Workout 101: Guy's Guide to Vinyasa Yoga
Let's talk mind-body-spirit exercise
I don’t know why we didn’t do a Workout 101 on Vinyasa yoga sooner.
Or any type of yoga, for that matter. Because the more I look around in my yoga classes, the more I’ve realized that the few guys holding a crow pose next me are some serious yogis. Like, ALWAYS do a headstand when the teacher gives permission to “explore our headstand”-type dudes.
But what about the guys who see fitness more like I do – where the sweating is the spiritual part. For me, the focus on finishing one last rep (or asana, as the case may be) is what I love, not so much the part where they TELL you to clear your mind and exhale a bunch of times through your nose.
Thankfully, plenty of studios have popped up that get this “I’m just here for the calorie burn and muscle mass gain” versus the “I need to realign my chakras” mindset. Which is totally cool too.
Ready to stretch your way into Vinyasa yoga? Here’s what you need to know:
WHAT IT IS
“Exhale as you move deeper into down dog and remember to engage your core.”
Sound like hippie gibberish? Don’t worry, you get used to it.
In Vinyasa yoga, you flow through sequences of movements, called “postures,” knitting these moves together in a way that helps open, stretch, and restore your body from the inside out. Vinyasa is yoga’s answer to Crossfit; you’ll build muscle through long, deep poses that work multiple muscle groups simultaneously. You’ll sweat. You’ll shake. You’ll spend quality time with some serious hip openers (and if you don’t know if your hips need opening…they probably do).
This isn’t gym class stretching, folks.
The goal is to link your breath to each movement, with the intention of deepening the connection between the mind and body – and bringing a greater consciousness to how the two interact. What’s this mean for you? Just a reminder to stay in the moment and concentrate on your form and what you’re doing.
Pro tip: If you’re new, tell the teacher so they can be sure to queue you on when you should be inhaling and exhaling as you flow through each position.
You are in prime lady land at yoga class. We wonder if the lack of dude yogis (dudies?) is a fear of men’s yoga clothes – let us assure you: lad leggings are NOT necessary. Basketball shorts will totally do. Just not too loose.
If, for some weird reason, you need more encouragement to go get your sweat on with a bunch of Lululemon-clad ladies, consider this: yoga is fundamentally a solo practice (which any instructor worth his or her essential oil will remind you of multiple times during class) so don’t feel insecure about being the most novice/only guy/youngest/oldest person there. When it comes to yoga, just do you – and check that stress at the door.
Shop yoga-ready gear:
The teacher will talk you through the poses, though they don’t always stay in the front of class demo’ing the whole time. So if you’re a n00b, plan on sneaking a peek at your neighbors when you hear a move you don’t know. Especially if the teacher shows off a little – I mean, shows their knowledge – by instructing the moves all in Sanskrit. You might know Downward Facing Dog without having to take a look around, but would you know it if he or she called out adho mukha svanasana?
The good news: If you go often enough, you’ll get to know some of these names and can feel superior (which totally goes against, like, every tenet of yoga, but I still do so here we are) when you can dive right into a pose without giving a “Huh? What’s that?” peek around you first.
Don’t worry, we’ve got a few moves to get you started:
Crescent lunge to Warrior Two
Downward Facing Dog to Upward Facing Dog
Gifs by: Joel Castillo of whatdoiwear.co | shot at Nike+ 45 Grand training studio in NYC
I don’t have research on this, but it seems like guys sweat more in yoga than women. So, depending on how strenuous stretching is for you, Vinyasa yoga may be a 3-4, or-r-r-r closer to an 8-9 on the ol’ Shower-Meter.
Not a helpful answer, I know, but I’ve come out of a class fine to head right to brunch while the guy next to me is drenched head to toe.
Another factor to consider: Heated Vinyasa yoga classes are all the rage these days, with studios like Y7 and CorePower popping up around the country. This isn’t full-on Bikram hot (which is stupid-hot and not fun, in my opinion), but it’s no walk in the park, either. If you’re practicing in a room heated between 80 and 90 degrees for a heated Vinyasa yoga class, you’ll definitely want to plan on making time for a shower.
Pro tip: I haven’t been to many yoga studios with full-scale locker rooms with all the amenities, so check before you start your first sun salutation in case you have plans afterwards.
HOW HARD IS IT, REALLY
For guys? It can be pretty hard at first.
Again, no research done here, but I can qualitatively say this: men just don’t seem as bendy as women. But the benefits definitely outweigh any initial flexibility fears. Nike trainer Rachel Nicks says, “Remember that strength and flexibility are equally important to enhance your blood flow – and Vinyasa helps you work on strength, balance, and flexibility all at once.”
So don’t let a sad Happy Baby get you down. Much like Pilates, incorporating Vinyasa yoga into your normal workout routine helps you perform better back at the gym. Which is why so many athletes (like Blake Griffon, Russell Wilson, and well, all of Pete Carroll’s team) make the practice part of their regular routines.
(image via YogaWorks)
HAVE YOU TRIED VINYASA YOGA? HOW’D IT GO?
Check out every workout in our Workout 101 series