Hey dudes, this Downdog is for you!
OK, I know what you’re thinking–doing yoga is strictly a chick thing, but give me a minute and I’ll explain to you why that’s a lie. Regardless of gender, none of us are immune to the daily stresses of life, which can lead to anxiety, depression, and illnesses if not handled properly.
Let’s talk about Yoga. This ancient practice connects the body, mind and spirit to help relieve stress and tension. It has also been noted to lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate. So how does it work? Well, for starters, yoga helps calm the body and mind by encouraging you to turn your attention inward and focus on your breathing. Sure, this may sound a little hokey at first, but once you experience the aftermath of class (i.e. post-yoga bliss), you’ll be namaste-ing every chance you get.
Of course, there are the physical benefits too. I know, I know… you already workout, lift weights, run, bike, swim, etc. but you may be surprised to find that stretching can actually help strengthen your body.
“Yoga poses work by stretching your muscles. They can help you move better and feel less stiff or tired,” according to WebMD. (http://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/the-health-benefits-of-yoga#2). The site noted that one study found people improved their flexibility by up to 35 percent after only eight weeks of yoga. Nothing wrong with a little more mobility!
There are also many different styles of yoga, so if a regular hatha yoga class doesn’t seem to strike your fancy, I challenge you to give Ashtanga, Power, Bikram or Hot Yoga a try. These practices are all very physical and will help you to improve strength, flexibility and muscle tone, in addition to relieving stress, tension and anxiety.
“Many of the poses, such as downward dog, upward dog and plank pose build upper-body strength,” according to WebMD. (http://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/the-health-benefits-of-yoga#2) “The standing poses, especially if you hold them for several long breaths, build strength in your hamstrings, quadriceps, and abs. When done right, nearly all poses build core strength in the deep abdominal muscles.”
Still not convinced? I’ve got one final argument to get you over the fence…
Girls dig guys who do yoga. Yep, it’s true — we really do! Now, I’m not saying to attend class solely for the women, but a little yoga date may just help you score some extra brownie points with your girlfriend. Not only has the practice been proven to strengthen muscles, but it’s also known to strengthen relationships.
Ready to give it a try? Here are 8 yoga poses specifically geared towards you guys!
Benefits: Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches of the feet and hands. Strengthens and tones the arms and legs.
Beginning in mountain pose (standing position), reach your hands down to the floor, bending your knees if need be. Walk your hands out about three to four feet in front of your toes. Pushing into your palms, lift your hips up toward the sky and press back into your heels, trying to get them flat on the ground (keep a slight bend in your knees to help your heels get closer to the ground). Keep your gaze toward your legs and continue pressing your chest toward your thighs to create a nice flat back.
Benefits: Strengthens thighs, calves, ankles and spine. Stretches the groin, inner thighs, chest and shoulders.
Starting in mountain pose, interlace your fingers around your right knee as you pull it in towards your chest. From here, grab a hold of your ankle and rest the inside of your foot along the inside of your standing leg, either up above the knee on the thigh, or down below the knee along your calf. Bring your hands to a prayer position at your heart or raise them up towards the sky, creating branches with your arms.
Note: Make sure to avoid resting your foot directly on your kneecap as this can lead to injuries.
Benefits: Strengthens ankles, thighs, calves and spine. Stretches shoulders and chest.
Begin standing straight, feet hip-width apart. While keeping your weight centered on your heels, engage your abdomen as you hinge forward at the waist, lowering your bottom backwards and towards the ground as if you were about to sit down in a chair. From here, extend your arms up towards the sky and hold for four to six breaths.
Benefits: Stretches the groins. Strengthens the legs and arms.
From a standing forward fold, bend your knees and as you inhale, step one foot back towards the back edge of your mat, pressing firmly into the front foot as you keep your front knee bent. Make sure you’re extending your back leg as straight as possible while remaining on the ball on your back foot. You can also choose to lower your back knee to the ground if that feels better on your body. From here, you can choose to keep both hands on the ground, framing your front foot or extend both hands up overheard, reaching through the fingertips towards the sky.
Standing Forward Bend
Benefits: Stretches hamstrings, calves, and hips. Strengthens thighs and knees
Stand with feet together or about hip-width apart. Keeping a slight bend in your knees, begin to hinge forward, letting your head and body weight take over as you lower your fingers/hands down toward the ground. Keeping the quads engaged and hips centered over the knees, begin to straighten the legs (making sure not to lock out your knees) as much as possible. Hold here as you take six to eight slow, deep breaths.
Pose benefits: Strengthens arms, inner thighs and abdomen
Come into a squat position with your feet about as wide as your mat, toes facing out to the sides. Plant your palms on the ground under your shoulders. Bend your arms slightly, keeping your elbows pointing towards the back and squeeze your knees firmly around your elbows or upper arms. Rock your weight forward into your hands, coming up high on your toes. Lift your feet off the ground, trying to connect the big toes and bring your feet in towards your bottom.
Benefits: Strengthens abdomen, back, neck, quadriceps and hamstrings.
Sit down on your mat with your knees close to your chest, feet planted on the floor. Keeping your body close to vertical, hold behind your knees and lift your feet, bringing your shins parallel to the ground. Keep your hands on the backs of your thighs or release them, stretching the arms forward. For an extra challenge, try straightening your legs and raising your arms up towards the sky.
Benefits: Strengthens the entire backside, including upper back, glutes and hamstrings.
Lying flat on your back, arms by your sides, bend your knees and plant your feet on the floor, bringing your heels as close to your bottom as you can. With your palms pressing into the floor, lift your hips off the ground and up towards the sky. Hold here for 4 to 8 breaths, continuing to push through the feet and lifting the hips as high as you can. You can also choose to roll your shoulder blades underneath you, clasping your hands together to form a fist. When releasing, gently release your hands and slowly roll your spine back down to the floor, one vertebra at a time.
Maggie Giuffrida, #FableticsMaster