Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Historically, in India, senior teachers would send their students to make public demonstrations, say Julian DeVoe and Amy Goalen, authors of Inside the Warrior: The Masculine Side of Yoga. “Their demonstrations of yoga was asana-centric, usually exhibiting their physical prowess by doing amazing things with their bodies. The intention was that people would be awestruck and inspired to start a yoga practice. Essentially, it was bait.” Through portraits of men doing yoga (men make up nearly 30% of yoga practitioners in America) DeVoe and Goalen hope to do the same: intrigue and inspire people to start, re-start, or deepen their yoga journey.
Their compilation of interviews and portraits tells the stories of more than 80 men, including what inspired them to take up the practice and why yoga remains part of their lives today. Strength is a core factor, but it extends far beyond physicality. Vulnerability, healing, and surrender are the real tenets of power.
“Yoga is not just a physical practice, but the physical practice is an entry point for most of the yoga practitioners in the West,” DeVoe and Goalen write. “Throughout the writing and shooting of this book we have received feedback, some positive and some ‘not so much’ regarding the pictures. A few of the yogis remarked that the photos are like ‘nails on a chalkboard,’ overly simplistic and too ‘beef cakey.’ They felt that the images didn’t represent what masculinity is or have an overly narrow perspective on men doing yoga.”
Here, are five stunning examples of yogis from the book—and what they love about their practice, in their own words.
Yoga is my favorite activity today and my plan for the “home stretch.” At 63, I remain healthy and still feel young. My yoga supports other physical passions (cycling and surfing, etc.) and the energetic demands of my career. Yoga helps me maintain a lifestyle that is free from chronic ailments so prevalent among “older” Americans. It allows me to be active, notwithstanding limitations from injuries sustained over the years. My yoga is an incredible adventure, a constant renewal, a fountain of — not youth, but ageless energy. My yoga is magic!
After playing football for over half my life I started practicing to get my body’s functionality back. I had herniated discs in my lower back (L4 and L5). I had torn my right groin muscle off the bone, hyperextended knees, two surgeries on my feet, broken all my fingers, spinal contusion, almost broke my neck. I don’t know how many concussions I’ve had. My left shoulder hangs by muscle alone, all my tendons are torn out — so I was in pain. I found meditation first, conscious breathing first to heal from my suffering of paralysis for a six-month period. I was introduced to yoga a year and a half later and that was to regenerate my body.
I stay with it because the pain, the traumas have been so great. It is something I will have to do for the rest of my life because of all the trauma I have suffered through with my body. To keep myself in the regenerative healing process, I have to stay on my practice.
Bryan C. Thomas
I was 23 at the time and had been an avid weightlifter. I knew that physically my body was really tight. I had heard about yoga, I was familiar with it, I knew it was stretching, breathing and stuff like that…I knew it would be good for me.
At the same time, it had these connotations of a lot of feminine qualities surrounding it. So for the first six months I wouldn’t tell anyone I was going. I would go at night. I would get in my car and drive over there, 25 or 30 minutes from my house. I knew when I went I wouldn’t see anyone I knew there.
So, I intentionally chose this place to practice. It was way out of my way and way out of my daily routine… Even with that first practice, I felt super relaxed afterwards… Instantly I liked this yoga stuff a lot.
I was definitely very intimidated when I started, because I couldn’t even touch my toes. But as the practice began to chug along, and I began to get over these feminine connotations that it holds in the West, I finally began to say: “Yeah, I’m going to yoga.” My guy friends would say, “Oh you go to yoga. Weird, hunh.”
Yoga is an ancient Hindu discipline combining breathing, meditation, and controlled postures, skincare, and diet. My yoga involves my whole day. I see my practice extending beyond the mat. Beyond the studio. It’s how I carry myself every day. From my commute, my interactions with my co-workers, standing in line at the grocery store. Witnessing my emotions. The smallest kindness to a stranger and total awareness of how it affects others is my yoga. It’s all-encompassing.
I started when I was 16 going on 17 back in Peoria, IL. I was a drug-addicted juvenile delinquent — both of my parents were alcoholics. Deep down I had this seeker soul in me, but my girlfriend at the time got busted and put into rehab. The only way that I could go and visit her was by going to the AA meeting that they would bring the kids to. So, I would go as an undercover into these meetings, and pretending that I was going to get sober, somehow or another, I got sober. I saw these sober people and, in particular, these young counselors that were the counselors in her rehab. They were these young, clean, and sober people, that were super cool, they lived life, they weren’t squares.
I was sober and doing the 12-step thing and really got into spiritual practice through that avenue. Meditation was a part of it but so was self-inquiry. My first sort of yoga gurus, you could say, were these kind of redneck recovering alcoholic people back in Illinois. So that just became my thing. I loved transformation. I loved working with my consciousness.
I didn’t really have any formal support until I got into college. That’s when I was trained as a yoga teacher and found a Guru and started to do more traditional eastern spirituality training. But it was all based on that foundation, and I am so grateful for that because I have never approached yoga as something optional. I was introduced to spirituality. We could say that the difference between spirituality and religion is that religion is to save your soul and spirituality is to save your ass.
Inside the Warrior – the Masculine Side of Yoga. Reprinted with permission from Julian DeVoe and Amy Goalen. Pre-order your copy today. Estimated ship date is Aug 15, 2021.