Being a badass just seems to come naturally to Mark Divine. The 51-year-old retired Navy SEAL commander (nickname: Cyborg) is a 6’1”, 195-pound wall of muscle, a two-time karate black belt who’s completed multiple tours of duty in the Middle East and been certified to teach military hand-to-hand combat. But he’s also a devoted yogi, a serious student who has undergone extensive training
in Ashtanga and Viniyoga. A decade ago, he created Warrior Yoga while on a SEAL team mission to Baghdad.
“I brought my yoga mat to the war zone,” says Divine. It was an enervating three-month tour, and he craved the relief of exercise, but the nearest gym was a risky three-hour drive. To stay fit, he turbocharged his daily yoga practice, adding interval training, fighting sequences, and meditative breathing exercises. At the end of each session, he’d visualize being home. “It really helped me,” Divine recalls. “It warded off combat-related stress, and allowed me to stay in shape.
I felt real clarity and peace of mind.”
Over the next few years, the Navy SEAL continued to develop his new discipline, which he started calling “Warrior Yoga.” In 2oo7, he opened
a 2o,ooo-square-foot training facility in Encinitas, California, and later launched two programs geared toward mental and physical fitness, called SEALFIT and Unbeatable Mind, through which Warrior Yoga was originally taught (individual classes are now available at the facility).
In its updated incarnation, Warrior Yoga is an integrated class series that’s designed to “rewire” your system, not unlike SEAL training itself. It combines functional fitness, martial arts, and yoga, and emphasizes breathwork, goals visualization, meditation, and positive thinking. Sessions can be moderate (aimed at boosting energy and mental or physical recovery)
or intense (for pure fitness or fighting).
Divine’s classes draw an eclectic group of students, from
athletes and executives to soldiers and Special Ops trainees, more than 1,ooo of whom have opted to try its tough, SEAL-like regimens. “These are people who’ve probably never stepped foot in
a yoga studio,” Divine points out. “They’re not interested in mythology, Sanskrit, or Namaste. They get it from a performance standpoint, or understand that they’ll be more effective in combat.”
Students are taught not to go easy on themselves—and to never, ever quit. “I’m trying to develop the next generation of warriors, inside and outside the military,” Divine explains. “Warrior Yoga shows people how to transmute emotion into determination. It develops intuition, awareness, mental control, resilience, and spirituality. At the same time, it promotes spinal health, joint mobility, and core strength.”
In its most extreme sessions, Warrior Yoga requires students to keep moving relentlessly, swinging kettle bells, doing roundhouse jabs, and zipping quickly through a vinyasa flow. Other classes reference the nonstop SEAL workout known as Grinder PT: “Imagine doing six Sun Salutations, flowing into jumping jacks, push-ups, air squats, flutter kicks, and sit-ups, then going back to standing poses, followed by more calisthenics and yoga,” Divine says.
Warrior Yoga’s modernized asanas intrinsically reflect the spirit of battle, honor, and exaltation. In “Fighting Warrior,” students use punches to make the transition from Warrior I to Warrior II, developing their tensile strength and musculature. The “Humble Warrior” is a submissive Warrior I, hands clasped behind the back, head down.
Humble Warrior may best represent the teacher’s ethos. “The true warrior abhors war,” Divine says. “He is the last to pick up his lance. And that’s what I experienced in the field: Advanced warriors were the ones who tried hardest to avoid conflict.” For info, visit unbeatablemind.com or SEALFIT.com.
See also Yoga for Veterans