Mega stars do it. Pro-ball players do it. The NFL made a video about it on it.

What is it? Yoga. It’s a great whole body workout for both men and women

If you want to stay fit, flexible and have a sense of peace, you might want to add yoga to your workout, too.

Once thought of as a woman’s exercise, Yoga has made its way into many men’s fitness programs all across America. The slow, controlled movements:

  • Build muscle
  • Increase flexibility
  • Sharpen mental focus
  • Reduce stress
  • Rid the body of toxins

These reasons may be why pro athletes have adopted yoga as part of their training. The only special equipment you need to start is a yoga mat, space and 60 to 90 minutes to move through the positions. You will start to enjoy yoga’s benefits within a few sessions.

The only special equipment you need to begin is a yoga mat, space and 60 to 90 minutes to move through the positions. (To learn proper form, you may want to start under the guidance of a certified yoga instructor.) Your body’s health will benefit from the first few sessions.

#1 Yoga increases flexibility. 

Bending, stretching and balance are necessary to create yoga’s unique positions. The poses stretch and loosen the tendons, ligaments and muscles surrounding your joints. For instance, as your vertebrae and spinal joints open during a yoga workout, you gain flexibility and suppleness in your back. You may also notice a change in the joints of your upper and lower body when you’re kayaking, dancing, golfing or participating in other activities that require bending and twisting.

#2 Yoga builds and sculpts muscles.

Using your body weight, yoga’s smooth movements combined with deep breathing techniques will have you working many of the same muscles you need for leg lifts, pushups, planks and squats. Yoga also strengthens muscles missed at the gym. A yoga session not only works your muscles in a slow and sustained fashion, but it also promotes muscle growth at the cellular level.

#3 Yoga sharpens mental focus.

Whether you choose to join a yoga session in a studio or you complete a session in your living room, yoga encourages you to leave the hustle and bustle of a busy life behind. For an hour, you focus on your body movement and your breathing.

This ancient practice has been used for centuries to improve circulation, regulate breathing and develop self-awareness through conscious movement.

Though it looks easy, yoga takes physical and mental discipline. It helps many people clear their minds and improve concentration.

#4 Yoga relieves stress.
The deep rhythmic breathing required during a yoga session floods the body with oxygen as it massages internal organs. Instructors believe that exhaling for twice as long as you inhale benefits the entire body and leads to a state of relaxation.

Deep breathing also reduces the cortisol levels in your body as it activates your parasympathetic nervous system. Cortisol is the stress hormone that forces your body to hold on to belly fat and causes bone loss.

#5 Yoga cleans you up from the inside out. 

Don’t be fooled. Yoga is not for the weak-willed. As you move into and out of each position, you will work up a sweat. But, that’s a good thing. Sweat and deep breathing help rid your body of toxins.

What’s the best way to start a yoga program?

Do a little research and pick a style that appeals to you. describes 16 different yoga styles. Find one that works for your level of experience and look for a class in your area.

You also can practice yoga on your own by watching it online, reading books or watching videos. For beginners, it’s easier to find an instructor and learn the proper form for the core positions.

If you’re a guy who is interested in trying yoga, look for a men’s-only class. The coaching directions, imagery and positions should be designed with the male psyche and anatomy in mind.

Joining a live class helps you build new relationships with people who are interested in yoga and fitness. These relationships also create accountability and make it harder for you to skip your yoga sessions.

Most beginners start with the Hatha method. Another popular form is the Vinyasa style, which has moderate to advanced movements.

For a more intense experience, some people choose Bikram or hot yoga.

Created by Bikram Choudhury, a Bikram session takes the same determination and exertion as it takes to complete a circuit training and lifting workout at the gym.

The 26 Bikram positions work your body’s muscles in a specific order for maximum results. The sessions take place in a studio heated to 105 degrees with 40 percent humidity. The warm room allows the body to stretch more efficiently. It also makes you sweat to release toxins.

Men report Bikram routines help them lose weight and boost their metabolism. As a side benefit, practicing Bikram also trains people to remain calm in stressful situations. A soft skill found beneficial outside the yoga studio as well.

A quick Google search for yoga studios in your area can help you find the best class for you.

Remember: If you have a pre-existing condition, talk to your primary care provider before starting any exercise program.