Yoga
for Men

The Body


Yoga practice consists of breathing exercises (pranayama) and Yoga postures (asanas). We will first explore the various breathing exercises; correct sitting positions and details descriptions of the positions. The benefits of each pose will be discussed. Before we begin however it is important to understand the energy centers in the body and how they relate to our mental and spiritual states.

Chakras

The word chakra is Sanskrit for (wheel) or (disk) and signifies one of the seven basic psychoenergetic centers of the body through which Prana or life energy circulates. There are certain colors associated with the chakras. 

  • Chakra One: Located at the base of the spine and related to physical identity and the basic survival instinct; associated with red, symbolizing health, security, and material prosperity
  • Chakra Two: Located in the abdomen and related to emotions and the sexual organs; associated with orange, symbolizing adaptability
  • Chakra Three: Located in the solar plexus and related to one's energy center and personal power; associated with yellow symbolizing effectiveness
  • Chakra Four: Located in the heart region and related to love; associated with green, symbolizing self-acceptance and love
  • Chakra Five: Located in the throat and related to creativity and communication; associated with blue, symbolizing self-expression
  • Chakra Six: Located between the eyebrows and related to self reflection, inner light, and wisdom; associated with indigo, symbolizing intuition
  • Chakra Seven: Located at the crown and related to higher states of consciousness; associated with white and violet, symbolizing wisdom 

Yoga helps to open the energy channels in the body and release any blocks in certain chakra regions. This is because we metabolize our experiences into our bodies and imbalances develop in specific regions. Yoga addresses the mind-body connection and alters the pattern and flow of energy throughout the system making adjustments to create balance. The most important energy channel runs from the base of the spine to the crown of the head.

Breathing 

Before you begin, it is important to understand the role breathing plays in your Yoga practice. Prana, which is the ancient Sanskrit term for breath, also means life. This is because the intelligence of the universe travels effortlessly through your physiology with every breath. The breath is a vessel that can help transport you to a calmer more focused reality. As you go along you will notice a direct relationship between the breath and each Yogic position. The appropriate inhalation or exhalation that should accompany the movement of each position will be indicated throughout the book.

In some cases your breathing will be very gentle as when you go into deep states of meditation. Other times your breathing will be very rapid and deep as in certain Kundalini positions.

Most people breath from their chest. We tend to get stressed and we hold on to our breath and tighten our abdominal muscles. For purposes of Yoga you want to relax and loosen those abdominal muscles. We will practice some deep Yoga breaths to orient us to this. All breathing should arise from deep in your belly and should come through your nose slows down your breath and stimulates the Chakra associated with energy, (Prana).

In Yoga your body moves in four different directions; forward, backward, sideways and twisting. You should exhale at the beginning of each of these positions except for the backbends, which commence with an inhalation. As you practice the breathing will occur naturally.

Try this simple exercise. Sit comfortably in a chair, close your eyes and imagine you are snorkeling in a tropical coral reef. Place one hand on you abdomen and notice how your breath flows in a long natural rhythmic motion corresponding to the ebb and flow of the tide. Now take some long deep breaths in through your nose and then gently exhale through your nose. Try this for sixty seconds or approximately thirty rounds. Afterwards sit with your eyes closed and take notice of the changing energy patterns. You may notice a calming sensation and an enhanced attentiveness and clarity.

Perhaps not much of anything has happened. With continuing practice the benefits will become more apparent

The benefits of yogic breathing are as follows:

1) Reduces tension and anxiety.
2) Strengthens the immune system.
3) Increases your metabolism.
4) It keeps the lung tissue elastic, allowing you to take in more oxygen.
5) It tones the abdominal area.
6) It can improve posture.

Movement

All movements should be slow and graceful. Hatha Yoga is really a moving meditation where each position represents a different attitude toward the universe. You are an antennae to the cosmic mind. By slowing down the movements you:

a) Can more easily attain the meditative state in a position thereby increasing the depth and intensity of the seated meditation to follow.
b) Reduce risk of injury.
c) Better control breathing.
d) Enable more muscles to share in the workload, thereby improving conditioning.

Remember it is better to bend your legs and arms in any given position than to risk injury. Over a period of time you can challenge yourself to gradually straighten out in a pose.

Generally each pose will include first bending in one direction and then bending in the opposite direction.

There are two basic postures you'll we need to master: 

Seated Postures

The primary position for meditation and many Kundalini breathing exercises is a seated posture. Many Westerners will find that their knees are a few inches higher than their hips when they sit cross-legged on the floor. I recommend that you use a pillow or thickly folded blanket to elevate the buttocks to the point where your knees drop to at least the level of your hips. Make sure that you are not sitting against a wall but your spine is straight. 

If you find that cross-legged sitting is too painful you can position yourself against a wall for support. When your legs get tired, you can extend them out in front of you. Gradually, you can build up your flexibility so you can sit through Yoga positions and meditation. For those of us with physical limitations a chair sitting posture is perfectly acceptable.

1) Use a sturdy armless chair and sit near the front edge of the seat without leaning against the back. If your legs are not perpendicular with the floor you either need to put a phone back under your feet or your buttocks.
2) Rest your hands in you lap with your palms facing up.
3) Lift your chest and balance your head over your torso so you can feel the alignment in your spine.

Easy Posture

The recommended posture for beginners is the Easy Posture. This position is a steady and easy position for both Kundalini breathing exercises and meditation.

1) Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you.
2) Cross your legs at the ankles with the left leg on top of the right leg below.
3) Now position your palms on your knees and push inward so that the right foot is underneath the left knee and the left foot is underneath the right knee.
4) Lengthen the spine by lifting the chest and balance your head over your torso so you can feel the alignment in your spine.
 

Perfect Posture (Lotus position)

A more advanced posture is sometimes referred to as the Lotus Position or the Perfect Posture. This posture is very helpful for men with prostate problems as it opens the first and second Chakra regions. The perfect posture also improves flexibility in the ankles, knees and especially the hips. It will also strengthen the back and help to deepen the meditative state of awareness. Sit on the floor with legs straight out in front of you, arms to the sides, and shake out your legs to loosen the muscles.

1) Bend your left knee and bring the heel into the groin, near the perineum. Stabilize your left ankle with your left hand.
2) Bend your right knee and slide your right heel toward the front of your left ankle.
3) Lift your right foot and position your right ankle just above your left ankle and bring your right heel into the genital area.
4) Tuck the small toe side of your right foot between your left thigh and calf.
5) Gently place your hands with your palms facing upward on your knees.
6) Lengthen your spine by lifting the chest and balancing the head over the torso so you can feel the alignment in your spine.

Inversions

Do not attempt an inversion if you have high blood pressure, hiatus hernia, glaucoma, or neck problems. In addition if you are overweight you should use your best judgment. Also caution should be used if you are balancing against a mirrored or glass surface.

An inversion is a position where the normal upright position of the body is reversed as in the headstand or handstand or shoulderstand.

Inversions are different from other Yoga postures, which are called Asanas.

Inversions are actually a Mudra in that the life energy force is retained.

These are the most powerful of all yoga postures for promoting good health in the body and strengthening the internal organs.

There are many benefits to this type of posture. It has been scientifically proven that when men or women either stand on their head or lean on their head over the edge of a bed for at least 15 seconds per day, hair growth is stimulated. The ancient Yoga masters knew this, even thousands of years ago.

By defying gravity you can reverse the effects of aging, and improve your overall health.

Lymph, which is a clear yellowish fluid that circulates throughout your body, is pulled downward by gravity during the course of a given day.

Inversions clear the lymphatic passageways and revitalize your entire body.

The positive effects of inversions on the endocrine system include:

1) Facing fears
2) Adapting a positive approach to life
3) Lucidity and creativity
4) Longevity

Before doing an inversion there are some things to consider. Due to the necks vulnerability, you should precede doing these postures with the

Opening Bell (Sun Salutation) that is described in our recommended Yoga program.

Inversions will be explained in detail in the Yoga Workout section at the

end of this chapter.

Light-headedness may occur while doing inversions so it is recommended that you start out slowly and gradually increase the time you hold your positions.

After an inversion it is recommended that you assume the Child’s Pose Posture see Start by kneeling on your hands and knees

1) Place your knees hip width, hands below your shoulders
2) As you exhale, sit back onto your heels, keeping the tops of your feet flat on the floor. Bend forward at the hips with your chest on your thighs and your forehead on the floor
3) Lay your arms on the floor besides your torso, palms up
4) Close your eyes and breath slowly and gently 

You should try to remain in all positions for at least thirty seconds. You can gradually increase the length of time you hold a pose. If you feel any pain or discomfort please discontinue immediately.

Twists

Spinal twists are very important for strengthening the spine, improving circulation and massaging internal organs. Unfortunately for people with disk problems, these exercises are not appropriate.

© 2008, Bruce Eric Van Horn

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If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health. - Hippocrates

Author, CPA, MBA and yoga instructor Bruce Van Horn founded Yoga for Business, Inc., a company devoted to organizational and individual wellness. He presents a daily Yoga Workout routine that provides a complete physical, mental and spiritual workout. He is the author of Yoga for Prostate Health and Yoga for Men, designed for all levels of experience with yoga.. He has renamed (Asanas) positions in Yoga using terms from business to help you identify with the movement and focus your attention. He is the Chair of the Advisory Board for the Center for Complimentary Medicine at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey. Bruce also leads a volunteer yoga program designed for cancer patients and healthcare workers at Beth Israel Medical Center. He lives outside New York with his wife Michelle who is a Reiki Master. Bruce has two daughters who have asked that he refrain from headstands at the town pool. His website is www.yogaforbusiness.com If you have any questions, feel free to write: E-Mail.



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