Yoga for men — 5 asanas to increase stamina and flexibility

The idea of having a better-looking body is not just restricted to women. These days even men spend hours in the gym sculpting their body. However, men are usually skeptical about doing yoga as there is a preconceived notion that yoga won’t help them build muscles. The fact is yoga is not an alternative for gym, but an add-on that has many long-term benefits. In fact, yoga asanas prepare the body for workouts in the gym by making you more flexible and increasing your stamina. It creates a muscular balance in the body and helps reduce stress. Practising yoga will help you improve your posture that gets disturbed through sitting on a desk and staring at a computer screen for long hours.

Below are five basic postures listed by yoga expert Sunaina Rekhi that will provide with the foundation of flexibility and strength that every man needs.

Ardha matsyendrasana or half spinal twist

Most asanas bend the spinal column either backward or forward. In order to make it truly flexible, it must be twisted laterally as well. This asana helps improve the elasticity of the spine. The movement also tones the spinal nerves and ligaments.

Steps:

• Kneel down with your legs together, resting on your heels.
• Then sit to the right of your feet.
• Lift your left leg over your right, placing the foot against the outside of the right knee. Bring your right heel close to your buttocks. Keep the spine erect.
• Stretch your arms out to the sides at shoulder level and twist around to your left.
• Now bring the right arm down on the outside of the left knee and hold the left foot in the right hand, placing your left hand on the floor behind you. Exhaling, twist as far as possible to the left. Look over the left shoulder and hold for thirty seconds.
• Repeat the sequence twisting to the right.

Dhanurasana or bow pose

This pose raises both halves of the body at once. It tones your back muscles and maintains the elasticity of the spine, improving posture and vitality. Balancing the weight of the body on your abdomen reduces abdominal fat that is a problem for most men.

Steps:

• Lie down on your front with the head down. Inhale and bend your knees up. Then reach back with your hands and clasp your ankles. Then exhale.
• Inhaling, raise your head and chest, and simultaneously, pull your ankles up, lifting the knees and thighs off the floor. Arch backward and look up. Take three deep breaths in this pose, and then exhale and release it.

Bhujangasana or cobra pose

The spine receives a powerful backward stretch in the pose. The lower back, which doesn’t get worked out in the gym is engaged in this asana.

Steps:

• Lie down with your legs together and your hands under your shoulders. Rest your forehead on the floor.
• Inhaling, bring your head up. Now, lift up your hands and use the back muscles to raise your chest as high as possible. Hold for five breaths. Exhale and come down slowly.

Paschimotanasana or the forward bend

The back of the body is stretched from the heels to the top of the spine. Practising this asana helps reduce tightness in the hips and hamstrings which are a problem area for men.

Steps:

• From a lying position, with your arms straight out behind you, inhale and come up to a sitting position. Flex your feet and pull the flesh of your buttocks out from underneath you, so that you are sitting directly on the pelvic bone. Stretch your arms above your head lengthening the spine.
• Pulling the abdomen in; exhale and fold forward from the pelvis keeping the back straight. Bring your chin toward your shins and your chest toward your thighs.
• Continue right down and hold on to whichever part of your legs or feet you can comfortably reach. With every exhalation, keep going deeper into the pose.

Halasana or plough pose

This pose gives flexibility to the spine and neck and strengthens the back, shoulder, and arm muscles in men. It promotes healthy thyroid and prostate gland function.

Steps:

• Lie down on your back, with your legs together and your palms down by your sides. Inhale and raise your legs up. Exhale, then inhale and bring your hips up off the floor.
• Support your back with your hands, keeping your elbows as close to one another as possible. Then, without bending your knees, exhale and bring your legs down behind your head. If you cannot yet touch the floor with your feet, remain breathing deeply in this position.
• If your feet comfortably reach the floor, keep your toes curled under and push your torso up. Stretch your arms out behind your back with the hands flat on the floor. Breathe slowly and deeply and stay in the pose for a minute.

Yoga routine

Practise each of these asanas 4-5 times a week to improve your strength and flexibility. Hold each pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute while keeping your breathing smooth throughout.