Watching Dylan Werner move with almost superhuman strength and grace leaves you awe-struck and puzzled as to how he is able to defy gravity in such a controlled way. The answer is yoga. Yes, this master of inversion and arm balance has gained his Herculean power through nothing less than yoga.
The L.A. based yoga expert is considered to be one of the leaders in yoga strength training and body weight movement, having gained recognition for his jaw-dropping Instagram videos and photos.
The Red Bulletin sat down with the 35-year-old to talk about how his background in wrestling and rock climbing has helped him on his journey to gain total body and mind control through the practice of yoga.
THE RED BULLETIN: What does yoga mean to you?
DYLAN WERNER: Yoga has been many things to me. It started as a physical practice but the more that I worked the external, the more the internal began to change. Yoga for me is a way to stay mindful and present; a way to connect with myself and learn how to live a more conscious life.
What’s the key to getting to this level?
Practice, practice, practice - and knowing how to practice. Train strength balance and flexibility equally. If you hate something, it is because you’re probably not good at it. Practice that more, until you love it. Learn from as many teachers as you can. Always be a student.
Your background is in martial arts, rock climbing and wrestling. How did you first come across yoga?
I have a background in movement. Yoga is just movement with an emphasis on the internal practice. It doesn’t have to look like Warrior 2 or Downward Facing Dog to be yoga, it just has to have a level of mindfulness and meditation behind the movement. I started wrestling when I was very young and I wrestled until I was about 22 and in that time I also did martial arts. It’s been over 10 years since I’ve done either. I still love rock climbing. I don’t climb as much as I would like to anymore because of my busy travel and yoga schedule. But for me, it can all be yoga based on how you want to approach it. I started yoga like most guys start yoga. I walked into a yoga class looking for pretty girls, but what I found was so much more.
Dylan Werner, 35, is regarded as one of the world leaders in yoga strength training and body weight movement. His background lies in wrestling, rock climbing and martial arts, where he first got introduced to yoga. Even though his practice seems very physical, he believes that yoga is a tool to discover yourself and find clarity and presence.
Which of these has been the largest influence in your yoga practice?
Definitely rock climbing. Rock climbing has taught me so much about core strength, core stability, controlled movement, muscle recruitment, body engagement and proprioception. I’ve been able to take all these aspects of control and body awareness and apply them to yoga poses, arm balances and inversions.
Which type of yoga do you perform and how often a week do you practice?
I mostly practice Vinyasa and I try to practice everyday, but sometimes my travel and teaching make it hard for me to do that. If I go a day without practicing, I don’t beat myself up about it.
Would you say that yoga is more of a lifestyle to you, than just a sport?
I don’t think anyone that practices yoga would look at it as a sport. The Asana-part [pose in Sanskrit] of yoga is just one very small aspect of the practice. To those who practice, it’s a way of living consciously and mindfully. Yoga is definitely my lifestyle.
Anyone who has ever set foot in a yoga class before knows that it is predominantly filled with women. Why should men also do yoga?
I find it funny that people still have the perception that yoga is just for women. I live in Los Angeles, where yoga classes are filled with men. The practice of yoga is very physical and demands strength, flexibility and balance. I think the main reason why some men are reluctant to take a yoga class isn’t because they think it’s for girls. I think it’s because they’re scared to be shown up by their female counterparts. They should be too; there are some amazingly strong and flexible women who practice yoga.
How can you get the stereotype that yoga is a girls-only-club out of men’s heads?
If you are a lady and you want your man to start doing yoga, show them some of the amazing things that men are doing in yoga. I see a lot of women tagging their boyfriends and husbands in my photos, saying “you think yoga is just for girls?” Anyone (men and women) who starts to practice yoga feels the benefits of the practice in both mind and body. It might be hard to get some men through the door, but after one hot and sweaty Vinyasa class, they’ll know how challenging it can be. Now they just have to remember to leave their ego at the door when they walk in.
But it can be a good place to meet women, right? You, for instance, met your girlfriend Ashley Galvin while practicing yoga…
It’s the first reason that I ever ventured into a yoga class. Yoga is full of amazing, fit and conscious woman. And most women that practice yoga want a man that practices yoga too. Just don’t be the creep hitting on a girl while she’s in down dog.
A common reason why men first start doing yoga is because they have heard that it is supposed to improve your sex life. Is that true?
If you learn how to control your body and mind, you’ll be better at everything that you do… even sex. But that is a dumb reason to start yoga, unless you know you’re awful in bed, then I guess do whatever you can! But I doubt yoga is really going to help you that much. Try being a better communicator first.
How has yoga changed your life?
I definitely wouldn’t be doing this interview if it weren’t for yoga! When I started, I never knew it was something you could be good at. I just thought it was like going to the gym - People just did it to get in shape. When I started teaching, I never thought that it would become my career. When I got laid off from the fire department and decided to teach yoga full time, I didn’t know that I would be travelling the world and teaching people yoga. When I first stepped on my mat, I didn’t know that yoga would change my perspective on how I saw the world and how I saw myself and that I was starting on a journey to become more aware, conscious and mindful. My entire life is different because of yoga and I couldn’t be happier.