Forget my toes. I’d settle for being able to touch the top of my shins
Presuming that you’re a guy, and you haven’t taken an interest in yoga because you’re hoping it will teach you to spit flames and extend your limbs 20 feet outward in time for the next World Warrior Tournament hosted by Shadaloo, your preoccupation with yoga is likely connected with its undeniable flexibility benefits. After all, men are naturally less flexible than women on average, and if the eyeball test hasn’t provided you with enough evidence of this fact, there are more than enough studies that affirm this finding as well.
Listen, you can stop right there: I get it. I’m very much an inflexible guy who can’t even touch his toes. Are there specific yoga poses that can help me with just that?
Sure. In fact, you can probably select beneficial yoga poses that will barely register in your brain that you’re doing yoga. The Child’s Pose is a basic and calming pose that will enable you to loosen the muscles in your lower back and hips. It can be done from a very relaxed position on the floor, and it doesn’t require any superhuman flexibility.
Similarly, the Hero Pose can be done while resting comfortably on your knees. It allows you to sit upright and stretch the muscles in your quadriceps and ankles. You can then transition to another variation of a seated position and do the Cobbler’s Pose, which stretches out your inner thighs and groin area.
That’s cool, but what can I do from a standing position?
The Forward Fold is an excellent way to stretch your hamstrings and your calves. For most guys, this will approximate the best possible outcome of the standard toe-touching routine you hated doing during gym class in high school. If you can’t fully execute the Forward Fold and need to gradually work your way toward it, the Half Forward Fold is an entirely acceptable substitute that will provide you with an adequate stretch of the lower body, and will help to relieve compression of the spine as well.
Another beneficial standing position that you can execute while your feet are shoulder-width apart is the Chair Pose. While this position requires stabilizing work of your lower extremities, it doubles as a stretch for your chest and shoulders. From there, if you extend your foot out in front of your body, you can do both of the Warrior poses, back to back. Warrior One stretches the quadriceps, hamstrings, hips, chest and shoulder muscles, and Warrior Two further stretches the shoulders while placing greater emphasis on stretching the hip adductors.
This is great. Where do I go from there?
If you’re willing to hit the ground in a non-seated position, you can nicely round out this list of undemanding, yet helpful yoga poses. Downward Facing Dog has had plenty of fun poked at its name and positioning, so there’s no need to revisit any of that here. But what should matter to you is how this pose further stretches out your shoulders, hamstrings and calves. Immediately thereafter, feel free to drop to your hands and knees and execute the Cat-Cow Pose, which is a relaxing stretch for your spine and shoulders. Finally, you can finish off on your back by rolling over to initiate the Bridge Pose, which stretches the chest, neck and hip flexors.
I know what the yoga-educated amongst you are thinking: This is a trash yoga sequence that makes no sense whatsoever for programming a yoga routine. Touché. I’m not a yogi. But I am the rare male who can touch his toes.