“Yoga is not for me, I am not flexible”. This is probably the sentence I hear the most from male clients.
Let me first clear up the biggest misconception about yoga. Yoga is not about being flexible; it is about your state of mind while performing the poses. Yoga is training your body left and right, bottom and top and in different challenging postures while trying to keep your breath steady and calm. It is training your mind to not give in when it becomes challenging and it is training nurturing your soul because we try to deal with emotions that come on our way. By practicing this, we get to know our body, the boundaries of our body, but most of all, we get a calm mind. And that is what yoga is all about, calming the mind.
So for all these guys who feel like yoga is not for them, because they are too stiff, I’ve set up a yoga sequence especially for you. This sequence will help you get more flexible in your hip area, shoulders and lower back. You can do the postures by looking at the photos, going from left to right and down (as if you read a book). If you have any doubts about the postures, here are some basic rules and/or explanations.
Basic rules for yoga for stiff guys
- Make long, deep and controlled breaths through your nose. Focus on your breath going in and out while being in a posture. Try to make your exhale slightly longer then your inhale. Stay in a pose for at least 3 cycles of inhales and exhales.
- Let your breath initiate a movement. Inhale is a movement upwards, exhale is a movement downwards or a twist.
- Work both sides of your body. Do every posture on the right side and then switch to the left.
- While you’re in a standing pose always check your front knee. When one is bent, it makes a 90 degree angle with your ankle, however, it should never go over your ankle.
- There is NO pose in yoga where we have our shoulders close to our ears. So when you are settled in a pose, always pay attention to your shoulders. Roll them backwards and down.
If you need some guidance for the poses, below you can find the main adjustments per picture
- Picture 1: If you sit down make sure your knees are not higher than your hips, that will become very uncomfortable quickly. Preferably, use a block, blanket or pillow to sit on. Make sure your back is straight and your shoulders are low. Breathe in deeply to your belly and breathe out slowly.
If you want to know more about meditation, read this blog entry
- Picture 2: Mountain pose: Use a block between your legs to make sure your legs are active. If you don’t have a block, pull up your toes, which will have a similar effect. Roll your shoulders back and down and contract your abdominal muscles, feel both your feet on the mat, your weight is equally divided over both feet. Stand firm.
- Picture 3: Standing forward bend pose. Hang forward with your knees slightly bent while holding your elbows. Feel how, due to your head hanging down, the vertebrae’s in your neck are getting some space. Stay in this pose for at least 5 cycles of inhales and exhales.
- Picture 4: Plank pose, so make it look like you are a straight plank. Have your hips aligned with your body, so not high in the air or close to the ground. Shoulders are 90 degrees over your wrists. Contract your abdominal muscles. Try to stay here for 5 cycles of breath.
- Picture 5: Cobra pose. When you come on the mat, first lay down your whole body. Place your hands next to your chest and with an inhale you press yourself up. Arms are still slightly bent.
- Picture 6: Locust pose. Start by having your whole body on the mat. Bring your arms back. On the inhale take both your arms and legs up. If this is too much to begin with, then start with only taking your chest of the mat. Second time only the legs. And third time both the chest (arms) and the legs.
- Picture 7 & 8: Catpose. Come to your hands and knees. Knees in a 90 degrees angle with your hips, shoulders with the wrists. Inhale, look up and arch your spine. Exhale, look down and round your spine. Do this with a minimum of 5 times.
- Picture 9 and 10: Thread and needle pose. With an inhale take one arm up, look towards it and then bring it through the hole of your knee and hand. Shoulder and ear to the ground. Try to keep your hips aligned.
- Picture 11: Warrior 1 pose. Come to the front of your mat, standing. Step backwards with one leg. Knee is 90 degree over your ankle, hips point forward, arms are up, shoulders are down.
- Picture 12: Warrior 2 pose. Turn your back foot to a 45 degree angle. Open your hips towards the side. Roll your shoulders down and back. Look over your front hand.
- Picture 13: Side angle pose. Both feet are pointing straight forward. Place your hands under your face. Inhale, lengthen your spine, exhale fold forward. Stay here with a minimum of 5 cycles of breath.
- Picture 14: Tree pose. Put all the weight on one leg. Place the other one in your thigh or on your lower leg. Never on the knee!! Focus on a point in front of you and don’t let it go. Stand up tall. Hands in prayer in front of your chest. Minimum of 5 cycles of breath.
- Picture 15: Sit on your knees. Have them hip-distance apart. Take one leg to the side. Place your arm of the bend knee onto the mat, other arm over head. Feel the side stretch of your body.
- Picture 16: Bridge pose. Lay down on your back, knees are up, feet are hips distance apart. Measure the size of your legs by bringing your arms next to your body and try to touch your heel with the tip of your middle finger. Then interlace your fingers behind your back. Push your hips up as far as you can, roll your shoulders together. Breathe into your chest.
- Picture 17: The crow pose. Bend your knees and come as far down with your hips as possible (butt not touching the floor). Place your hands on the mat, open your fingers as wide as you can. Bring your knee in your arm pits or on the outside of your upper arm (not below the elbow). Push with your knees against your arm. Contract your abdominal muscles. Come to the tips of your toes and move your body weight forward. Try to lift one foot, then the other and then both. Balance on your arms as long as you want.
- Picture 18: Child’s pose. Sit on your heels. Take both your arms up. Bring your hands in front of you on the mat. Rest your forehead on the mat. Breathe deeply into your belly. Let your body come to a rest.