If you were to poll red-carpet walkers about the secret to their stellar physiques, chances are yoga would be the winning workout. And this star fitness favorite isn't just a fad. “Celebrities have been doing yoga forever,” says Kimberly Fowler, yoga expert and author of Flat Belly Yoga. “It keeps your muscles long and flexible, which is a better look than big bulky muscles, and it’s a workout you can continue to do as you age.”
But yoga’s body benefits aren’t the only reason stars are striking a pose. “It also helps relieve stress, which helps actors with whatever role they're playing,” says Fowler. And actors aren’t the only superstars flocking to the sport, either. “A number of NBA basketball players come to my ‘Yoga for Athletes’ class or watch the DVD on the road,” she says.
Read on to learn how some of the fittest stars use yoga to perfect their bodies, up their games, and clear their heads.
Yoga secret: Practice daily
Maybe the mother of all celebrity yogis, Madonna has been practicing since 1996. In 2003, she told People she did yoga every single day and arranged her life around her practice (meaning no wine and early bedtimes). And her dedication paid off! The pop star's strength and flexibility was at an all-time high. In Madges words: "I could have been a member of Cirque du Soleil."
Yoga secret: Bounce back from an injury
How does one of the most talented athletes of all time stay fit? Yep, you guessed it—Lebron incorporates a little downward dog off the basketball court. “[Yoga] is something that can really help your balance," James said in one interview.
"I had some lower back problems a few years ago, and once I started to do the yoga, that helped them go away for now. Of course we can stretch, but stretching only goes so far."
Yoga secret: Incorporate toning and cardio into traditional yoga
When our favorite Friend stripped down to her skivvies for her latest role as an exotic dancer in Meet the Millers, the first thing on our minds was, "What kind of sorcery could produce that taut, toned tummy?" The answer: "Yogalosophy." This yoga spinoff, created by Aniston's longtime yoga teacher Mandy Ingber, incorporates cardio and toning exercises with traditional yoga. Aniston reportedly practices about three times a week.
Yoga secret: Train your mind
Between judging aspiring singers on The Voice, keeping up with his own thriving music career, and taking on the occasional acting role, the Maroon 5 frontman has a lot on his plate. To strike a balance in his life, he strikes poses on the yoga mat. Levine has worked with yoga teacher Chad Dennis for more than five years, and has said that yoga helps him maintain focus and make better decisions (might we add that it’s also given him a pretty sick six-pack).
More from Fitbie: Adam Levine: Yoga Master
"Yoga has given me the ability to be more focused and make better decisions that come from a clear place,” he told Men’s Health. A few of his favorite muscle-building moves: Warrior 2, Warrior 3, and Chatarunga.
Yoga secret: Laugh through tough poses
The truth behind this House of Lies star’s hot body: twice-weekly yoga practice—but not the super-serious spiritual kind. Bell works with instructor JoAnna Ross, who appeals to Bell’s sense of humor. “JoAnna helps me get the most out of each class because she knows I’m sometimes intimidated by the silence of a class, and the pressure to meditate and feel spiritual,” Bell told Women’s Health.
“I think if that is the yoga you want, wonderful—but I find that the more I pressure myself to concentrate, the less I do. JoAnna and I have the same sense of humor so she cracks jokes to help me enjoy hard poses.” In addition to helping her stay toned, Bell says her practice helps reduce her junk-food cravings.
Yoga secret: Make the mind body connection
The British comedian has been candid about his battle with drug and sex addiction, and has frequently credited yoga for aiding his recovery. "I think I had this yearning, longing, sense of emptiness," he recalled in one interview. "For me addiction was a spiritual problem." He reportedly practices yoga for an hour and a half each day, and then meditates. "That's getting into the territory of people who are hardcore, isn't it?" he playfully told Urban Yogi host Eddie Stern.
Yoga secret: Use your poses to cross train
Ryan Gosling’s love supplements her walking and strength-training routine with yoga. “I do yoga twice a week. It’s mostly ashtanga, but my yoga instructor creates a program for me based around what I need, so if my muscles are tight from running, we’ll do poses to open everything up,” she told the Daily Mail.
Secret: Stretch away stress
To combat the stress and excitement surrounding red-carpet season, this Glee leading lady calms her mind with yoga. She’s especially fond of Bikram yoga and doing poses in a heated studio for deeper stretching and stress relief, according to her health counselor.
More: The Truth About Hot Yoga
However, Michele’s recent Instagram photo of her striking a pose on an L.A. hiking trail suggests she takes her practice outside of the studio too.
Yoga secret: Use yoga as a parenting practice
To cope with Heath Ledger's tragic death, Michelle Williams turned to yoga for comfort. "Yoga gave me relief like nothing else; it made me a better person and a better mother. I could come back to my daughter anew," she told Marie Claire. Now she's trying to harness the power of yoga for other solo mothers with her Yoga for Single Moms Project, which provides childcare for moms while they sweat it out in class.
Secret: Stay long and loose with yoga
Mrs. Justin Timberlake is known for her intense workout schedule, but she stays limber by supplementing boxing and martial arts workouts with yoga. "Yoga is a constant for me because it keeps my muscles long and flexible," she told Elle Magazine.
More: Bikini-Body Yoga Moves
Yoga secret: Heal your head with every pose
This hot mama has credited Kundalini yoga (a style that emphasizes building awareness, spiritual strength, and consciousness) with helping her bounce back from previous emotional and drug issues, and she recently attended a three-day Kundalini summer solstice event with her daughter, Rumer. While the "white tantric meditation" she was rumored to have practiced there probably did wonders for her mind, we're guessing her yoga devotion has something to do with her eternally svelte physique as well.