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Juliet: [0:03:18] Dean Pohlman has made a name for himself as a go to internet yoga instructor for men and those interested in improving their fitness with yoga. His first internationally published book, Yoga Fitness for Men, was published in 2018 and has since been translated into French, German, and Mandarin. His second book, Yoga for Athletes, was internationally published in December 2021. His DVD series Body by Yoga includes multiple top 10 bestselling programs made for all fitness levels. And his website manflowyoga.com, is one of the most popular resources on the internet for on demand, fitness centric yoga workouts and programs.
Dean has worked with physical therapists to create yoga programs for back health and spinal recovery. A former collegiate lacrosse player whose workouts and programs have been used by collegiate athletes, athletic trainers, and personal trainers, and have been recommended by physical therapists, doctors, chiropractors, chiropractors, and other medical professionals. And his work has been featured in Muscle and Fitness Magazine, Men’s Health, The Chicago Sun, New York Magazine, and many other major news media outlets. Dean is an E-RYT 200 certified yoga instructor. He lives in Austin with his wife Marisa, their son Declan, and their two dogs, Flowtron and Kaya. Dean, welcome to The Ready State Podcast.
Dean Pohlman: [0:04:30] Hey. Thank you so much for having me.
Kelly: [0:04:32] Nice to see you. Last time you and I were together in person, we were having a pigeon off on the floor in the back of a hall. That was where our bromance really began.
Juliet: [0:04:45] Can you explain what a pigeon off is?
Kelly: [0:04:49] It’s where I walk up to him, I say, “I see your pigeon is strong.” We were at a pick traffic conversion to digital thing
Juliet: [0:04:56] Marketing conference thing.
Kelly: [0:04:58] And there’s always one guy in the back, me, who refuses to sit in a chair, and is like, I might as well use this time to open up my hips. But there was already a guy taking my spot, and it was Dean, who was already doing my thing. And I was like, am I going to copy this guy? And already I was like, I know you, man. So that was the beginning.
Juliet: [0:05:17] And then once we found you, then we were like we just decided you were in our group for the rest of the thing, the rest of the conference, and then we were together.
Dean Pohlman [0:05:23] That was awesome. That was probably the coolest part of the conference, was that I actually got to hang out with you guys more than just a few back and forth messages on Instagram or something. So that was super cool. And I do think I won that pigeon off, by the way.
Kelly: [0:05:39] Oh, hands down. Hands down. I have toddler joints, but let’s be honest. We’re talking to a –
Juliet: [0:05:46] Dean’s actually a pro at this.
Kelly: [0:05:47] Yeah. You are really good at this. Man, it is great to see you. Let’s take on this elephant in the room first. What are you working on right now?
Dean Pohlman [0:05:55] Right now I am in the middle of my promotion for my launch for my brand new book Yoga for Athletes, which you wrote the foreword for.
Kelly: [0:06:05] Oh, did I?
Dean Pohlman: [0:06:06] You did. And even though it took me, I don’t know, eight to fifteen emails to get you to write that foreword, it was so worth it when it finally came through.
Juliet: [0:06:17] Dean, I just want to say before you talk about your book that you haven’t figured out the key to life, which is you don’t email Kelly, you email me.
Dean Pohlman: [0:06:26] Oh. See, I-
Juliet: [0:06:28] Yeah, most people figure that out after three emails. They’re like, wait, I think there’s someone else I’m supposed to be emailing.
Kelly: [0:06:34] I felt a little pressure there. I wanted to get it right.
Dean Pohlman [0:06:35] I didn’t want to bug you. I wanted to bug Kelly, I guess.
Juliet: [0:06:38] Anyway, so your book is Yoga for Athletes. We’re very excited about it. We know what a Herculean effort it is to actually write a book and get it published. Tell us what it’s about, who it’s for. What was the inspiration?
Dean Pohlman [0:06:51] Well, the inspiration was the original reason why I began doing yoga, which was because I was an athlete and I stumbled into a yoga studio while looking for the tailor, and did the workout, realized how many weaknesses I had, and from that realized how much stronger and how much better I could be if I did these poses more often. And then from there, that started everything that I did, with starting a YouTube channel and a Facebook page to talk about the YouTube channel, all that stuff. And eventually that led to the opportunity to write this book.
It’s something that I’ve always tried to focus on, not just with writing this book, but with all the content that I create, is how can I make yoga more relatable for someone like me when I was first starting yoga. How can I make this more attractive or how can I make this more accessible to someone who was not flexible, someone who didn’t understand the poses, someone who was familiar with a different type of fitness language? And that’s what we’ve done with this book, is we’ve made a book that’s specifically yoga for athletes. This isn’t a general introduction into the practice of yoga. This is, hey, you’re a runner; you probably have had some form of a runner’s knee or Achilles’ tendonitis in the past, here’s what you can do to fix that and here are some poses you can do to assess your overall mobility and get a better idea of what you need to work on. So the big focus of this book is presenting the common challenges that athletes have, namely endurance athletes and weightlifters, and then giving a solution in the form of poses and quick 10-minute routines.
Kelly: [0:08:38] I love that. There’s so much to unpack here. Just for full transparency, Juliet and I are huge fans of yoga. And when we say yoga, I think everyone has their own thing. I mean you say family dinner, and you’re like, oh, you guys kick and scream and throw mashed potatoes at each other too? So it can mean a lot of different things to people. The more along I get in my understanding of fitness, of position, of human body and how it moves, the more I really appreciate the genius of the original foundation of yoga practice. I think if you understand weightlifting, you jump into yoga and you’re like, oh, oh, these people knew something for a thousand years, and this is a really worthy thing to do.
You said something really interesting. You felt like you were a good athlete and maybe had been defined by you based on your experience and your family and all your athleticism and competition. What did it mean when you said you came in and you found weaknesses, because I think one of the things that Juliet and I are always big fans of is go test your fitness in someone else’s swimming pool. Go see what how fit and how capable you are in someone else… You’ll never be like Conor McGregor fighting Floyd Mayweather. He’s never going to be as good a boxer. But he went and just swam pretty well in that pool. I think that’s pretty amazing athleticism. Can you talk about where you felt your athleticism or your weaknesses fell short in this Sazen moment of awakening?
Dean Pohlman [0:10:05] Yeah. Absolutely. That’s a great question. And just to reiterate, I think that when you find something that you can’t do, I don’t know if this is something that is learned or if this is something that we just intuitively know, you look at that and you say, “Oh, I can’t do this. What if I start doing this and get better at it?” That’s the biggest area of opportunity for you to get stronger. It’s not by doing the same things over and over again, but by doing those things that really challenge you.
And so I was in a Bikram yoga class. That was my first yoga class. And if you’ve ever been to a yoga class before, you’ll know that Bikram is like the, this is the most intense, the most physical type of yoga workout. It’s 105 degrees, 26 postures, same routine over and over again. The cuing and the instructors are all focused on making you push yourself as much as possible with reckless abandon for your joints. And it’s a super intense workout.
And the first thing that I realized was how hard it was to hold myself, just to do an isometric exercise in these different positions because you’re used to as an athlete, you’re used to doing things quickly. You’re used to pushing something but then it being over within a second. Used to sprinting. But everything’s super fast. Everything is very intense. And yoga was completely different than that. You were holding something for not just three or four or five seconds but 30, 45, 60 seconds.
Kelly: [0:11:31] Yeah. You had to actually breathe in those positions too.
Dean Pohlman [0:11:33] Right. And that was-
Kelly: [0:11:35] Which is annoying, trying to be stable.
Dean Pohlman [0:11:38] Yeah, that breathing thing. Yeah, the first few yoga classes you’ll do, if you’re doing it at the studio, the yoga instructor will look at you and say, “Breathe,” and you’ll realize you’ve been holding your breath for 30 seconds and you’re about to pass out. So yeah, the isometric strength was just, that was one of the hardest parts. The other part was pushing deeper into range of motion and actually working on mobility. That was something that I had never… I think I had the typical high school athlete approach to working out. I knew how to do conditioning drills, I knew how to do sprints and suicides. And I always tried to be the fastest and usually was. In the weight room, I was the guy who was doing all the extra lifts that I didn’t need to do and pushing myself there. So I was really good, if not the best, at every type of exercise that I did, up until yoga. And then with yoga, it just, it completely shocked my body. There were so many things in that, again, the mobility components, the isometric strength component. Remembering to breathe. All of these things were things that you just don’t cover at all in your other workouts.
Juliet: [0:12:48] One of the things you said earlier is that your mission is to try to make yoga more accessible to people who otherwise don’t relate to it. And I really appreciate that. And obviously your company’s called Man Flow Yoga, so you’re trying to target men in particular, who I think maybe often don’t relate to the ethos of yoga. I can say that’s a little bit true for me. I mean I do struggle because I come from a hardcore athletic background. I do sometimes struggle with I don’t really get very excited about organ playing and ohm-ing and a lot of the peripheral stuff in yoga. I struggle with that a little bit.
Kelly: [0:13:25] Way to just show your Western athletic bias.
Juliet: [0:13:27] Yeah, but I mean I’m just saying I don’t love that. I don’t love that. and I do think there’s a lot of yoga that’s trying to answer that. for example, there’s a yoga class I go to in my neighborhood that plays Britney Spears and it has a whole different vibe than ohm-ing and organ playing.
But anyway, I just wanted to hear a little bit more about why you decided to go the Man Flow Yoga route, why you wanted to make yoga something that was accessible to men in particular, and talk more about your general even bigger mission beyond even men just to make yoga more accessible to more people who otherwise might not relate to it.
Dean Pohlman: [0:14:04] Yes. So the reason why I made the mission focused on men and called it Man Flow Yoga was because I didn’t see many men doing yoga. When I asked other guys to the yoga class with me, they were like, “What? No. No. No way.”
Kelly: [0:14:23] What’s that about? This is a really important question because I think a lot of people end up missing the opportunity to learn something about their own movement practice for themselves or how they move or how they stabilize because of this baggage.
Dean Pohlman [0:14:35] Yeah. I mean I think there’s just the… Keep in mind, when all this was happening, this was 2011, and our public perception, our general popular conception of yoga has dramatically changed since then. Like completely. Most metropolitan places you’ll go, most yoga studios that are in big cities, you’ll find that sometimes half or even more of the classes are filled with men. But a few years ago, a decade ago, that was not the case. There was just this-
Juliet: [0:15:07] There’d be like one man. One man in there.
Dean Pohlman [0:15:09] Yeah. One man. And it was just this very, this is a feminine thing. You don’t want to be seen doing this. That was a big part of it. So I wanted to create an image of a guy doing yoga. And at the time, I was, hopefully I still am, I looked pretty good, I was pretty jacked, I was pretty in shape, I played lacrosse. I thought I checked all those boxes of what a masculine athlete should look like. And I thought maybe I can convince other guys to do yoga. Because it wasn’t so much that yoga was making me look particularly more jacked, it was more so that it made me feel so good. I felt so much smoother with my movement. I felt so much more in control with my body. I felt like I had just made everything more efficient. It felt like it was a lot easier to move my body. I had the same amount of strength, but I was able to move it with less energy, more smoothly. So I thought if I could create a brand of yoga and just start putting out videos of here’s a guy doing yoga, maybe I can help other people learn to experience the same benefits that I was getting.
I think I just said men because those were the people who weren’t doing yoga. But really who it’s appealed to, I think you touched on it earlier, Juliet, was these people who are used to the more traditional or the more intense approach to exercise. Like we’re here because we’re really trying to push our bodies to the max. We’ve got something that we’re striving to work towards to improve our performance for a particular sport or discipline or goals. And the dialogue of yoga, the culture behind the exercise of yoga just doesn’t appeal to that. So creating something that was more approachable but also an athlete would listen to it and say, oh, that’s cool. This makes me want to exercise. That was the intention.
Kelly: [0:17:01] I think one of the issues that Juliet and I have struggled with as we’ve gotten in and out of yoga together for 20 years is there’s a mindset there that this is what you do now, it’s your identity. And we certainly see that with cycling, we see it with CrossFit, we see it with weightlifting. It’s useful to find a movement identity. And I think sometimes it’s difficult to get good at something if you’re just a dilettante. Juliet and I are dilettantes. We love to drop in, we kind of test, every once in a while. We’re like, this feels really great. Do you think there’s been a change now that we’re seeing such a mixing of modalities? I’m looking behind you, I’m like, oh, there’s a squat rack, and a rowing machine, and free weights. And I’m like, oh, you speak all of these movement languages and you’re not just coming out of bro culture gym hip sled. Do you think that that has made it a little bit more accessible to people now? They’re like, oh, I can steal what I think are some of the best practices out of these various movement disciplines to make a little bit more of a well-balanced fitness?
Dean Pohlman: [0:18:02] Yeah. So 100 percent, yes. But I also want to mention that in your book, in Becoming a Supple Leopard, your intro talks about you going into a yoga class and-
Kelly: [0:18:18] Stomping those girls. Stomping them.
Dean Pohlman: [0:18:21] And then the instructor comes up to you and says, “You’re really good. What do you do?” And you’re like, “I’m a yoga teacher,” which I thought was just fantastic. But as far as there is a general, I think not just in your world, in CrossFit, in resistance training, in weight training, more people doing yoga, more people doing different mobility practices, and things like Pilates and things that probably they would not do before. But also in yoga world, we are shifting away from guru mentality and starting to see many more yoga instructors also lifting weights and also doing all these other things. And from time to time, you still do encounter some yoga instructors who say, “Oh, lifting weights is bad for you, it’s going to ruin your yoga practice.” But most people are not doing that anymore. And a few years ago, that would not have been the case.
Juliet: [0:19:17] Yeah, I mean I feel there was a hole thing a few years ago culminating in some big article in The New York Times where a bunch of yoga people were getting injured doing yoga, which I think flew in the face of what a lot of people thought about yoga because they think, “Oh, well, I go to yoga because I’m trying to increase my range of motion or flexibility, and one of the side benefits of that might be injury prevention or reduction of injuries.” So then to see all these headlines, all these people are getting injured doing yoga, I think was sort of a shocker. And I assume it’s because people were just doing yoga.
Kelly: [0:19:49] Yoga is not different than running incessantly or just lifting or you can-
Juliet: [0:19:54] Right. And I think it’s just that it’s sort of that thing-
Kelly: [0:19:56] Task completion mindset.
Juliet: [0:19:58] We went back to at the beginning, which is it’s never one thing, right? Like the ideal physical practice would be a mix of lifting and high intensity training and cardio and yoga and mobility training and whatever, right? But people do get in this mentality of I’m doing this one thing and the thing I do is yoga and I do that six days a week and nothing else.
Kelly: [0:20:18] You get good at it. It feels good. You start to get recognized. You start to become competent.
Juliet: [0:20:22] So I don’t know if there was really a question in there. But one thing I did want to ask is can you tell us, because I feel like you must have one, one funny or awkward yoga story? Kelly had his in Australia and I’ve had a few where there’s been some way too tight classes with way too many people not wearing enough clothes. So I’ve had some awkward yoga moments.
Kelly: [0:20:44] Matt Vincent recently said, “You know what? I think Kelly the key to understanding you is you were bendy before you were big.”
Juliet: [0:20:51] That’s true. That’s true. So anyway, I don’t know, are there any stories that you think of that are funny from your yoga past or has it all been awesome?
Dean Pohlman [0:21:00] There is one that came to mind as soon as you said it, and I’m horrified that I’m going to be sharing it with you. I was in a yoga class probably the first year that I was doing yoga in Madison, Wisconsin. I started doing yoga when I was a college student. And I remember looking in the mirror and we’re doing lizard. Lizard stretch is basically a deep lunge, a kneeling deep lunge. And I’m looking in the mirror, I’m looking at myself, and then kind of out of the corner of my eye, I see something else. I’m like, “What is that?” And it’s a dude’s balls. I didn’t register. It didn’t register initially. I was like, “That looks out of place.” And then I realized what I was looking at.”
Kelly: [0:21:47] The biggest adductor in the world.
Dean Pohlman [0:21:48] And then I locked eyes with him in the mirror. And then I was, ah, it was-
Juliet: [0:21:52] Oh my God.
Dean Pohlman: [0:21:53] That was just-
Kelly: [0:21:55] I think that’s probably more common. They were probably mortified too, eventually.
Dean Pohlman: [0:22:01] They were. I think they saw what was happening when I didn’t realize what was happening. But they didn’t say anything, like, “Hey, dude, stop looking. You’re looking at my balls.” I didn’t know what I was looking at. I’m sorry.
Kelly: [0:22:12] Let me ask you this. One of the features of your new book for athletes I think really speaks to this, because you want to go down yoga as a mind, brain, physical practice, it’s pretty bomb proof. Plus, some kettlebell swings and sprints. And you’re getting there, right? You have a community. One of the things I’ve said about yoga is that in a taught environment, it’s one of the first early environments on where you could actually get instruction on how to move. That was pretty radical in a group setting. I mean it’s like the original group class was yoga, right?
But you have done something here where you have made these 10-minute chunks working on a specific positions because I think one of the things that really resonates with me with your work and your writing and your teaching and your yoga is that it’s not, hey, we’re going to try to cover every single aspect of your fitness, like this is cardio dance yoga, this is high intensity interval yoga. You said here are positions, 10-minute routines, 10-minute prehab, if you want to use that word, down regulation, skill transfer exercise, whatever the language is, that works on a specific program or a specific position that will improve a movement solution.
Dean Pohlman: [0:23:26] Yeah. So what’s the question in there, by the way?
Kelly: [0:23:32] The question is did you find that that was an easier way into the athletic experience versus hey, we’re going to try to cover-
Juliet: [0:23:38] Yeah, hey, you need to do a full hour class.
Kelly: [0:00:00] Or an hour and a half to really hit all of your positions?
Dean Pohlman: [0:23:44] Yeah. I mean I think it’s just, if you’re looking at somebody who already has… Most athletes don’t lack motivation to work out. Their problem is figuring out how do I fit all of these workouts into my weekly workout schedule.
Kelly: [0:23:56] That’s right.
Dean Pohlman: [0:23:57] So if you look at them and say, “Hey, you’ve got weightlifting Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and then on Saturday you do whatever you’ve missed, and then Tuesday, Thursday you’re doing cardio, I want you to do a 90-minute yoga session on Sunday and then just squeeze in a couple vinyasa sessions, just go to your local studio and do a couple extra-”
Kelly: [0:24:15] When? I have children.
Dean Pohlman: [0:24:16] Yeah. Exactly right. So 10 minutes, first off, it’s just an easier sell. Like hey, just do 10 minutes of yoga. But the thing is… Oh, it does, doesn’t it? But the thing is, 10 minutes can actually, you know this, but 10 minutes of yoga can make a huge difference. If you’re doing 10 minutes of hip focused stuff, if you’re doing 10 minutes of shoulder focused things, 15 minutes here and there, it can make a tremendous improvement. And the cool thing about yoga is with other mobility work, it does make a noticeable improvement. You notice it as soon as you finish. It’s not something you have to do for two months. You do a few of these exercises, these poses, and you start to move, and you’re like, “Wow, this feels a lot better. I can actually, my knee doesn’t hurt when I’m doing this anymore. I can actually lift my arms overhead without arching my back.”
Juliet: [0:25:11] I think that’s really important because I mean I definitely fall into that category of person where I’m a busy working mom and I have this window of time which is usually one hour to get some stuff done or maybe like an hour and 20 minutes or something. And I will never, ever choose to do an hour yoga class over doing a workout. That’s just not who I am as a person. So I’m always someone who’s going to have to fit it in on the periphery of a workout and that’s why we’re such proponents of doing 10 minutes of mobilization or soft tissue work or whatever because it’s actually doable for someone like me who ultimately probably isn’t going to prioritize a 90-minute yoga class that often. And I think most of the athletes that are reading your book are like that.
Dean Pohlman: [0:25:57] Yeah. And something we actually did in this book is we categorized the workouts. So most of the workouts can be used as a cool down.
Kelly: [0:26:07] Ooh, workouts. I even like that word. I like that you’re using-
Dean Pohlman: [0:26:10] Yeah. That was a decision we made. We meant to say workouts. We didn’t say routines or we didn’t say series or flows. We said workouts. And the workouts are categorized as cool downs, warm ups, or standalone workouts. And a lot of these are interchangeable. A lot of the warmup routines can also be standalone workouts because really, they’re working on the same things. They’re working on strength, they’re working on improving motor control and muscle activation, whatever you want to call it. And then the cool downs and standalone workouts, however those overlap, are focused on flexibility, focused on mobility, maybe a little more toward erring on the side of passive flexibility rather than active mobility. But we’ve organized them in a way and explained how you can use these workouts by stacking them with other workouts.
Juliet: [0:27:03] So a little bit of a right turn here but appreciating that you are a dad and you’re running a business.
Dean Pohlman: [0:27:08] I am.
Juliet: [0:27:10] And you have I’m assuming a busy life. What’s your seven day… How do you fit it in? What do you prioritize? If you were to look at a week, what are you doing? What’s your workout like over a seven-day period? What are you doing?
Kelly: [0:27:24] And if I do yoga, will I get your biceps?
Dean Pohlman: [0:27:26] Definitely not.
Juliet: [0:27:29] Asking for a man. Asking for a man.
Dean Pohlman: [0:27:31] So I do, I started lifting weights again for the first time in years consistently about a year ago. So I lift weights three times per week. I do those around the end of my workday, around 3 or 3:30. And also, one reason why I’m able to fit those in is because I had a conversation with my wife to say, “Hey, this is really important to me, this is important to my business, this is important to my image, which is also important to you. So could you please allow me to have this hour where I can work out and make sure that I make that happen?” So that’s a big part of it, just having a conversation and setting the expectation, hey, I’m going to be working out at home an hour three times per week.
The other times I usually always do some sort of yoga or mobility practice on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. And fortunately for me, I can record my workouts so it is part of work in a way. So I’ll probably do 30 to 60 minutes of yoga three to four times a week where I’m doing a longer yoga session. But I’ll also at night usually after Declan has gone to bed and there’s no more dad duties to be done and we’re just chilling out watching TV or talking, that’s when I’ll do some targeting stretching. That’s when I’ll say my ankles have been feeling a little whatever lately or my knees are feeling a little tender, and that’s when I’ll get out my lacrosse ball, my foam roller, my yoga mat and just do whatever my body needs. But doing that and recognizing that, hey, while you’re watching TV or while you’re just chilling out, just be stretching or doing these rather mindless mobility exercises. Mindless isn’t the right word.
Kelly: [0:29:27] Thanks. I really like this because casual… Juliet is just a freak. I’m married to a mutant athletic freak. And some of us actually have to practice so that when we are the face of our movement brands that we actually can do the things we do. Just so you know, J.
Juliet: [0:29:44] Well, it’s funny because sometimes Kelly’s like, “I had to mobilize for an hour, two hours in a row today.” And it’s a lot. But now that I think of it as a workout, I feel less bad for you.
Kelly: [0:29:58] Ah, thanks a lot.
Juliet: [0:30:00] Now that Dean has reframed what you’re doing as a workout, which is basically self-care, it’s another form of self-care.
Kelly: [0:30:05] Self-care. Do this for me, Dean. Define yoga. What is yoga? Because there are some colloquial terms that we’re battling, trying to change the narrative around. What does pain mean? What is posture, right? I can’t wait to do a routine later on. I’m going to take the word routine back and I’m doing a routine of power cleans and rowing sprints. I’m just going to start talking routines. When I’m in the NFL, I’m going to be like, “What’s your routine?” What do you mean when you say yoga and how should we think about that with our modern sensibilities?
Dean Pohlman: [0:30:40] I’m smiling because I posted about this a couple years ago and it drew hundreds of comments on Facebook.
Kelly: [0:30:49] I personally believe-
Dean Pohlman: [0:30:51] Yes. And really, there are two definitions of yoga that are widely accepted right now. The first is yoga as a lifestyle. And the second is yoga as a mindful movement practice combining postures and breathing. So I subscribe to the latter in terms of if I tell people, “Hey, I practice yoga regularly,” that’s how I practice yoga. But if you say, “I practice yoga,” and you do it for the former definition, then-
Kelly: [0:31:23] It’s cool.
Dean Pohlman: [0:31:24] You’re 100 percent right. Yeah. You don’t have to practice yoga a certain way. There’s no right or wrong. I mean I guess there could be a wrong way to practice yoga if it was bad for you.
Kelly: [0:31:39] No, we just say it’s less effective.
Dean Pohlman: [0:31:40] Less effective. Yeah.
Kelly: [0:31:41] Less transferrable. Less effective.
Dean Pohlman: [0:31:44] But that was a debate that was really common I think, I want to say from 2014 to 2017. That was a really big conversation because yogis were getting used-
Kelly: [0:31:55] We call that the yoga wars. The yoga wars.
Juliet: [0:31:58] But just so I get it right because I didn’t really follow this debate, are you saying that people were solidly in their camp, and they’re like, “I’m right, you’re wrong,” kind of debate? They’re like, it’s lifestyle and not what you said, and then the other people are like, “No, no, no, it’s about postures and breathing, not what you said.
Dean Pohlman: [0:32:15] Yes. I think that the yogis who had been doing yoga before it started getting popular were telling people who were doing yoga at gyms and the guys coming into yoga classes because they heard it was good for flexibility but also because they heard there were hot girls there, they were having this conversation that, “Hey, this is how I see it. you’re wrong.” And they were like, “Well, this is how I see it and you’re wrong.” And I think we’ve mostly moved past that conversation. Every now and then I get a message or a comment from somebody who says, “This is not yoga. This is stretching.” To which I reply, “Actually, it’s stretching, strengthening, there’s active mobility work. We also do balancing postures, there’s a fair amount of breathing involved.” But I hope that answers your question. Yeah.
Kelly: [0:32:59] Full transparency: Two central tenets, ideas from Iyengar, who was a really incredible thinker about this physical practice of yoga, he has a whole yoga style, where he was taking a lot of positions where people couldn’t access and kind of created some work around it. It’s like, here’s a block, can’t reach the ground yet; here’s a strap because you don’t have the access. I think one of the things that happens, and I think you were seeing this as you talked about some of the overreaching injuries that we were seeing, the overextension, the hyper mobility problems that we were seeing in yoga, is that like so many other practices, oh, this is a clean and jerk, this is a snatch, until I’m in the position hip crease below the knee or all the way to the bottom, it’s not the movement. So that people will do whatever they need to do with their bodies to end up in the goal position instead of understanding that there is regression and progression. And I think that was one of the things that we all kind of spoke about, is that especially people new into this journey and language, the first time they come in, they may not be able to do the things or access the positions very effectively, so they contort themselves or work around, and our language is compensation, to get into those end range positions, right? I think that’s one of the things that happens.
Juliet: [0:34:24] Do you have a question going on somewhere in there, in that brain?
Dean Pohlman: [0:34:28] I have the answer to your nonquestion.
Kelly: [0:34:31] Well, hang on. I’m getting there. Just need a little context because I think it’s really important that people understand why what you’re doing is so good. Your work gives people regression and progression, which is one of the reasons that I think it’s so effective, is that you’re saying, “Here is the root; what we’re trying to achieve is normative ranges, but here’s how you scale and here’s how you make it more difficult.” Am I right in that thinking?
Dean Pohlman: [0:34:55] I always tell people in my classes, in my videos. Not classes. In my videos that I record, “The goal is not to mirror what I’m doing. The goal is to feel the posture as it applies to your body relative to your level of mobility and your strength. You want to feel the right muscles engaging, you want to feel the appropriate muscles stretching. But your goal is not to just do, to just mirror what I’m doing.” And that’s I think what happened at most yoga studios because when you are giving a class at a yoga studio, you are giving them experience. It’s not just going through the proper technique and constantly talking about proper technique, which is what I do. It is-
Kelly: [0:35:43] So boring.
Dean Pohlman: [0:35:44] It’s giving a couple of pose techniques and then saying, “And now I want you to just let go whatever stress you’re feeling from your day.” And I’m just kind of sitting there like, “Well, what about my knee? What should I be feeling? How much flexion do you want here?” And that’s why people were getting to your point before, Juliet, talking about that article that came out a few years ago saying that people were getting injured in yoga, my wife is actually a PT as well, she has her OCS, and she sees a ton of yoga people. And it’s primarily because they do forward folds, they go into these extreme degrees of spinal flexion. But they don’t do it with any sort of strength or muscle engagement. So they have herniated disc issues because they’re just doing these passive forward folds.
Juliet: [0:36:32] Yeah, I mean I think to me it just, again, goes back to the original mission you have, which is accessibility, right? We owned a gym for many years and we wanted to make it welcoming to a full variety of people and body types. And we actually were conscious of that and made a lot of choices around who we hired as coaches and what we wanted the vibe to be so that it would feel welcoming to people. And I think a lot of yoga studios and yoga practices are doing a much better job of that now even than when I started doing yoga 20 years ago of just making it accessible to people. You don’t have to have a certain body type; you don’t need to be a certain level of flexibility. There are all these scaled ways you can do it with blocks and bands and whatever. There’s just so many ways to actually practice in an effective way. And it seems like that’s been a big part of your mission this whole time, is how do you make this accessible to different types of people that don’t fit that perfect mold of the yoga body, the yoga person.
Dean Pohlman: [0:37:32] Yeah.
Kelly: [0:37:35] There’s no question there, by the way. So everyone’s keeping score. That was a diatribe. No question.
Dean Pohlman: [0:37:39] I’d like to address it either way, if I could.
Juliet: [0:37:42] Please.
Kelly: [0:37:42] We’re having a conversation.
Juliet: [0:37:43] This is the no question podcast. This is just comment on our comment.
Dean Pohlman: [0:37:48] People will listen to you. It doesn’t matter. You can do whatever you want. But I think this brings up how do we make yoga more accessible. And the first part is the dialogue, right? So instead of talking about something else, you could talk about what’s the proper technique here, what are you getting out of this, what muscles are we targeting, making it more accessible in terms of people with different bodies, different mobility levels, it’s just providing different modifications. It’s saying, “Hey, you can bend your knees here. You don’t have to lock out your knees for a down dog. You can bend your knees and protect your spine.” It’s teaching people how to use the blocks and the straps, like you said before. But one of the things that discourages people so much is when they go into a yoga class and they say, “We’re going to start off reaching down and touching your toes.” And you’ve got the guy who can’t even touch his shins.
Kelly: [0:38:39] You don’t know me.
Dean Pohlman: [0:38:44] This position and he can’t come close to his toes. And it’s really discouraging when that happens. So yeah, just little things like providing modifications. And it’s helpful, it was easy for me because I was there in that position when I couldn’t touch my toes or I just had a different body. I had different muscle sizes than a lot of people in the class, so.
Juliet: [0:39:11] Well, I will say for my part when I first started doing yoga, and that was back in the one man yoga class, I was always like, yes, yes, there’s one man in here, so I’m not going to be the least flexible one. I was like excited.
Kelly: [0:39:22] J.
Juliet: [0:39:23] I was like, okay, it’ll be this one man in here. I think also when you talk about accessibility too, and again, I think yoga has evolved massively, but for example, I am one of those people that not only does not like, I feel bugged and distracted when someone’s like, “Feel this pose and then your soul will fly into the rainbows in the sky.
Kelly: [0:39:43] Juliet is triggered.
Juliet: [0:39:44] And then you’ll be self-actualized as a human.” I really find those kinds of mantras to be extremely annoying and distracting. And I can’t be alone in that. I’m not saying they’re bad. I think that they really do work for a lot of people.
Kelly: [0:39:57] Yes you were.
Juliet: [0:39:58] I wasn’t. I’m saying they’re not for me. I think that they’re great for some people and some people really find empowerment from that kind of language and coaching. I on the other hand spend the next five minutes of yoga class being like, “Geez, that was really irritating and I don’t relate to that at all.” So I don’t know, I mean what do you think about that? I mean I know that’s not how you’re coaching yoga.
Dean Pohlman: [0:40:19] Right. I mean, well, when you see TV shows incorporate yoga, that’s what happens, right? It’s someone in a yoga class… I remember I was watching Dexter a couple of years ago, rewatching Dexter for the third time.
Juliet: [0:40:33] There’s yoga in Dexter?
Dean Pohlman: [0:40:34] Yeah. He goes to a yoga class with Rita and he’s sitting there and she’s saying something along the lines of what you just said. And he’s looking at her and he’s thinking, “I could slit your throat in two seconds.” And something like that. If you don’t watch Dexter, then you’re going to have to look that up. But if you’re not in that world and it’s not your thing, then going to a class with the expectation that you’re going to work on your flexibility and your balance and hearing that instead is, yeah, you’re kind of just sitting there like, “Oh my God, just get back to the poses.”
Kelly: [0:41:07] Even though chanting does release more nitrous oxide. Just saying. It’s all there. It’s all there.
Juliet: [0:41:12] And again, I want to say that I’m not against it. I think there’s a place for it and I think there’s an audience for it. There is. But-
Kelly: [0:41:20] Yeah. It’s a movement practice in a group.
Juliet: [0:41:22] Yeah, it is. And so I’m not trying to hate on that as a practice at all. I’m just saying that it’s not for me. And I think it just shows the evolution of yoga that there can be a space for a lot of different sensibilities, basically. Like an athlete sensibility, and that’s what you’re doing.
Kelly: [0:41:38] The world has changed pretty radically in the last 20 years but definitely in the last 10 years in terms of… We always point out that when we opened our gym in 2005 you couldn’t buy a kettlebell in San Francisco. In the city of San Francisco, you couldn’t buy a kettlebell. So that’s where we were. Suddenly you can buy a kettlebell at Target. And there’s people doing high intensity exercises and movement and strength and conditioning all over everywhere. So one of the things that I like to point out to people is someone like Joseph Pilates would have probably progressed their practice to meet the modern sensibility needs. They would have continued to evolve. Do you think that one of the sticking points of yoga is that we keep this romanticized version, this 19th Century version of the original ascetic practice, and yet really, the practice has continued to evolve to meet the needs of the modern human, who’s a lot more sedentary, potentially a lot more athletic. Do you think that’s happening and that your experience here is a part of that, a function of that?
Dean Pohlman: [0:42:46] I know that’s happening. There’s a great book called The Science of Yoga by William J. Broad, and he goes into the history of yoga. And if we look back, the idea that somebody was doing a sun salutation on a mountaintop 3,000 years ago is just completely false. Sun salutations-
Kelly: [0:43:04] It’s so romantic.
Dean Pohlman: [0:43:04] It is. But sun salutations were actually invented in the 20th Century. And the idea behind them was a combination of British gymnastics and martial arts to help keep people in shape. So it is the idyllic form of yoga that we have didn’t exist until the 19th Century. And there was progression. It started off as people sitting in a lotus position and meditating. From there-
Kelly: [0:43:35] And we’re doing yoga to be able to sit in that position.
Dean Pohlman: [0:43:38] Yeah. Right. And then slowly we started introducing other… Cobra pose came along and then there was tantric yoga in I think the sixth, seventh, or eighth century. And then in the 20th Century, that’s when we started getting the yoga gurus coming over from India and creating this form of yoga that we associate with the New Age yoga, right? That’s what it’s called. New Age spirituality yoga. And that developed independently of what yoga was in India. But that was developing in United States and Western Europe. And so the idea that yoga is… The way that we practice it, we see it in yoga studios with the more spiritual components, that it’s the same as what was practiced in India 3,000 years ago, that’s just not true. So there is an evolution in yoga, if that kind of addresses the question.
Juliet: [0:44:34] And it’s for the better.
Kelly: [0:44:35] One of the evolutions I think is that people can do these things at home and that we’ve decentralized it and almost democratized it. Do I need to feel like I have to have a teacher with me? Do I always have to have an expert with me in order to begin a yoga practice?
Dean Pohlman: [0:44:53] That is how yoga was practiced. You used to have to have an instructor or a master or whatever you want to call it. But no, there’s really no reason why you would need to have someone guiding you one on one. On a personal note, something that I actually hear from people that follow along to my videos, they actually say that they get more instruction and more technique advice and they learn more from my videos than they do from going to a yoga studio, going in person because it’s pretty unlikely that the yoga instructor’s going to be able to get to you and adjust your body and show you how to do all these modified things.
Kelly: [0:45:36] Yeah, it’s almost like that’s a sport we’re playing. This is practice. And going to a class can potentially be thought of as pickup basketball where we’re not working on your jump shot in pickup basketball. You don’t like that analogy, Lisa?
Juliet: [0:45:50] Well, the other side benefit of being able to do yoga at home is I’m the person who tries to go in the back corner of the yoga class, and I’m like, “Please do not talk to me, do not touch me.”
Kelly: [0:46:00] Your whole living room is a back corner, baby.
Juliet: [0:46:00] “Leave me alone. Do not notice me. Do not talk to me.” So that’s a bonus.
Dean Pohlman: [0:46:05] Those are the people I call to the front of the class, like, “Hey-
Juliet: [0:46:07] I know. Yeah.
Dean Pohlman: [0:46:08] Come up here.”
Juliet: [0:46:08] Yes. Yes.
Kelly: [0:46:09] Dean, this is why you and I get along famously.
Juliet: [0:46:11] Okay. So Dean, first of all, we know, again, what a gigantic effort it is to get a book out into the world.
Kelly: [0:46:17] Congratulations.
Juliet: [0:46:18] So congratulations.
Dean Pohlman: [0:46:19] Thank you.
Juliet: [0:46:19] Please tell us where people can buy the book, learn more about what you’re doing, find you on the interwebs, and so forth.
Dean Pohlman: [0:46:26] So this book is being internationally published right off the get go. I’ve seen it in the US, Canada, UK, Australia, Italy, France, Germany, Spain, and Poland so far. Can buy it on Amazon. Can buy it anywhere books are sold.
Kelly: [0:46:40] And it’s called?
Dean Pohlman: [0:46:42] Yoga for Athletes: 10-Minute Yoga Workouts to Make You Better at Your Sport. That is what it looks like if you’re watching the video.
Juliet: [0:46:49] Awesome. And then Man Flow Yoga.
Kelly: [0:46:52] Is it @manflowyoga? I’m playing dumb here.
Dean Pohlman: [0:46:55] Yes. Everything is @manflowyoga.
Kelly: [0:46:58] There we go.
Dean Pohlman: [0:46:59] Yes. Or manflowyoga.com. And that’s where I do more structured programs and schedules of workouts and more specific goals to help you reach your fitness goals with yoga and learn how to do yoga in the first place.
Juliet: [0:47:11] Dean, thank you so much for being here. It’s so fun to talk to you.
Kelly: [0:47:13] It’s great to see you, my friend.
Dean Pohlman: [0:47:14] It was so good having this conversation. Thank you so much for having me on here. I’m truly honored and truly honored at your participation in the book. It almost made me tear up, reading your foreword. That was a really cool
Kelly: [0:47:26] Almost. Next time.
Dean Pohlman: [0:47:28] Next time.
Juliet: [0:47:30] All right. Take care, Dean.
Dean Pohlman: [0:47:31] You guys too. Thanks.