The next generation of boys may be playing with Yoga Joes instead of G.I. Joes, thanks to a 31-year-old designer determined to spread the word that yoga is for guys, too.
Yoga Joes, the latest brainchild from Dan Abramson, the founder of "yoga for dudes" line Brogamats, are miniature figurines that look a lot like the green guys many of us know from childhood except in "om-azing" poses like Headstand, Cobra Pose, Warrior I, Warrior II, Child's Pose, Tree Pose, Crow Pose, Downward-Facing Dog, and Seated Meditation. The Joes recently debuted at museum stores including the SFMOMA Museum Store, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago Store, the Denver Art Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA), after launching on Kickstarter last October. They're also available on the Yoga Joes website ($25 for a box of 9).
The Evolution of G.I. Joe Into Yoga Joe
“My hope is that boys, the next generation of men, view yoga differently after playing with Yoga Joes. That was the point of the project--to be inclusive--to let people know that yoga is for them, too,” says Abramson.
Not only are Yoga Joes intended to attract boys and men to yoga, they also pay homage to the veteran community. “The military community got really into Yoga Joes,” says Abramson. “Messages poured in from armies all over the world from people in the military that have found benefits in yoga, and wanted to convince others to do the same. Some just want to help out their fellow veterans."
The Joes even made it all the way to Afghanistan a couple of weeks ago with the help of Connected Warriors, a non-profit that bring yoga to soldiers. “It was so cool, and such a natural partnership, because the Yoga Joes project was designed to convince more people to try yoga, and there it was in pictures--the Yoga Joes getting soldiers to sign up for yoga class at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan,” says Abramson. (See photos here.)
The Joes May Help Enlist Veterans In Regular Yoga Class
Annie Okerlin, founder of Yogani Studios in Tampa, Fla., and the Exalted Warrior Foundation, which facilitates an adaptive yoga instruction program for wounded warriors in military and veterans hospital facilities nationwide, says she has seen the veterans in her yoga classes discussing the Yoga Joes and using them to show veterans who are new to the class what they can expect to learn.
“Yoga Joes have been timely, as the conversation of yoga for veterans needs to be heard,” says Okerlin, who uses yoga to help veterans with PTSD and other ailments and injuries. “Yoga postures help bring the body into a greater state of comfort, particularly in cases of injury. The breathing used in yoga practice works the central nervous system. We teach tools to harness the breath for strength and focus and on the opposite end of the spectrum, to relieve anxious or stressed states.”
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The Broad Reach of Yoga Joes
Abramson says he knew the yoga military community was big, but he had no idea how many lives he would touch with Yoga Joes. “I've received messages from families who are trying to reconcile life after service, and how yoga is helping them move forward together,” he says. “To have a product that can relate to them in any way is so much more than what I intended for when launching this project.”
And while Yoga Joes were never intended to preach a message against toys that some perceive as promoting violence, Abramson thinks it’s good to have an alternative. “One mom emailed me that she was overjoyed that the Yoga Joes existed, because she doesn't allow violent toys in her house, especially soldiers, since her husband is deployed in Afghanistan. But the Yoga Joes allowed her to finally get the little green army men for her kids, because they celebrated soldiers for their focus and discipline.”