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The Beginner's Guide to Yoga

Yoga is for guys too. Here’s how to use yoga to your advantage for increased flexibility, stability, sports performance, and overall stress-relief.

When you’ve never tried yoga, it can be intimidating, especially if you’ve been scoping the jaw-dropping, super bendy, pretzel-like poses your girlfriend practices each morning. But relax: It’s actually the most basic postures—not the fancy positions—that provide you with the foundation of flexibility and strength that every man needs.

With that said, there are a number of yoga styles, and finding the right one will help ensure that you'll want to come back. For those who want a more fast-paced practice, consider power yoga. If you want to wipe yourself out and break a serious sweat (no joke), try Bikram (hot) yoga. Hatha yoga is good for beginners because of its slow pace and introductory poses. And Vinyasa focuses around the mind-breath connection and works the body with aggressive stretching. That’s just a handful of a number different yoga variations designed to improve flexibility, athletic ability, mental clarity and more.

Before we get into the basic poses, here’s why you should practice yoga, in any variation.


1. Relieve stress.
We all find ways to deal with stress. But Terrence Monte, a managing teacher at Pure Yoga, says, “going to amped up gyms or punching a punching bag can make you more aggressive or more tired.” Yoga, on the other hand, employs a number of relaxation techniques, which, with regular practice, can make you calmer overall. Sadie Nardini, host of “Rock Your Yoga,” adds, “Along with training your body, yoga trains your mind to see the bigger picture and act from integrity instead of freaking out. If you want to be more James Bond than Charlie Sheen, get yourself on the mat.” Being forced to unplug from text, calls, and email for 60 to 90 minutes doesn't hurt either.

2. Get flexible.
Most series of yoga asanas (physical postures) include one or more spinal twists to loosen the many joints that make up your spine. This can improve your tennis game and golf swing, as well as promote detoxification and good digestion. Yogi Cameron Alborizan, Ayurvedic healer, yoga guru, and author of The One Plan, says, “Think of the body as a sponge filled with dirty sink water. Gentle twists help to wring the sponge out and purge toxins.”

3. Build more muscle
Yoga widens range of motion and increases access to more muscle fibers, allowing for more substantial hypertrophy in any given muscle group,” says Kate Abate, a certified trainer and yoga teacher. Hypertrophy is when a muscle is enlarged because its cells are enlarged (it's basically muscle growth on a cellular level).

If you supplement your regular lifting routine with yoga classes, you’ll be able to activate ignored sections of muscle. For example, take the serratus anterior or “boxer's muscle,” which is located under your armpit and over the side of your ribs. This muscle provides stability for your shoulders and is a base for developing deltoids and pectorals. Making your serratus anterior pop will help your abs look ripped, and you can get at it with yoga.

4. Prevent workout injuries.
Most yoga classes begin with a reminder to honor your body’s particular needs and limits on that particular day. This basic ability to scan and assess yourself as you practice will help reduce the incidence of injury when running or playing other sports. Plus, flexible, well-stretched yoga muscles will heal and recover more quickly after working out or getting strained.

5. Have better sex.
A study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found yoga to seriously enhance a woman’s experience in the bedroom via greater lubrication, and more powerful orgasms as a result of strengthening the pelvic floor muscles.  For guys, yoga helps reduce anxiety and increases body awareness and confidence and it speeds the release of hormones that boost arousal and increase blood flow to the genital area, which is important for erections.

6. Calm your mind.
In the midst of a jam-packed schedule, committing to the relaxed space of a yoga class might be the only way for some guys to slow down and breathe right. A 2013 review found that yoga relives mild clinical depression, even in people that didn’t take antidepressants. The ancient Indian practice also was found to help better sleep better and longer. Furthermore, A study in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health found that 20 minutes of Hatha yoga stimulates brain function more than walking or jogging on the treadmill for the same amount of time.

7. Smell better. 
Seriously. Michael Hewitt, founder of Sarva Yoga Academy says yoga is very much about waste removal. “Pheremonally, regular practice is more effective than cologne,” he says. Exhaling and sweating help get rid of toxins during class, so that afterward, your sweat really will smell sweeter. “After a class,” says Hewett, “[your body is] cleaner, more confident and focused than when you walked in.”

Now that you’ve found out why you regularly do yoga, it’s time to lay down the mat and start opening up your hips (and every other joint too). But before you do that, remember these three beginner tips.


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