The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Yoga for Men
Yoga for men, it's a little different for us right?
I mean sure, it needn't be. After all, it's the same poses for everybody. But in reality, we face our own unique challenges both on and off the mat.
Sometimes it feels like we're a stiff square peg trying to fit in an impossibly bendy round hole. Wait, that sounds wrong..
Lucky for us, the rewards are so worth it.
Greater strength and mobility? ✓ Improved athletic performance? ✓ Better health and happiness? ✓ and the list goes on.. If all men truly understood and experienced the benefits, everyone would be doing it.
So whatever your motivation, you've decided to give it a shot, but you're not sure where to start?
You've come to the right place.
In this guide you'll learn all the paths you can take to start your yoga journey – and which is right for you.
You'll find out how best to approach the practice, how to prepare and what you can expect to find. All from the angle of a dude who's been there and tried it all, and made the embarrassing mistakes so you don't have to.
So I'm here to tell you – man to man – how to get started on your yoga journey.
Chapter 1 - Getting Started With Yoga
Should You Learn Yoga at Home or at a Class?
We're lucky enough to live in a world where yoga is freely available to us, as long as we have a will and a solid internet connection. Whether you're looking to learn from the comfort of your home, or you're ready to brave a yoga class, you have plenty of options.
So where do you start?
That depends on your budget, your goals and your access to yoga studios.
Getting expert guidance from an experienced teacher is going to be the most effective way to start, so if you can make it to a real-life class then I'd recommend starting there. But, I know that's not available to everyone for various reasons. Whether it's distance, money or something else entirely – life can get in the way of making it to studios.
Fortunately, access to a yoga studio is not a barrier to yoga. Learning exclusively from home is entirely possible. You'll just have to be thorough.
Let's dive in.
Do men go to yoga classes? Absolutely.
We're definitely still in the minority, but things are levelling out quickly. I'd say it's about 60/40 women to men at my local studio.
It is important to find the right classes to start with, as yoga classes come in all shapes and sizes. With varying degrees of complexity, chanting and all-round weirdness.
Some are definitely more appropriate for beginners than others. Check out my full guide to the most popular yoga styles if you're interested in knowing more.
So unless you can already wrap your legs around your head, or you happen to be a regular masochist – skip the Ashtanga, Kundalini and Vinyasa Flow for now. If your studio offers a beginner series, that's your best place to start.
They're tailored to absolute beginners and have a sort of workshop vibe with a slow and methodical pace. Over the course of a few weeks, you'll be gradually introduced to the fundamental poses and breathing techniques. Usually with the same group of people, just as new as you.
If you can't find a studio that runs a beginner series, they will almost certainly run regular beginner yoga classes. Whilst they won't be aimed exclusively at first-timers, the pace is definitely slow enough for you to join in and pick it up as you go along.
You can find out what to expect from your first yoga class here, but I really need to stress this one thing.
Yoga classes are for everyone.. Yes that means you.
Just in case you were wondering.. You're not too inflexible for yoga classes, it doesn't matter if you struggle with certain poses and you are absolutely welcome even if you're the only guy 🙂
Men's Yoga Classes
That being said, if you'd feel more comfortable practicing in a men's only yoga class, you may be in luck.
These days, there are yoga brands like Broga which cater specifically to men, but I'm seeing more and more individual studios offering them too. Personally, I like the more balanced dynamic of a mixed class, but there are benefits to yoga classes for men.
In fact, I'd arguably make more progress at these classes, because they tend to cater to men's natural strengths, and work on their weaknesses. Skipping poses I can't get into yet and spending extra time on hamstrings and shoulders sounds real good to me.
Yoga at Home
For those who can't make it to class, don't feel ready for it (or just don't want to), learning yoga online from home is a great option.
What you miss in personalised advice and alignment fixes, you make up for in other ways.
In fact, even if you do go to classes, I'd wholeheartedly encourage you to start a home practice too. Classes are amazing for teaching poses and alignment, but you really deepen your practice at home.
There are some fantastic online yoga subscription services out there like Grokker which offer free trials. They can provide everything you need in a neat video program package. Definitely worth a try.
Alternatively, YouTube has plenty to offer the beginner yogi too.
YouTube - The Best Free Online Yoga Option
Granted, there's a lot of shit on YouTube these days, but the yoga content is (mostly) top notch. With everything from coffee-break warm-ups to hour long sweat sessions, there's plenty to keep you going.
To begin, you should be looking for a beginner series that takes the time to explain the fundamentals of moving and breathing. It can be tempting to dive into the "Ignite Power Fat-Shredding Flow" kinda video, but try these first..
Yoga with Adrienne
Adrienne is really down-to-earth and immediately puts you at ease. Her videos are very beginner friendly and it feels like she's right at home practising with you.
Yoga with Tim
Tim's laid-back approach really helps you relax and engage with his videos. He often works with male yogis in his videos, so you get expert instruction on how the male body interacts with poses.
Chapter 2: What You'll Need to Practice Yoga
What Do Men Wear for Yoga?
Male yoga wear isn't quite as straightforward as it is for women.
Most of our typical clothes are too baggy or too restrictive, and we have extra "bits" to keep in check. But don't worry, there's probably something in your wardrobe that you can get started with, and the range of dedicated men's yoga clothing is so much better these days.
First things first, work-wear and street-wear are not appropriate. I can't imagine anything worse than practicing yoga in jeans or trousers. As for the workout clothing you might already own, these can work:
Striking a balance between comfort and fit is the aim of the game. You want something that's not too baggy, so that your teacher can see your alignment and you're not getting swamped in fabric. But you also don't want clothing so tight that it restricts your movements. Unless they're yoga pants – which men absolutely can wear!
Ideally you also want a sweat-wicking material, so while cotton can be okay in a pinch, it's not suitable for yoga where you're going to be sweating a lot.
If the climate (and the yoga studio) allows it, feel free to go shirtless too. I always do.
What You'll Need for a Home Practice
To start, not that much really.
After all, one of the greatest benefits to a home practice is the freedom to practice when, and how you want – at no cost. So no, you probably don't need that yoga trapeze just yet.. but for a full practice, there is some must-have yoga equipment.
A Yoga Mat
The bread and butter of your yoga setup.
The price and quality of yoga mats vary a lot, but as a one-off purchase, it's worth paying to get a solid one. Your typical man is going to be bigger and heavier than your average yogini, and you might find that a Wallmart mat just doesn't cut it.
For the full low-down, check out my guide to the best yoga mats for men.
Personally, I'm a fan of the Liforme Yoga Mat. It's got extra room all around, grips like a champion and has super helpful alignment cues. It's amazing for beginners, but it's not cheap.
- Unique and original AlignForMe alignment system
- Revolutionary "GripForMe" material for unparalleled grip whilst practicing
If you're (understandably) not ready to drop that kind of dollar on a yoga mat. The Heathyoga Mat is a great budget alternative. Sporting similar alignment cues, generous dimensions and a textured surface, it's a good place to start.
- New Eco Friendly Material – More expensive but worth it. TPE is the latest technological improvement to the traditional yoga mats. No latex, no PVC, or any heavy metal. Our mats are made of SGS...
- Body Alignment System: The alignment lines help you to focus and adjust your hands and feet to the accurate position, and keep body in proper alignment.
A Yoga Block and Strap
If you've already been to a class, you soon realise how useful a block and strap can be for your practice.
There are many pose variations that are only accessible if you've got these things for support. If you can't reach the floor, you can reach for a block. If you can't reach for your leg, reach for a strap.
You can definitely practice without them, but you'll be limited in some areas.
A simple block and strap will do. Check out this inexpensive set from Gaiam on Amazon.
- YOGA BLOCK + YOGA STRAP COMBO: Makes for a great yoga prop and accessories starter kit, providing the support you need to get started
- STABILITY + BALANCE: Yoga blocks and yoga straps provide the stability and balance needed in your practice to help with optimal alignment, deeper poses and increased strength
Other Honorary Mentions
There are lots of other useful yoga accessories. From bolsters and blankets, to sticky toe socks and handstand blocks.
They all have their uses but they're not all necessary right way.
Let's Wrap Up
That's a lot to take in, right? Don't sweat it.
Yoga is a process, not a destination.
It doesn't matter if you struggle at the beginning, or even after years of practice. Trust me, you'll always be able to find a practice that challenges you.
You can forget about all the advanced moves and practices for now. Don't worry about how you look, or how close you can get to touching your toes.
Go into your practice with an open mind and heart. Everything else will come in time.
Finally, just keep at it!