenges your core strength and quads while opening up any tightness in your shoulders and chest.
3. Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
As you stand back up from Chair Pose, it’s a great time to try out a simple balancing asana. Shift your weight into the left foot with a slight bend in the left knee. Slowly bend your right knee and place the bottom of your right foot against your inner left ankle, calf, or thigh, maintaining a strong standing leg.
Inhale to engage the core and hold your palms at hearts center or raised above your head like a tree growing branches. Hold Tree pose for as many breaths as you’d like, challenging your balance and stability while externally rotating your right hip. Repeat on the other side.
4. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Moving to the floor, Child’s Pose is especially beneficial for men who have tight hip flexors or lower back pain. It is a restorative pose commonly used in yin yoga to improve mobility increase circulation to your head.
Start in a tabletop position with knees slightly wider than your hips. The tops of your feet should be on the floor as you sit your glutes back onto your heels. Then, walk your hands forward to fully extend your arms and place your forehead on the floor. Breathe deeply to release any tension and sit back further. Hold for 30 seconds at a time and adjust your feet and knees in or out if you experience any discomfort.
5. Cat and Cow (Marjaiasana)
Coming back up to all-fours tabletop position, you can move into a series called cat-cow which offers tremendous relief for back pain and relieves spinal stiffness. It is the perfect warm up for more advanced poses.
Make sure your shoulders are over your wrists and hips stacked over your knees in perfect 90 degree angles. As you inhale, arch your spine downward with the tailbone and head up toward the sky. Lengthen your chest as much as possible and look upward.
On a slow smooth exhale, round your spine up toward the ceiling, tucking the tail bone and head down for the “cat”. Press your hands into the floor as if you’re pushing it away from you. Tuck your chin to your chest and feel length between your vertebrate. Release and return to a neutral back.
6. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Perhaps the most iconic of all yoga poses, Downward Facing Dog is particularly important for men because it improves posture and loosens up those tight hamstrings even more. It also awakens shoulder and chest muscles to prepare for more strength building exercises.
From the square tabletop position, tuck your toes under and slowly straighten your legs as much as possible as your tail bone rises to the ceiling. It’s OK if your legs won’t fully straighten, just keep your knees slightly bent as much as needed and press those heels toward the ground. Keep your palms pressing into the floor and neck relaxed, eyes downward.
7. Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)
From downward dog, inhale and step your left leg forward, placing your left foot between your hands. Bend the front knee and keep your back leg straight, allowing the outside of your back foot to press into the ground. Your toes should be angled to the corner of the room in a way that is comfortable for your ankle.
Inhale your upper body up and bring your arms straight out to the sides, looking forward over your bent knee. Warrior poses are part of the classic “Sun Salutation” flows found in many Vinyasa yoga and Hatha yoga classes. As the name implies, this is a powerful pose that energizes your body that improves focus, balance, lower body strength, and circulation.
8. Low or High Crescent Lunge (Ashta Chandrasana)
From Warrior I, you can bring your hands back to the ground on each side of your front foot to help hold your balance while you shift your back foot onto the ball and toes of the foot. You can stay here for a low lunge to stretch your quads and hips, or inhale back up with your hands overhead and palms facing in. Straighten that back knee while keeping the front knee bent as close to a right angle as possible, inner thigh active and knee never extending past your front ankle.
This lunging pose builds a lot of lower body strength while bringing more active stretching to the back hamstring and hips. It also challenges your balance while firing up the groin flexibility. Don’t forget to hold evenly on both sides.
9. Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
Next, you can step back to downward dog and then lower to the ground, stomach on the mat. Place your hands beneath your shoulders and begin to press up, engaging the top of your feet to press into the mat.
As you straighten your arms and arch your back upward to open the chest, you should also have your knees engaged and lifting from the mat. Never collapse into the low back or overextend your spine. Activated, engaged muscles are key.
This yoga pose awakens upper body strength while stretching the neck, chest, and shoulders. Because of its micro-muscle activation and lengthening, upward facing dog is the perfect complementary pose for anyone who is regularly lifting weights.
10. Dolphin Plank Pose (Makara Adho Mukha Svanasana)
We all know planks strengthen your abdominal muscles, but this “dolphin arms” variation also helps with building upper body strength.
Begin in a standard plank position, then bring the body forward and down as you move onto your elbows, with arms shoulder width apart, forearms parallel, and hands forward. Keep your shoulders and forearms fully engaged, palms pressing into the floor and core fired up.
Toes should be engaged balls of your feet pressing into the ground. Keep the spine as straight as possible and neck extending from the back, looking downward. Breathe and hold for 30 seconds to a minute.
Round off your yoga practice on your back with a final core strengthening pose. Depending how long you hold it, Boat Pose can be a pretty intense workout to help you lose weight and increase overall balance and stability.
Start in a seated position with your feet out in front of you, legs together. Extend your arms out parallel in front of you with palms facing each other. Slowly lean back onto your sits bones and tighten your core as you lift your legs into a V-shape, keeping the back straight and everything engaged. You can also bend the knees if needed. Your abs may begin to shake after 45 seconds to a minute. Breathe and hold, then release to lay down flat.
12. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
After some ab work, it feels great to finish off with a deep stretch. While backbends are pretty intimidating for most men, a bridge pose is a simple supported way to reap the same benefits.
Start laying on your back with knees bent and feet flat to the floor. Your hands can lay to your side, palms to the ground. Engage the glutes and lift your hip bones and belly button up toward the ceiling with a slight arch in your back (nothing to extreme). Keep those quads parallel and engaged, head still resting on the floor. With each inhale, lengthen more, and with each exhale, settle into the stretch.
Yoga for Men on Youtube
The easiest place to get started with yoga is a studio with other male students or even a male teacher. But if you prefer to get your yoga on at home, there are tons of options on YouTube for getting started. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Man Flow Yoga: This community-driven channel is specifically for men’s yoga of all skill levels.
- Yoga with Tim: A laid-back, genuine dude teaching yoga workouts and alignment.
- Breathe and Flow: This traveling couple offers both mens and unisex yoga flow ideas.
- Yoga with Adriene: If you’d like a female virtual yoga teacher, Adriene is one the most beginner-friendly and accessible teachers to start with.
Is yoga good for men?
Yoga boasts an impressive range of benefits for men, including more endurance, cardiovascular health, better blood flow, better physical performance, muscle building, weight loss, and more.
How often should men do yoga?
Practicing yoga 1-3 times a week is the perfect way to improve male performance in sports, fitness, and even in the bedroom. Yoga is the perfect complement to running, weight training, and other exercises, especially as an “active recovery” day exercise option.
Does yoga build muscle?
Power yoga is both a strength building and cardio exercise that significantly improves lean muscle tone while helping reduce body fat. Many men find that yoga complements weightlifting and sports activities because it challenges smaller muscle groups and creates a “chiseled” muscular physique.