Men starting a yoga practice for the first time can be especially tight, just about everywhere in the body.
This can make it hard to get into even the most basic poses. My arch nemesis – the seated forward fold – continues to be a struggle for me, where I can barely sit up straight let alone bend forward.
With the typical tight points of men being the shoulders, check, back and back of the legs – there’s plenty for us to struggle with. But this also means we often don’t need the more advanced poses to get a great stretch.
Some of the most basic poses can benefit us the most.
So here’s a selection of poses any man can do, regardless of flexibility, that’ll all give a great release in those key areas.
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Being a gentle, but compound upper body movement, Catcow is a great way to begin any practice. Warming up the spine, opening the shoulders and releasing the lower back.
For me, nothing seems to work as well as the cat stretch to get into those deep knots between the shoulders and neck. Those golf balls we all seem to carry there – you know the ones.
This is the only active movement in the list, but I’ve included it because for a man, it’s probably the most efficient movement we can do in order to release a great deal of our typical trigger points simultaneously.
Standing Forward Fold
So while this one isn’t an active movement either – gravity should be doing all the work – but if your legs are super tight, you may find them doing some work too.
That being said, there’s nothing to gain by forcing this one. The hamstrings will resist any strong pushing or pulling. So bend your knees as much as you need to, folding over your knees with a flat back. To increase the stretch without pulling into your hamstrings, you can suck in your belly to create more space to fold into on the front end.
Most men will find this pose difficult. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t reach anywhere near the floor. You may well find that your legs are in a very deep bend – but that’s okay, it means you’ll benefit most from this stretch!
The great resting pose of yoga can actually be a little challenging in you’re super tight in the tips and lower back. But the stretch is glorious! A lovely stretch in the lower back and hips, this pose lengthens the spine and provides a luxurious stretch in the upper chest and shoulders too.
When it comes to hip openers, few people stand to benefit as much as the typical male. Conversely, very few of those men can jump straight into full hip opening poses without risking injury.
Full Pigeon pose is a very strong stretch, and because your weight is pushing you deeper into the stretch, it’s easy to go too deep or even collapse.
I’ve never pulled my groin before but I’ve had some touch and go moments – it’s never worth the risk..
That’s why the reclining version of Pigeon is great for beginners. Lying on the floor protects the back, and let’s you dictate the strength of the stretch. You can keep your bottom foot planted on the floor for a passive stretch or make it an active stretch by grabbing behind the leg and lifting it towards you.
I’ve naturally done this every morning, long before I discovered yoga. It’s perfect for a full-body waking stretch, or after a long day at the desk.
It’s a pretty straightforward passive twist, that opens up the back, chest, shoulders and neck.
It’s great for digestion too, I’ll get a few gurgles every time I do this, particularly on the right side.