Yoga for Men: 11 Beginner-Friendly Yoga Poses for Men

Did you know that in the 18th century and earlier yoga was predominantly a practice for men?

However, in the late 90s through the new millennium, there was a major gender shift that saw yoga dominated by women.  A 2017 research by the Statistic brain showed that approximately 72% of yoga practitioners in the world are women.

Why such a variance? You may wonder.

Well, it could be associated with the recent marketing trends around yoga that tend to promote yoga as a practice for women. Also, anatomical factors could be in play. For instance, women are naturally more flexible while men’s muscles are more stiff. That said, in the last decade, the number of men practicing yoga has been on the rise.

Yoga offers numerous mental health, emotional and physical health benefits to all its practitioners, regardless of their gender. Whether you are an athlete, body builder or a newbie in fitness, you stand to benefit greatly from incorporating yoga in lifestyle.

Yoga will help you build strength, improve your posture, and promote cardiovascular and respiratory endurance. It will also help you to cultivate a calm mind and mental stamina to face every day life challenges. If you are already practicing another form of exercise, yoga will promoter faster recovery and improve your performance in the other sports.

6 Tips for Men New to Yoga

  1.         Many postures may feel somewhat weird.

This is because you have never gotten your body in such positions before. Don’t worry. If you continue to practice regularly, you will get used to the poses and even begin to enjoy them.

  1.         You may get sore within 24 hours after doing a yoga session.

As you lengthen and stretch you muscles, they may tear. As the tears recover you will be getting stronger and more flexible.

  1.         The first few classes may feel rather hard.

You will be far from getting the perfect alignment of most postures. You will barely hold some poses through 5 breaths without getting too tired or shaky. Don’t let your ego get the better of you.

Remember, one of the benefits of practicing yoga besides getting strong and flexible body, is fostering a yogi’s mind. The yogi’s mind is calm and humble, so be patient with yourself and the process. Like with any practice or skill, you will get better with time. In the meantime, do the best that you can, be ok with not being perfect and keep practicing frequently and consistently.

  1.         Don’t push too hard.

You will definitely experience some discomfort in some poses as your body will be operating beyond its comfort zone in such poses. However, if you push too hard, you will soon cross the borderline between discomfort and pain.

If you are feeling pain in the asana, it either means you are misaligned or you are pushing too hard. Either way, you risk getting injured. Ease out of the posture and find a variation or modification that is within your body’s abilities. As continue to practice you will soon be able to find your edge on each posture where you are challenging your body but not pushing too hard.

  1.         Some poses may feel too easy – do them anyway.

Although you may feel like you are not doing much in such poses, they too offer significant benefits to the body. Besides, while some poses are designed to boost vitality and build strength hence they feel harder, others are meant to restore the body thus they are restful. Therefore, when you get to savasana, gladly lie down and allow the body rest.

  1.         There are two other key elements of yoga besides asana – breath and awareness.

Continuous and conscious breathing emphasized in yoga helps you to stay present in your practice and to cultivate a mind-body connection on and off your yoga mat. There are different yogic breathing techniques. When you are doing the poses below, incorporate ujjayi breathing.

11 Beginner-Friendly Yoga Poses for Men

Below is a selection of 11 beginner’s yoga poses for men. These poses stabilize, lengthen and stretch various muscles, improve balance, build strength, improve flexibility, improve circulation and calm your mind. You may do them in their respective order, or randomly pick a few.

1.         Balancing Table Pose/Bird Dog

Sanskrit: Dandayamna Bharmanasana

The balancing table top pose promotes overall body balance, focus and coordination. It lengthens and strengthens the glutes, hamstrings, calves, quadriceps, triceps and quadriceps. It also builds core strength and lengthens the spine.

Core strength is essential in yoga as it helps you to hold postures without compromising the natural alignment of the spine. In everyday life, having a strong core ensures you have a good posture and that you are able to do daily activities such as walking, standing, and picking up things among others with ease.

Balancing Table Top

How to do it

  1. Come to a table top position (hands and knees, palms directly below the shoulders and knees below the hips).
  2. Untuck your toes so that the tops of your toes are resting on the ground.
  3. Maintain a neutral spine and a lengthened torso.
  4. Reach your right hand forward – right bicep beside the right ear, fingers pointed.
  5. Draw you belly button in towards the spine to avoid arching the back.
  6. Extend the left leg backwards until it is parallel to the ground.
  7. Flex the toes of the left foot to face towards the ground.
  8. Reach forward with your right fingertips and press back with the left foot as if you were being pulled from both side.
  9. Hold the pose for 3-5 breaths.
  10. Release back to the table top and switch sides.

You may repeat this pose for several rounds.

Modifications

  • If the ground puts too much pressure on your knees, place a small folded blanket beneath each knee.
  • You may opt to rest the extended leg on the ground on the tips of the toes instead of lifting it to be parallel to the ground.

2.         Mountain pose

Sanskrit: Tadasana

The mountain pose is a foundational yoga pose that is easy to do. It sets the alignment basis for most standing poses. While it may seem like you are just standing without putting much effort towards the pose, the mountain pose is an active asana. It lengthens the torso and strengthens the thighs, buttocks and core.

Mountain Pose

How to do it

  1. Stand straight with your feet together, big toes touching and heels slightly separated.
  2. Press the four corners of the feet down to evenly distribute your body weight. (To test whether you are doing right, lift the 10 toes up and then spread them back to the mat.)
  3. Draw your kneecaps up and engage your quadriceps.
  4. Draw your belly inwards.
  5. Drop your tailbone down and tuck it in, while maintaining a neutral spine.
  6. Lengthen your torso, drop your shoulders away from the ears and squeeze the shoulder blades towards each other.
  7. Lift your chest up and draw the ribs inwards.
  8. Lengthen your neck.
  9. keep your head sturdy as if holding a stack of books on top of the head.
  10. You may either spread your fingers and point them downwards beside your body or bring palms to touch at the heart center in prayer position.
  11. Gaze ahead.
  12. Hold this position for at least 5 breaths.

Modifications

  • If you find it difficult to keep your feet together, separate them to a hip-width distance.
  • If standing in the pose puts tension on your spine, lean the backside of your body against a straight wall.
  • For a more advanced variation, reach your hands past your head, fingers spread and arms internally rotated for the pinkie fingers to point towards each other.

3.         Ragdoll

Sanskrit: Baddha Hasta Uttanasana

The ragdoll pose, also known as dangling pose, is a variation of the tradition standing forward fold. It lengthens and stretches the shoulders, calves, and hamstrings releasing tension off the lower back and neck. It is one of the easiest inversions to do.

Ragdoll

How to do it

  1. Stand in mountain pose.
  2. Hinge forward from your hip joint and allow your head to hang downwards.
  3. Bend your arms at the elbows.
  4. Hold the right elbow with your left hand and vice versa.
  5. Draw your chest as close to your thighs as possible.
  6. Lengthen your torso and draw the shoulders away from the ears.
  7. Micro bend your knees.
  8. Hold for 5 breaths.

Modifications

  • For a deeper release on the lower back, bend your knees more so that your chest is resting on the thighs.
  • For a deeper stretch on the hamstrings, straighten the knees and lean forward a bit so that the weight of your body is resting more towards the balls of your feet and less on the heels.
  • This pose is not recommended for people with high blood pressure, low blood pressure or heart problems.

4.         Downward Facing Dog

The down dog is another yoga stable. It is essential for men as it is a full body pose that builds stamina for other poses. It lengthens and strengthens the entire back side of the body, biceps and triceps, chest, core and shoulders. Being a closed hip pose, it also stabilizes the pelvis.

How to do it

Modifications

The down dog can be particularly challenging for men because you have tighter muscles. It is not uncommon to find yourself shaking or grunting on the pose. As such, modify as needed. At the beginning, it will be difficult to drop your heels to the ground, it is acceptable to keep them lifted as you work towards improving your strength and flexibility. You may hold the pose for a breath and come down for the next breath, then up for the next breath and so on.

5.         Plank

Sanskrit: Chaturanga Dandasana

The plank is a full body strength-building as well as an aligning pose.  It strengthens your core, shoulders, back, arms, and glutes while lengthening your torso and leg muscles. It serves as a preparatory pose for other arm balance poses.

Plank Pose

How to do it

  1. From down dog, shift your torso forward until your body forms a plane from your head to your heels. (Hands should be stack under your shoulders, and heels under the balls of your feet.)
  2. Activate your legs by pulling the kneecaps up and pressing back through the soles of your feet as if you are pressing against a wall. Squeeze in the thigh muscles like you are closing up a zip that is between your legs.
  3. Suck you belly in and drop your tailbone downwards and inwards.
  4. Release the shoulder blades away from the spine.
  5. Star-spread your fingers on the mat and press the balls of the fingers and the heels of the palm down firmly.
  6. Internally rotate your biceps and micro bend your elbows.
  7. Lengthen your neck and keep it sturdy as if the crown of your head is pressing on a wall.
  8. Gaze at the space between your thumbs.
  9. Hold the pose for 3-5 breaths.

Modifications

  • If holding the plank pose with legs straight puts too much pressure on your back and legs, maintain the same alignment and drop the knees on the ground.
  • Do not do this pose if you have back, shoulder or wrist injury.

6.         Cobra pose

Sanskrit: Bhujangasana

Many men have tight shoulders and back muscles. The cobra pose stretches the arms and shoulders while strengthening the lower back muscles. The cobra pose is a beginner-friendly backbend that prepares your body for deeper backbends. It also opens the chest muscles promoting optimal functioning of the cardiovascular and respiratory system. As your belly presses down in this pose, the internal abdominal organs receive a gentle massage promoting digestion.

Cobra Pose

How to do it

7.         Chair Pose

Sanskrit: Utkatasana

The chair pose is an invigorating and full body pose that is bound to make you break a sweat. It strengthens the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves as well as the lower back. It also stretches the biceps, triceps and shoulders while strengthening the core muscle.

If you have tight hamstrings and quadriceps, you may find it difficult to squat deeply in the pose. Likewise, you may experience tension on the shoulders when you lift your hands. As long as you are not feeling pain, stay with the intense sensations you experience.

Chair Pose

How to do it

  1. Begin in mountain pose.
  2. Bend your knees and squat down – pushing your butt backwards and downwards until your hips are inline with the knees.
  3. Shift your body weight to your heels as you press the four corners of the feet down.
  4. Pull your belly towards the spine and tilt your tailbone downwards.
  5. Lengthen your torso and extend your hands up, past your head.
  6. Drop the shoulders downwards and shoulder blades towards each other as you reach through your fingertips.
  7. Gaze up at the space between your hands.
  8. Hold for 3-5 breaths.

Modifications.

  • Bend your knees to a level that you are comfortable with and work towards squatting lower gradually. Do not drop your hips to a level lower than the knees.
  • If your neck feels tensed gazing up, gaze forward instead.
  • You could bring your hands slightly forward or rest them on your knees if keeping them up past your head is too strenuous.
  • Instead of keeping your feet together, separate them to a hip-width distance.
  • Practice this pose with caution if you have low blood pressure or migraines.

8.         Humble warrior

Sanskrit:Baddha Virabhadrasana

The humble warrior, also known as the devotional warrior or bound warrior, is another invigorating and energizing full body yoga pose. It opens the hip flexors, chest and shoulders, stretches the lower back, hamstrings and calves, and strengthens the quadriceps and glutes. This pose is a practical paradox – your legs fire up to bring out your inner warrior, the bow calls you to a humble mindset.

Humble Warrior Pose

How to do it

  1. From mountain pose, step your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Step your left foot backwards, about 4-5 feet apart.
  3. Turn the left foot to a 75-degrees angle towards the front.
  4. Press down the four corners of your feet.
  5. Bend your right knee to a right angle.
  6. Interlace your hands at the back.
  7. Inhale and squeeze the interlaced hands together and make a small backbend.
  8. Exhale and bow forward to a level where your right shoulder is gently pressing against the inner right thigh.
  9. Drop your head and gaze down.
  10. Hold for 3-5 breaths
  11. Come up and switch sides.

Modifications

  • Instead of clasping your hands at the back, place a chair in front of you and rest your extended hands on it in the forward bend.
  • To ease tension on the bent leg, slightly straighten the knee to a 45-75-degree angle.
  • If you feel out of balance in the pose, shorten your stand.

9.         The Yogi squat

Sanskrit: Malasana

The yogi squat offers a combination of strength and opening. It deeply stretches to the psoas muscles, glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings.  It also releases tension off the lower back and shoulders while massaging the abdominal organs and toning the core.

As easy and simple the pose may look, it can be quite challenging. If you have been weight lifting or running with minimal stretching; or you are just beginning to get active; chances are, you will have difficulty getting into the squat as your hamstrings and glutes are tight. Your squat will be higher and your heels will barely touch the ground. Get in the best version of the squat that you can and modify as needed.

Yogi Squat

How to do it

  1. Stand in mountain pose and open your feet wider than hip-width apart and toes turned outwards.
  2. Bring your palms to touch in prayer position at the chest.
  3. Bend your knees and squat to a level where your butt is lower than the hips and release the weight of your pelvis to gravity.
  4. Actively press your palms together and push your elbows against the inner knees.
  5. Lift your chest and squeeze the shoulder blades towards each other.
  6. Look straight ahead.
  7. Hold for 3-5 breaths.

Modifications

  • You may place a block or stack of blocks beneath your butt to support the weight of your pelvis.
  • If your heels are lifting off the ground, place a rolled blanket beneath them.
  • You may drop your hands to the ground for better balance.
  • Do not do this pose if you have a knee injury.

10.   Tree pose

Sanskrit: Vrksasana

Tree pose is a standing balancing pose that helps you to cultivate calmness and focus both on the mat and in your day to day life. As you assume the pose, you will soon realize how challenging it can be to balance on one leg. You may keep falling out of the pose, don’t beat yourself about it, get back to the pose immediately. Soon you will be able to hold the pose without shaking or falling off too often.

Tree Pose

How to do it

  1. Come to standing in mountain pose.
  2. Lift the right foot up and rest the sole on the inner left thigh, slightly above the knee. (Avoid placing the sole on the knee as your risk hyperextending the knee.)
  3. Keep your hips closed by ensuring both hips are inline and facing forward.
  4. Ground the left foot down, pull your left kneecap up and hug in your left thigh muscles.
  5. Lengthen your torso, draw your belly and ribs inwards, and drop the tailbone.
  6. Bring your hands to touch at the heart center and press them against each other while dropping the shoulders downwards
  7. Lengthen your neck.
  8. Gaze at a stationary point in front of you.
  9. Hold for 3-5 breaths
  10. Release and switch sides.

Modifications

  • Place the sole of your lifted foot on the inner shin of the standing leg, or on the ankle with toes pointing and resting on the ground.
  • You may lean against a wall for better balance.
  • For a more advanced experience of the pose, lift your hands up, fingers pointed towards the ceiling.

11.   Corpse Pose

Sanskrit: Savasana

The corpse pose is an essential recovery pose in yoga. Usually, it is the last pose in any yoga session that allows your body to rest actively and for your mind to be still. Many first time yogis find the pose too easy and somewhat unnecessary. However, with time, it becomes one of the best asanas for most yogi as it is a chance to lay down in stillness and awareness.

Corpse Pose

How to do it.

  • See instructions here

Conclusion

If you have been having the nudge to try out yoga, the 11 poses above will get you started. Don’t be shy to sign up for a class even if you are just a few men amid many women. Your body will reward you with mental calmness, strength and flexibility as you continue to practice frequently. Safety is essential when practicing yoga, therefore, work with your body and practice the various asanas within its capabilities.