Sure, yoga started with men, but now, when most people think “yoga,” images of pretty women wearing printed leggings in Warrior II pose come to mind—and many members of the opposite sex don’t see the practice as something for them.
Amy Goalen, a photographer from Santa Monica, is trying to change that, with her project Inside The Warrior, a collection of photos of men doing yoga—in studios, fields, and even on train tracks, all over the United States—paired with writer Julian DeVoe’s interviews with them. And Goalen is currently raising funds to turn the project into a book.
It all began a year and a half ago, when Goalen was inspired after shooting promotional yoga photos of her teacher, Byron de Marse. “After looking at and researching tons of yoga photography, I noticed that the majority of images were of women,” Goalen says. “I decided to do something new and focus my series on men.”
Goalen now travels the country shooting photos for the project. Find out more about her inspiration, below. —Jamie McKillop
Why do you think it’s important for people to see images of men practicing yoga? The majority of people in the mainstream don’t feel that yoga is for guys. There’s a strong perception that yoga is only practiced by girls, uber hippies, or gay men. Yoga can be very masculine, powerful, and strong. When I started, I did seek out more sculpted bodies to prove that this is what your body can look like if you do yoga. But now, I’m moving more into regular looking guys—older, hairy men. I’ve had some really great responses from men who say it’s great to see normal guys doing yoga, because it makes it them think they can do it, too.
What surprising things have you learned through the process of photographing men? One of the things that surprised me is that I didn’t realize that men are just as self-conscious about their bodies as women are. I really try to approach a photo shoot now with no expectation of what you can or can’t do, and you don’t have to look like an Adonis doing it. We all want to look our best, and men are just as insecure about it. I didn’t think men were like that, but we share that vulnerability. A ton of guys are very deep, spiritual, and sensitive.
Why have most of the men you’ve photographed started practicing yoga? Everyone has a story and starts practicing yoga for their own reason, but 99 percent of them started practicing after going through some sort of trauma or grief. These men are so happy to share their stories. A lot of the time yoga has saved their lives.