Don't Leave Yoga to the Ladies
You could be missing out on an easy way to increase endurance, build strength, prevent injuries, and even lower blood pressure. Here's how to strike a pose and reap the benefits.
You've probably heard the buzz about how yoga relieves stress, makes you stronger, and stretches your muscles in an awesome, hurts-so-good kind of way. And all these things are true. What you might be failing to recognize is that the practice isn't limited to the ladies from whom you likely heard it.
Contrary to what many guys believe, going to yoga isn't a girls-only thing. Baron Baptiste, former assistant coach for the Philadelphia Eagles and creator of Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga, lent his expertise on how men can bend their Y-chromosomes into Downward Dog.
"Men often suffer from tightness, particularly in the hips, hamstrings, and shoulders, that can lead to injury or weakness," says Baptiste. "Over-training in any one sport can cause repetitive stress and other more serious injuries. Yoga is a full-body workout that creates both strength and flexibility. You need to have both. One without the other is a recipe for disaster."
Bonus: If you practice slow, steady breathing along with yoga, it can lower your blood pressure over time. To give yoga a try, start with these poses.
1. Forward Fold
Stretches hamstrings, calves, and hips; strengthens legs and knees
Stand with feet hip-width apart and gently hinge forward at the hips and lower the torso toward the floor. Bend your knees generously to take any pressure out of the low back and hamstrings. Grasp elbows with opposite hands. Breathe deeply and let gravity take the body toward the earth. Relax your head, neck, shoulders, and torso. Slowly sway your torso or gently shake your head. Hold for one minute and roll back up to standing.
2. Downward-Facing Dog
Stretches feet, shoulders, hamstrings, and calves; strengthens arms, legs, and core
Start on your hands and knees with your feet and knees hip-width apart, and hands shoulder-width apart. Pressing hands down, lift your knees off the floor and straighten your legs. Walk your hands forward and your feet back a few inches. Press your heels toward the floor, though it's OK if they don't touch the floor. Relax your head and neck, setting your gaze between your feet. Breathe deeply. Hold for three minutes, rest, and repeat one more time.
3. Crescent Lunge
Loosens tight hips by stretching the groin; strengthens arms and legs
Start on your hands and knees, and step your right foot forward between your hands, keeping the right knee above the heel. Inhale as you slowly lift your left (back) knee off the floor. Straighten your back leg, keeping your spine long. Hold and breathe, then repeat on other side. Do each side twice.
Stretches chest, neck, spine, and hips
Lie on your back, bend your knees, and place your feet flat on the ground, close enough to your hands that your fingers can touch your heels. Arms should be alongside your body, palms down. Inhale and lift your hips off the ground, pressing them toward the ceiling. Hold for 45 seconds and with each breath, let your hips float a little higher. Exhale when you lower your hips. Repeat three times.
Who knows—you might impress a lady friend in the process of getting stronger.
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