Yoga
for Men

Daily Yoga Workout


In this column I provide a recommended daily Yoga Workout routine that provides you with a complete physical workout. I have renamed (Asanas) positions in Yoga using terms from business to help you identify with the movement and focus your attention. The corresponding Yogic terminology is also given along with physiological benefits of the Asanas.

It is recommended that Hatha Yoga be practiced on an empty stomach.

Opening Bell” or Sun Salutation

Approx. time: 5-10 min. (At least 30 seconds in each position if possible)
Benefit: Energizing the body after rest, improving circulation

Keep knees a little soft. Be sure the buttocks are contracted slightly, spinal column long and the head, neck and shoulders are completely relaxed.

a) Standing with eyes closed feet about five inches apart, begin to feel the breath flowing gently into the lungs and imagine the breath filling the belly, ribs and chest with fresh air. Take a moment to dedicate this practice as a time for yourself as you bring hands together and lift them towards the heavens. Think to yourself, "I hold my ground while flexible to change. Today I will stretch my body, mind and creativity." 

b) As you reach an apex, allow the arms to separate and rotate externally, stretching the spinal column and lifting the sternum. Make sure to soften the shoulders away from the ears as you exhale.

c) Reach Upward and lean back slightly to stretch. Then on the exhalation begin to hinge forward from the hips to slowly allow the torso to fall forward and let the hands fall toward the feet. Simply surrender to gravity and release. Keep breathing deeply. Take notice of any areas of resistance. Direct the breath into these areas. 

Modification: If legs are tight or if you are experiencing lower back pain, bend the knees during forward bending. 

d) As you exhale place your hands by the sides of your feet and soften knees if needed.

e) Inhale, step the right leg backwards and rest the knee and shin on the floor. Allow the hand and right knee to keep the balance. Release the pelvis to forward and down to help gravity extend the stretch and open the groin. Relax the jaw, relax the face. Keep the left foot and both hands connected firmly to the earth, breathe smoothly.

f) Exhale, step the left leg backward to push up position while supporting bodyweight of the torso with your hands. Press out thru the heels and engage abdominal muscles so not to sway the back. If your arms give out then bring the knees to the floor for support.

g) Inhale and then exhale. Press the hips up towards the position called Downward Facing Dog. Push the buttocks toward the rear wall and lengthen the spine by dropping the chest toward the knees keeping the hands firmly rooted down. Try to press your toward the floor and lift the buttocks toward the sky.

If you are having trouble getting heels to the floor that is natural as it takes time to get the hamstrings to loosen and elongate. 

h) Inhale then exhale back into a push-up position. 

i) Inhale, begin to feel the pressure on the hands as you slide chest along the floor raising the upper torso off the floor and arching back pressing the chest forward, while keeping the pelvis connected to floor to hold and open the sacrum plate. Lower the shoulders away from the neck. Legs are outstretched and tops of feet are connected to the floor. Keep belly button and lower abdomen connected to the ground. Keep the chest open. Push the floor away from you as you draw elbows further back. Shoulders are down, scapula is back, and chest is lifted. Like a cobra open your heart center, and open the throat.

j) Inhale then turn feet so you are back on toes, exhale back into a push up position.

k) Step the right leg forward this time keeping the left knee off ground. Right foot is planted firmly on ground left leg extended out bodyweight on toes. My hands and feet support my body. Allow the pelvis to lunge forward and down naturally release into gravity. Breath deeply, to open the groin. Relax the jaw, relax the face, and keep both feet connected to the earth and breath smoothly.

l) Step the left leg forward to a bent over stretch. Lean forward. Keep the knees very slightly soft. Turn the under part of the sitting bones back up to the ceiling. Let the spine elongate and allow the neck to be soft, the face relaxed. Surrender to earth and gravity. Engage the abdominal muscles, straighten back and slowly let the body rise to greet a new day.

Begin to reach upwards toward the heavens and bring hands to sides. Repeat the above steps (a - l) on the opposite side by reversing the left-right positions.

Maximize Resources (Kapalabhati) Pranayama

Time: 30-60 seconds.
Benefit: Increased mental alertness, emotional balance, improved digestion, developing abdominal muscles.

Sit with legs crossed in the Easy Posture. (If you find that you are stiff and your hips are not rotating and your knees are high in the sitting posture, I suggest that you take 2-3 pillows and elevate the buttocks. You can also place pillows under your knees. You can place back against a wall to ensure that the spine is erect. If your not sitting against a wall, make sure that the spine is elongated. All the work, is being done from the lower belly, the diaphragm is soft.

You may want to start by putting your hand on your belly to learn the art of breathing deeply from the abdomen. I suggest starting off by gently breathing in slow motion, lengthening the inhalation and exhalation each time. Then increase the speed with the focus being forcing the air out of the nostrils in short forced breaths. The inhalation will occur naturally but the focus will be on the exhalation.

As you get more comfortable with the exercise begin to engage the sphincter muscle tightening on the exhalation

During the entire breathing process the face shoulders and chest are relaxed. Begin to force air out of your lungs in short quick motions.

Continue this for at least 60 seconds.

If you find yourself getting dizzy, exhale into your hand and relax for a few minutes. This pose is called “maximizing resources” because you are filling your body with increased oxygen, a resource you may not have been using to its full and necessary extent. This exercise will clear sinus passages and bring more oxygen to the brain, stimulating brain cells. You are strengthening the abdominal muscles and massaging internal organs. This exercise known as Kapalabhati will increase mental alertness and energize the system.

Strategic Alignment.

2 minutes. Alternate Leg Stretch.
Time: 30-60 seconds
Benefit: Strengthening and increasing flexibility in spine, improving circulation, alleviating constipation, energizing lymphatic system. 

Extend your legs in front of you leaving about one foot of space in between them. Sit firmly and evenly on your sitting bones. Bend the right knee and bring the bottom of the right foot in to touch the inside of the left thigh. For those tight in the hips, the bent knee will be quite a distance from the ground, so I suggest you use pillows to balance your sitting bones.

Use your arms to stretch upward first and then twist slightly forward over the extended right leg. Be watchful that the center of your chest is aligned directly over the center of the outstretched leg. Feel a twist through the left hip. As you stretch over the bent right leg, drive the left buttock back to the ground and breathe into the position. With each exhalation, surrender into a deeper stretch allowing the breath to bring you deeper and deeper to your absolute maximum in the posture.

On the opposite side of the leg stretch, the left knee is bent and left foot is placed along the inside of the right thigh. Prepare for the position by lifting up through the spine and visualize the spine as an accordion. First open the accordion by stretching upward then I slightly twist to the left and attempt to center over the knee then bend forward.

The keys to this pose are:

1st – stretch upward
2nd – twist slightly
3rd – extend and center 

Downsizing the Middle

Sit Ups and Scissors
Time: 30-60 seconds for each
Benefit: Improved breathing and abdominal strengthening

Breathing exercises support movement an abdominal exercise can be used as a backdrop for learning how to breathe. Two benefits will occur. First you will become less focused on the quantity of repetitions and more focused on the breath. This allows you to do more. For anyone whose abdominal muscles are weak make sure that the lumbar spine, (the lower back) is flush with the floor. Be certain your hands are interlaced behind the head, and that the hands support the head, not the neck, to protect the cervical spine. For those in not very good shape it's recommended that they place one leg down on the floor and do individual leg lifts to begin with. Once you feel more confident you can move onto the next step.

Pedaling: Lay on your back on the floor. With hands behind your head for support raise your right elbow and your left knee. Attempt to bring them together on the exhalation. Lower slowly on the inhalation and repeat on the opposite side. Continue with the breath and continue to build up to 60 seconds in duration.

Scissors: Lay flat on your back on the floor. With hands at your sides attempt to raise your feet about six inches off the ground. Cross your legs right over left on the exhalation and left over right on the inhalation.

Continue with the breath and continue to build up to 60 seconds.

Firm Footing in a Changing Marketplace

Warrior Pose/Tree Pose
Time: 30-60 seconds on each leg
Benefits: Balancing left and right brain functioning, mental stability, overcoming addictions, depressions, etc., strengthening legs, hips and feet.

Like an Olympic diver, about to make a jump, keep your eyes unfocused and go within. Stand on your left leg and spread your toes as wide as possible to make as much contact with the floor as you can. Visualize the foot as a snowshoe attempting to balance on one foot. Extend the right leg back slowly and point the toe. As your torso begins to fold forward, raise your arms alongside the ears keeping your fingers together and extended projecting the energy field outward. You will feel like a strip of energy extending from the tips of your fingers through your body to the feet pulling and strengthening your lumbar. Align your hips so they are even. Your gaze should be forward and shortly down. The gaze should be steady and will help your body manifest steadiness. The left leg should act like a tall strong tree. Arms are like branches. Remember that nothing can shake you from the foundation of your inner strength and source of power. Hold this position if you can for 30 seconds. When you come out slowly lower the right leg, hands together at heart. Bring yourself to a vertical prayer position for 30 seconds of deep relaxing breath. Standing tall with hands together at prayer position. Repeat on the other side.

Tree Pose

Stand in an upright position. Inhale, raise your arms and stretch upward. Lift the right foot off the ground. If comfortable with balance bend right knee and raise it toward your chest and support the left leg by placing the right foot against the inside of the left thigh. Hold the position and then repeat on the other side. If you feel less secure, practice this exercise near a wall or a piece of furniture that you can use for support. In the beginning you may just want to practice balancing on one foot with your other foot just slightly off the floor until your balance has improved. Build to sixty seconds on each leg. 

The following position is very advanced and should not be attempted if there are any medical issues.

Change From the Top Down

Headstand Pose
Time: 30-60 seconds
Benefits: Tonifying the vital organs, stimulating the endocrine gland, reducing male pattern baldness, reversing the aging process, total upper body conditioning, abdominal conditioning, building strength and elasticity in the superficial and deep musculature, ligaments and connective tissue of the spine and rib cage. Improve posture and overall structural integrity of the body promoting improved digestion, respiration and circulation.

Assume child’s pose on the floor preferably in front of a wall, which can support you if you fall backwards. Make sure there is ample padding by using a mat, some pillows or a blanket folded up. Clasp your hands behind your head and make sure your fingers are interlaced around the back of the head. Elbows should be shoulder width apart. Gently place your head down on the floor. Gently walk in. Slowly lift up into the headstand, attempting to keep lifting, bringing the energy up so you're not collapsed into the position. Supporting your weight with your shoulders feel the blood circulating through your brain cells, stimulating, restoring, reversing aging, oxygenating upper portions of your body, releasing pressure on the lower organs, releasing pressure on the legs, clearing the veins and redirecting the flow of lymph. Hold pose for 30-60 seconds, or as long as possible and gently lower feet back down to floor.

Modification/Alternative: Follow the procedure as outlined above walking the legs in but not lifting up to a headstand, just raise the right then the left leg up. Beginners shouldn't focus on raising legs up. Focus should be on getting comfortable in pose and strengthening arms.

Camel Pose: Bending Over Backward to Support Your Customers

Time: 30-60 seconds
Benefits: Stretch the abdominal organs, relieving visceral compression; gently massaging the kidney adrenal area, stimulating and improving functioning, stretching the neck and throat thereby massaging the thyriod and thymus glands, Strengthening the musculature of the torsos, shoulder, and pelvic girdles and the legs.

On knees, (with toes curled under and heel elevated for beginners) slowly bend torso and head backward while pushing chest forward; your hands are supporting weight by holding your feet at bottom of soles. Thighs rotate in while your hips press forward. Your sternum should be lifted high to avoid compression in your neck. As you reach further back for the heels or soles of feet, draw your scapulas together very tightly and keep your shoulders down On the inhalation, extend your chest upward and forward feeling the rib cage opening and making space for the energy of the heart chakra.

Extend the pelvis forward; so the focus is not bending back, it’s extending forward. Bending back is incidental to this position. When you are ready you can come out of position by gently releasing hands on feet and leading your head then upper body forward and down into child's pose for a brief rest.

An easier variation of this exercise is to use a chair or bed and positioned behind you, which you can use to create an arch without having to fully extend over and back. In this way you can build us strength to enable you to eventually achieve the position.

Deflating Bloated Bureaucracy: Ashivini Mudra/Mula Bandha

Time to Complete: 30-60 seconds
Benefits: Emotional balancing, clarity of mental processes, improved digestion and burning of food and calories, improved sexual performance, stamina and heightened orgasm.

Get down on your hands and knees to practice this breathing/pelvic stimulation exercise. It is helpful to imagine a square block between your arms and thighs so that the arms and thighs are perpendicular to the floor and ceiling. On the inhalation, my chest presses forward and the pelvis arcs back. On the exhalation my chest concaves and the pelvis tilts forward. At that point, engage and lift the anus and prostate muscles. The alternating motion looks like arching waves. This exercise sends blood to the kidneys.

Remember to be gentle with your neck. Continue for 60 seconds, 4 seconds of inhalation to eight seconds of exhalation if possible.

These exercises are extremely valuable for men who have had prostate problems, and for increasing your sexual energy.

Bridging Corporate Cultures: Wheel Pose

This position is an advanced position and should not be attempted if there are any medical conditions.
Time: 30-60 seconds
Benefits: Stretch the abdominal organs, relieving visceral compression; gently massaging the kidney adrenal area, stimulating and improving functioning, stretching the neck and throat thereby massaging the thyroid and thymus glands, Strengthening the musculature of the torsos, shoulder, and pelvic girdles and the legs.

Lay flat on your back and move your hips upward. Push the torso by lifting body weight onto the arms and pushing forward toward the direction of the gaze. Feel the strengthening in your arms. Lift as high and as forward as the chest will allow. As you slowly lower down, attempt to lift your head and tuck in your chin so that the back of your head is cradled against the floor. In a full back bend the interior of the spinal column has stimulated all of the nerve passages. After you come back to a resting pose, flat on back, draw the knee into the chest as a counter pose so these very areas of the spinal cord are now stretching in the opposite direction.

Caution: Do not move neck while in this position.

Alternative Bridge for Beginners: Laying flat on your back, stretch out your arms besides your body, palms downward facing. Use the arms as leverage and begin to raise the torso off the ground with your legs only. Use the gluteus muscles in the thighs to support the weight.

Redeploying Assets: Forward Stretch

Time: 30-60 Seconds
Benefits: Strengthening and increasing flexibility in spine, improving circulation, alleviating constipation, energizing lymphatic system.

Sit upright on your sitting bones with your legs stretched out in front of you. Extend forward with your arms reaching for your toes and exhale into the extension opening the sinews of your sciatic nerve. This pose releases lumbar tissues and stretches the supporting spinal muscles. It also works the back of your solar plexus, center to the back of your second chakra.

Exhale deeply attempting to deepen the position and direct the energy between your eyebrows. Direct your energy into the areas that resist the most. Feel your tension dissolving with the position as you surrender to gravity. When you are ready release and come up slowly and raises and shake out your legs to jump start circulation.

Note: Beginners should use support underneath the buttocks such as a pillow or folded blanket. Also caution should be taken if you are experiencing any lower back pain or a herniated disc.

Timing Acquisitions: Breathing Arches

Time: 30-60 seconds
Benefits: Increased mental alertness, emotional balance, improved digestion, developing abdominal muscles

Begin in a seated position that is most comfortable to you. With hands using the shins as levers start flexing the spine in a back and forth motion taking inhalations on the forward and exhalations on the reverse. This cleanses the breath and clears the mind. As you reach back and forth round out an arch. With each breath stay focused on keeping your shoulders down and away from the ears. With each inhalation extend your chest even higher and fuller, drawing the scapulas deeper down into the back and together.

Then just relax in seated position.
 

Global Vision: Spinal Twist

Time: 30-60 seconds on each side
Benefits: Improving strength and elasticity of spinal column, stimulating respiratory organs and functioning, massaging liver, kidneys, adrenals, gallbladder, pancreas, spleen. Compressing and stretching the intestines stimulating the absorption, digestion and elimination functions, restoring balance, increase strength in upper body shoulder and pelvic girdle area.

Begin by sitting in an Easy Posture. Take your left leg and place it over the right leg. Bend by twisting your torso to left. The left hand should be behind your back providing additional support. The right hand serves as a lever helping you to twist to full capacity. Continue to stretch and push at the hips twisting, not grinding.

Attempt to keep your sitting bones down evenly on the floor. Try to resist the temptation to lift one side of your buttocks off the floor to give a better stretch. This will throw your spine out of alignment. Also try not to lean on the hand on the floor too much. Remember that the spine is an accordion, which must be extended first. Twisting on a collapsed spine is simply grinding. Create space between each vertebrae and disc and then twist slowly. The emphasis is on vertically extending the spine to facilitate the twisting. During the exhalation, attempt to twist a little further. Slowly come out of the position by reversing the twist and coming to seated position. Repeat on the other side.

Caution: This is an advanced position and should only be attempted by individuals who are very athletic and have a lot of upper body strength. Anyone with any neck problems should consult their Physician before attempting this exercise. In addition do not attempt to move the neck while in this position.

Shouldering Responsibility:Handstand/Shoulderstand

Time: 15-30 seconds
Benefits: Tonifying the vital organs, stimulating the endocrine gland, reducing male pattern baldness, reversing the aging process, total upper body conditioning, abdominal conditioning, building strength and elasticity in the superficial and deep musculature, ligaments and connective tissue of the spine and rib cage. Improve posture and overall structural integrity of the body promoting improved digestion, respiration and circulation.

Bend over next to a wall and put your weight onto your hands and arms. Gently kick each leg upward into a handstand pose allowing the wall to stop you at a vertical position. Your hands are spread and your feet are straight. Once you’re against the wall, and your heels are touching, it will take the pressure off the lumbar spine. Flex your feet a little pushing the heels up as if to reach the ceiling. This lifts the lumbar sacrum area.

When you are ready slowly lower legs onto floor and be seated in an Easy Posture. 

Alternative shoulder-stand for beginners: Position yourself on your mat with buttocks against a wall. Place two or three folded blankets beneath your buttocks. Raise hips and support weight with your hands. Position your legs against the wall for balance. After about a month or so you may be able to straighten legs without using the wall. Finally after several months you can lengthen the position by lifting more fully into a full-shoulder stand.

© 2007, 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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