You won't find Maroon 5 front man Adam Levine in a weightlifting class or at the gym. The Emmy Award-winning judge on The Voice, People magazine "Sexiest Man Alive" cover model, and new dad works his mojo - and his pecs, abs and biceps - on the mat. The yoga mat.
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Levine is a committed yogi who turned to the ancient practice when more traditional fitness workouts left him too bulked up, and his constant touring left him edgy and exhausted. He didn't like bulging muscles and a thickened neck, and he needed a way to stay centered in his high-octane, very public life on the road. Classic strength training workouts did nothing to relieve his aching lower back or tight hips and hamstrings. Enter downward facing dog, big toe pose, and revolved triangle.
Levine learned calming and energizing yoga breathing techniques and, eventually, meditation. Somewhere between the sirsasana (headstand) and the sarvasana (corpse pose), he discovered nirvana. Now, when Maroon 5 is on tour, there's always a dedicated yoga room backstage where Levine spends a focused hour in a customized yoga practice, often with a coach, to get physically and mentally ready for the performance.
The sequences developed for Adam Levine by his personal yoga coaches range from the relaxing to the reinvigorating. He does a classic Ashtanga routine, a fast-paced, often aerobic series of poses that begins with salutes to the sun and rips through eight increasingly challenging series of postures that boost flexibility, strength, and endurance. The Ashtanga Primary Series consists of 41 poses, performed in sequence along with ujjayi breathing -- ocean breath -- a balancing and calming pranayama that helps to maintain a rhythmic flow from pose to pose.
Levine takes it to the next level with a faster Vinyasa routine in which the breath and the physical asanas are carefully coordinated. Vinyasa focuses your mind powerfully as you break a sweat and flush toxins from your body. Jivamukti yoga provides a series of flowing stress-reducing stretches -- a yoga of liberation, incorporating spiritual practices and meditation with hatha yoga routines. Spiritual warrior is a type of Jivamukti class that moves quickly through an intense hour of warm-up poses, chanting, sun salutations, standing poses, backbends, forward bends, twist poses, inversions and meditation-relaxation. Iyengar yoga shifts the attention to mindful precision and encourages the use of props to deepen poses and aid in achieving perfect form. Holding a pose to achieve stability and inner stillness is a hallmark of Iyengar practice.
Some of Levine's go-to poses belong in your practice and will deliver the same body and soul benefits the tattooed phenom enjoys.
Tadasana With an Extra Stretch
Open your shoulders in Tadasana (mountain pose) with your hands laced strongly behind your back, both feet grounded into the mat, standing tall with your shoulders pulled back and down. On every slow inhalation, lengthen your spine to loosen kinks and free the breath. Release and raise both hands to clasp them extended overhead as you continue to breathe deeply and evenly, stretching your legs and torso long. Close with another "Levine shoulder stretch," fingers laced together behind you, shoulders down and shoulder blades squeezed.
Sirsasana When Your World Turns Upside Down
Get down with sirsasana (headstand), a glorious inversion Adam includes in most of his practice sessions that is easier to pull off than it looks. Headstand requires a strong core and good balance, so learn proper form from a certified instructor to avoid injury. When you're ready, your hands laced together and forearms braced in a triangle on the mat, rest the crown of your head lightly in that base, against your hands. Lift your hips and butt, just as you do in downward facing dog, and walk your feet in toward your torso. Jump or hop both feet together into a bent-knee elevation off the mat. Use your core to lift your legs, still together, straight up skyward to vertical. Sirsasana strengthens your lungs, arms, legs and spine, tones your abs, increases blood flow to the brain, relieves stress and anxiety, and clears the mind. Heavenly.
Uttanasana - Hinged at the Hips
Adam Levine gets a little extra spin on his uttanasana (standing forward bend) by grasping each elbow with the opposite palm as he bends from the hips, presses his abs toward his spine, and lets the weight of his head and crossed arms pull him deeper into the stretch. This one is so good for your hamstrings; you can feel the stretch up the backs of your legs from your heels to your hips. Just be kind to the backs of your thighs. Relax your knees if you need more time to give those hamstring muscles greater flexibility. In addition to relieving anxiety, uttasana massages your digestive organs, so it's best to perform this pose on an empty or nearly empty stomach.
Cobra - the Snake Up the Spine
Every yogi needs a chest-opening, spine-flexing backbend to counter all that hunching over screens and keyboards -- or mics and electric guitars -- all day. Bhujangasana (cobra pose) delivers an unkinking spine arch to loosen your upper and mid-back, and releases tightness in the hips as the weight-bearing strengthens your shoulders. You'll boost circulation and reduce fatigue as you move through the backbend. From a supine position on the mat, legs together, hands palms-down under your shoulders, push up, lifting your head, chest, and ribs but nailing your navel to the mat. Increase the arch by pushing your head back and looking up. Give it a little extra, Adam-style, by tilting your head right as you press your left shoulder down to stretch the neck and shoulders, then tilting the head left and pressing the right shoulder down.
Mind Games on the Mat
Yoga was Adam Levine's solution to the tight muscles, aches, and pains of constant touring and hard, full-out performances. However, he quickly discovered that the moves gave him far more than a stretching and aerobic workout. Yoga is a deep spiritual practice designed to prepare the mind for meditation. Levine found the antidote to the madness of concerts and music tour craziness on his yoga mat. His hour of practice just before going on stage is a warm-up that helps him to focus his attention with a calm, clear mind.