Healthy man exercising at home

Bust Stress Instantly With These 5 Yoga Poses for Men

According to a small 2021 study, gender-related perceptions and pressures are one of the top reasons why more men don’t participate in yoga — in other words, it is seen as a more “feminine” form of exercise. Other research suggests that guys feel intimidated in yoga classes: they fear being the only man on the mat or lacking the flexibility required to do certain poses. But what if we told you that Matthew McConaughey, LeBron James, David Beckham, and Chris Hemsworth all swear by this practice for not only muscle gains but also better mental health?

In fact, a recent 2022 study found that yoga has stress-reducing benefits for men.

“Yoga is an incredible physical and mental practice for all people, but there are a few key benefits for men to call out,” says Ashley Marand Iwanicki, founder and instructor at The Collective Studios. “First, yoga helps reduce stress, ease tension, and lower feelings of anxiety — and men tend to have fewer outlets for relieving their anxiety. The majority of people step onto their mats seeking something beyond the physical — peace in their day, clarity in moments of confusion, acceptance of the unknown and so much more.”

Not only that, but yoga also has some serious strength-building benefits as well — since this practice widens your range of motions and increases access to a greater range of muscle fibers, it supports muscle growth in a way that lifting and curling just can’t.

“Yoga is extremely effective for building strength and full body conditioning,” explains Iwanicki. “Static yoga poses improve muscle endurance, while dynamic flows are great for building lean muscle mass.”

Ready to bust out your mat? Here’s a handful of yoga poses Iwanicki specifically recommends for men.

Child’s Pose

“Child’s pose is a quintessential yoga pose that is incredible for relieving both physical and emotional stress as it calms the mind by creating a grounding sensation, opens the hips, and reduces low back tension by lengthening the spine,” says Iwanicki.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Start in a tabletop position, on your hands and knees.
  2. Bring your big toes together so they’re touching.
  3. Gently lower your hips toward your heels as you send your knees to the wide edges of your mat. Rest your forehead on the mat — or, if this isn’t comfortable, try resting it on your stacked fists or a yoga block.
  4. Relax your shoulder, jaw, and torso.
  5. Extend your arms long overhead with your palms facing downward, or stretch them backward along your thighs with your palms facing upward.
  6. Stay here for at least 30 seconds to a minute while you inhale and exhale deeply.

Legs Up the Wall

“Legs Up The Wall is an effortless and accessible pose to practice at the end of a stressful day or after an endurance activity like a hike, distance run, or long bike ride as it drains the circulation from your legs helping to ease restless legs and calm your mind,” explains Iwanicki.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Start seated with bent knees on your mat with your right side facing a wall.
  2. As you turn to lie flat on your back, carefully swing your legs around and up onto the wall so they’re at a 90-degree angle with your torso. Keep your knees slightly bent. Your ankles should be right over your hips.
  3. Keep your arms by your sides, however far away from your torso is comfortable, with your palms facing down.
  4. Stay in this pose for 10 minutes or more.

According to Iwanicki, this pose can also be performed free-floating in space if you don’t have access to a wall or don’t feel like using one.

“A block or blanket underneath your hips will let you experience the full benefits of this pose,” she adds. “And if you feel your legs are splaying out to the sides, you may use a strap or even a booty band around your lower or upper legs for a little more support.”

Thread the Needle

“As men tend to hold a lot of tension in their shoulders and upper back, this is a great pose to help open those areas of the body,” says Iwanicki.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Start in a tabletop pose on all fours.
  2. Extend your right arm up to the sky.
  3. Thread your right arm underneath your left, gently twisting your torso.
  4. Allow your right ear and shoulder to release to the ground.
  5. Stay here for at least a few breath cycles. Then, gently untwist, place your right hand back on the mat, and repeat steps 2-4 while threading your left arm under your right.

“You may like pressing your left hand into the mat when the right arm is weaved underneath to deepen the twist through your thoracic spine,” adds Iwanicki.

“Lengthening your left arm to the top left corner of your mat may also provide an additional extension. For a deeper sensation through your shoulders, take a half bind with your left hand, placing the back of your palm against the small of your back.”

Standing Forward Fold

“A forward fold is such a simple, yet highly impactful pose for calming your mind, lengthening your spine, and stretching the entire backline of your body,” Iwanicki tells AskMen.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Stand at the center of your mat.
  2. Hinge at your hips as you lower your torso forward, keeping your knees slightly bent.
  3. Depending on your level of flexibility, place your hands on the mat in front of you, on a yoga block in front of you, or on your shins.
  4. Let your head and arms hang, fully relaxed, as you lengthen your spine. Stay here for at least 30 seconds, feeling how your ribcage and back expand with your breath.

“You may also like to hold your opposite elbows and shake your head yes and then no to further release your neck,” says Iwanicki. “To further lengthen your neck, interlace your hands behind your neck and gently pull the nape of your neck down.”

Crow Pose

This pose may be more challenging than the others, but it also offers some extra strength-building benefits.

“Crow Pose is an arm-balance pose that requires both physical and mental strength,” explains Iwanicki. “Physically, the pose demands core and arm strength as you balance your knees against your triceps and coordinate picking your toes up off the ground. Mentally, Crow Pose will make you face your fears as you must learn to trust yourself to shift your weight forward, balance on your hands, and trust that you have the focus to not face plant.”

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Begin in a “yogi squat” — crouched down with your tailbone between your ankles. Place your hands flat on your mat with your fingers spread wide.
  2. Keeping your hands and feet where they are, begin lifting your hips toward the ceiling.
  3. Come up onto the balls of your feet and spread your knees slightly, then place your knees on the backs of your upper arms.
  4. Start shifting your weight forward into your hands.
  5. From here, depending on your strength and confidence level, engage your lower abs and try picking one or both feet off the ground.
  6. If you can get both feet off the ground, bring your big toes in so they’re touching and continue to focus on lifting your hips up to the sky with the strength of your core to remove any weight from your triceps.

“When first practicing crow pose, placing a block or bolster underneath where your forehead can create a safety net if you are fearful of falling forward,” adds Iwanicki. “Similarly, a block underneath your feet can help pick your hips up higher so you don’t need to bend your arms as much or shift your weight forward as much. If you notice your arms are splaying out to the sides, try using a strap or booty band around your triceps to keep your arms in place.”

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