[01:31] About Dean Pohlman
[07:30] Calorie Burn & Bikram Yoga
[12:23] Dean’s Style of Yoga
[15:22] Meditating & Breathing in Yoga
[20:31] Dean’s Yoga Routine
[40:49] On Yoga, Cardio & Weightlifting
[42:36] Being Gassed in Yoga
[47:05] Dean’s Hardest Workouts
[49:27] On “Yoga Basics for Men”
[53:00] Yoga As A Form of Relaxation
[57:13] End of the Podcast
In this episode of The Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast:
“Yoga does not give you that same feeling of, oh man, I can’t even lift my arms anymore, or I just feel so pumped up. Look how big my muscles look right now.” “If it ever gets to a point where it’s too boring, I’ll get into something like a chair pose, like a squat hold or a plank or a low plank. I’ll just hold it until my heart rate starts to increase.” “It’s a runner’s lunge, but you’re holding it for two minutes, and then you’re going into another variation for another minute. It’s a really simple exercise, but when you hold a nice symmetric exercise at that for a long time, it just gets really hard.” “You can’t go into yoga class and expect for the teacher to break down the pose from your head to your toes every time a pose is announced. In fact most times, she or he will out to pose, and they will expect you to be able to replicate the pose.”
Ben: Hey folks, it’s Ben Greenfield, and you’ve probably heard me talk about on previous podcasts how I am indeed a fan of yoga, and I’ve experimented on everything from Hatha yoga in my backyard in the snow to Bikram yoga at the local hot yoga studio to even Diamond Dallas Page yoga with the wrestler who leads you through all these moves including of course his famous superstar move. So I’ve been all over the map when it comes to yoga, and I’ve always wondered if you could, and I’ve talked to people like this who claim this that all they do to stay fit is yoga, and I’ve certainly seen some people who appear to be in pretty dang good shape even though they say that the only real element of their fitness routine is yoga.
My guest today happens to be one of those people who uses yoga as a primary method of fitness, but he does not look like one of the skinny hippies pushing a grocery shopping cart full of kale down the aisle of Whole Foods. He actually is ripped. I’ll put a photo of him in the show notes for this episode, the show notes over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/manyoga, and my guest’s name is Dean Pohlman. Dean actually has a background in yoga that he’ll tell us about that does not consist of being a yogi since he was a baby. He’s actually gotten to this relatively, recently, and developed a really cool yoga routine.
Dean and I are going to talk about whether it’s possible, for those of you nervous about the religious and the spiritual, and the philosophical aspects of yoga to separate that from yoga practice itself. We’re going to talk about how Dean’s form of yoga is different from other forms of yoga, why the yoga industry has done a poor job appealing to the extreme fitness audience or even the male audience. We’re going to talk about Dean’s book, “Yoga Basics for Men”. And by the way, before I scare you ladies away, we’re going to talk about a lot of stuff that ladies, if you want to use yoga for more than just say flexibility or lowering blood pressure, but you’ll also want to use it for fat loss, get in some extra curves, stuff like that. You will benefit from this too, so don’t walk away quite yet. Dean, thanks for coming on the show man.
Dean: Thank you for that fantastic intro, Ben. Glad to be here.
Ben: You’ve got a little bit of an interesting story yourself. I was actually reading on your website the first time you were out, I think looking for a tailor, and you stumbled into a Bikram yoga studio, and that was your first introduction to yoga. Can you fill us in on that story and how you got in to all this in the first place?
Dean: Yeah, so I was home for winter break. This is back when I think I was a Junior or Senior in college, and I was looking for a tailor. So I was wandering through the complex where I knew this tailor was, and I literally stumbled into a Bikram studio. I’m like okay, where am I right now? It’s really hot, and I was actually on my way to go work out anyways, and I had been thinking about trying yoga for years, it’s probably been three years at that point. I remember distinctly being in my friend’s house and saying you know what I really want to get into? Yoga, and I was finally here. I had a yoga studio, and the class was starting in twenty minutes, and I said alright. So I play Lacrosse, I want to get a little bit more tone, I want to work on flexibility, and she said this is perfect, and I said cool, let’s do it. And she told me I didn’t have to wear my shirt.
Ben: So was it just you, or was there like a whole group of people?
Dean: It was just me. I mean, it was a group class, but yeah, it was just me by myself, getting in the studio, and I took the class. It was Bikram, hot twenty-six, and halfway through the class, I thought I was going to pass out. It was by far the hardest workout I’ve ever done. It still is the hardest workout that I’ve ever done. That one day, ninety minutes, a hundred and five degrees, twenty-six poses, and I got out of there and just realized how much I was missing out on with my current fitness routine and how much more on I had to improve, and I said I just wanted to keep doing it just because of the challenge of it.
Ben: So your first exposure to yoga was not necessarily one of these chill yoga classes at a health club or at a studio that was full on, ninety minutes of Bikram yoga?
Dean: Yeah. I think I messed that up because I think you’re supposed to start with something like a forty-five minute Vinyasa beginner’s class, and I went straight into the ninety-minute balls to the wall, really hot yoga, push yourself to your limit until you break glass.
Ben: Yeah, totally. I remember my first Bikram yoga experience, and it certainly pushed me way outside my comfort zone. I use it now every time that I’ve gone down to do Ironman Hawaii or I’ve gone to compete in the triathlons over in Thailand because both of those are really hot human locals. I’ve stepped up my Bikram yoga to two to three times a week. We have a local studio here in Spokane, Washington called Yarrow Yoga, and I’ll go over there to do that. O if I can’t make the twenty minute drive over there. I’ll literally just set up one of these giant radiating heat fans and a humidifier in my little office and jacked up the temperature in there, walk away for an hour, come back when it’s nice and hot and humid, and throw down a yoga routine. But yeah, Bikram’s certainly one of those things that I think certainly anybody listening in who wants to jump from the frying pan and into the fire like you did, that’s a pretty good place to start.
One thing I should note about Bikram, by the way, Dean, before we keep going, maybe it’ll be interesting to hear what you found in terms of calorie burn, but I think a lot of people overestimate the number of calories that they burn in something like a Bikram yoga class because the heart rate gets so high, and a lot of heart rate monitors or FitBits that are calculating your calorie burn based on your heart rate, don’t realize that a big part of that increase in heart rate is just shuttling blood flow around to cool the body, and so you get this huge cardiovascular effect and this big build-up of heat shock proteins and nitric oxide and brain-derived neurotrophic factors and another one I know, it’s really stirring these hot yoga classes, but I think some people overestimate the number of calories that yoga, especially like hot yoga, actually burns. What do you think about that?
Dean: Yeah, I’ve had some people tell me before that okay you, this was back when I weighed 180 pounds, so you weight a hundred eighty pound, so you’re probably burning 1,200 calories per Bikram session, and I don’t think you’re actually doing that much. When I’m in a Bikram yoga class particular, this doesn’t happen in yoga classes, but all I really feel is just a huge need for sugar at the end of it. I just feel completely drained, but it’s not the same. I don’t finish it and I think oh wow, my muscles are super tired, and all I want is protein right now. I really just feel drained energy wise. So I think there’s a big difference there, and yeah, I agree. You’re not really burning as many calories as you think you are just because the heat factor is involved. If you were to do the same workout just in your room temperature living room, it wouldn’t be anywhere near as difficult, but the added heat helps you get and do levels of flexibility that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach without the heat. Also it adds that mental factor, and you have to tough it out, and just the instructor will remind you sometimes. Yeah, it just takes focus to breathe through it.
Ben: So after you got done with this Bikram yoga class, you obviously didn’t just move on and never do yoga again because now you’ve got, and we’ll put plenty of links in the show notes for those of you listening in over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/manyoga, but now Dean’s got Man Flow yoga and he’s got DVDs, and Dean, I know you’re teaching at international retreats and online now with yoga. So what happened between that first time you walked into a yoga studio and now?
Dean: A series of events leading me to where I am now. I started doing yoga consistently after that first class. I think I did about two or three classes a week, maybe even more than that, and at the time I was actually the conditioning coach, strength and conditioning coach for my Lacrosse team at the University of Wisconsin, and I made them do yoga. So we started doing yoga together, and they liked it. They liked the way that I presented it, and that was my first testing grounds. So okay, I can teach yoga to people in a way that people look at it. They’re like oh, okay this isn’t for girls, this isn’t something that’s just spiritual or religious. This is a workout. So that was my first exposure to that where that first happened, and from there, I eventually created a Facebook page, a YouTube channel, a Twitter, all that stuff. All the social media for it, I started uploading videos to YouTube, and the original intention was just to have this YouTube channel and to funnel people to the YouTube channel with social media.
From there I made a website a few months later, and then I was doing some stuff professionally that I really wasn’t that enthusiastic about. And when I found myself between jobs because I took a job that the job offer actually fell through and quit my other job in the process, so I ended up jobless, and I said okay, if I could do anything right now where I needed to support myself, what would it be? And I already had this following of, I don’t know how many thousands of people, but I already had a following on social media, and I had already been teaching, so I went into the Man Flow yoga thing, started doing group classes, started doing private training, started teaching through a webcam for personal training, and yeah. It just took me to where I am now.
Ben: My question for you because I’ve messed around, I’ve done some of the routines on your site. I’m always one of those guys, and I know a lot of yogis will scoff at this. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the concept of mindfulness-based meditation. I understand the concept of breath work and lowering stress, and a lot of the things that a typical flow yoga class can do for you, but at the same time. A lot of the times that I’m doing yoga, I’m looking to scratch that fitness itch too. The productive part of me wants to say okay, not only have I improved flexibility, lowered blood pressure, learned how to breathe properly, but I’ve also made myself a little bit more hella fit from doing things particular yoga routine. So for you, can you explain your take on yoga? Your style of yoga, what you’ve adapted yoga to become for you and how you’ve twisted yoga to actually allow you to do things like get ripped and maintain pretty high levels of fitness.
Dean: Yeah, well I liked that you used the terms “twisted yoga” because I’m not just doing yoga. What I’m doing is different from traditional yoga, and I get a lot of flak for it, but I am providing a niche that a lot of people are looking for. So my take on yoga is that it’s a calisthenics workout. It’s a series of body weight exercises that go through your full range of motion while taxing your endurance that require extreme attention to technique to proper core engagement, neutral pelvic alignment, and I see no reason why it has to incorporate the philosophy or the traditional spirituality, meditation, or even borderline religion that usually accompanies yoga.
For me, that would be like looking at a weightlifting workout. We’re doing a crossfit workout, and then at the end of it, doing a meditation together. I see no difference between it because I think one of the reasons why yoga uses meditation and the reason why it works is because people are just meditating after they have they endorphins going from the exercise. So they’re able to achieve these new insights or to accomplish something or to feel a certain way and also to connect with other people in the room because they’ve all been in there together for the last hour doing the same workout and bonding, whether or not they realize it. So my thing is you’re just working out. It doesn’t have to have anything else that goes with it, and I really enjoyed the poses, the exercises.
Ben: Now kind of a rabbit hole here before we jump into your poses and your exercises, do you meditate? Do you have any kind of religious or philosophical followings that you particularly adhere to, or do you follow any type of yoga that involves a spiritual or philosophical component, or are you pretty much just hardcore Man Flow yoga?
Dean: You know, I used to be hardcore Man Flow yoga, no meditation, no spirituality. I’m a man, I see a lot of my emotions from the world, and then I realized that was extremely unhealthy, and I started meditating regularly probably within the last six months, but I don’ do it in a yogic style. My influences for meditation, Tony Robbins actually and his whole priming process. That was something that I took into account. Practicing attitude which isn’t one particular guy but something that tons of people do. Visualizing what you want to accomplish specifically, and I’ve done some reading. Actually is was on The Huffington Post, and I got the chance to interview the author of Ten Percent. I can’t remember his name right now. Dan Harris, ABC these guy’s a correspondent.
Yeah, and he wrote a book on meditation, except for a normal persons, forgive the term “normal persons” but someone who hasn’t been exposed to yoga, from their point of view. I was like oh, okay, this makes sense. Now I can understand this, but my influences are yeah. It’s pretty mainstream in Tony Robbins and just people talking about why yoga is beneficial. I haven’t really tailored my meditation practice to any spiritual or philosophical following or influence if that answers your question.
Ben: When you do your yoga routine, are you starting or finishing with any specific breathing practices? The reason I ask is for example, one of the things that I learned when I went down and did the Navy SEAL fit training was this whole concept of box breathing, like the four-count in, four-count hold, four-count out and four-count hold, and now I actually do that before my key workouts, before my key difficult workouts that I’d normally just have jumped into and started jumping around like a Muppet. Now I just sit there, cross-legged, doing this box breathing for five minutes, visualizing the workout and visualizing the internal warrior that I want to be able to rely upon for strength during that workout. Do you do anything woo woo like that before or after your training routines or even these yoga sessions?
Dean: I think that’s super bad ass. I think visualization like that is very powerful, but I usually don’t. What I would do sometimes is end with a short two-minute or five-minute, just okay you just worked out, and now what do you have going on today, and just compartmentalize my brain for the day, but I used to, but I don’t really do too many breathing techniques at the end. If I do any, it’ll be at the beginning, and it’ll be just counting in four, counting out four, counting in five, counting out five. That’s about the extent of the breathing that I do.
Ben: When you go through the exercises or the poses that you’re going to tell us about in a little bit that kind of comprise some of the crooks of Man Flow yoga, are you doing what you’ll find in most yoga classes? Like you inhale and then you exhale into a pose, and you inhale then you exhale into the next pose. Do you actually do conscious breathing like that?
Dean: Yeah, so the inhale and the exhale are the linked with my movements. So typically in yoga, you’ll exhale to deep end, you’ll inhale to length end, and I use the breath to go deeper into poses, and once I’m in the pose, I’m very focused on controlling my breath. No matter how much my heart is racing or how much my body is shaking, but very much focused on maintaining that even inhale, even exhale for as long as my breath can be.
Ben: Gotcha. One last random question before we jump in to how your yoga routines are set up for getting fit with yoga as a primary form of fitness. Totally random question ’cause I do this all the time, do you ever use an elevation training mask during your yoga sessions, like one of these air flow restrictors?
Dean: I have not.
Ben: You got to try it out man, I’m just telling you.
Dean: I would love to. I think it would be bad ass.
Ben: It’ll turn even a foam rolling session into a workout, so it’s pretty intense stuff. Alright cool, well I’ve asked enough squirting around the main issue type of question. I want to hear now about how your actual yoga routines are set up. Can you tell us about some of your more popular routines and how they actually go?
Dean: Yeah, sure. So there’s a few things that really separate what the yoga workouts that I do from other workouts, from other yoga sessions. One of the things that I do is founded on the principle that people aren’t as flexible as yoga instructors think they are, and they need more time for warm-up. So I’m an athlete, I’m used to doing my lap around the field before stretching out, or I’m used to warming up before I stretch.
So usually before I do anything, there is some sort of static or dynamic warm-up, and if I’m doing a static warm-up, it’s just a simple squat hold. So going down the chair pose for example, except without the arms overhead, so there’s less flexibility involved to warm up your body before you start to stretch the muscles. And there’s a belief period where you’re doing static poses that don’t involve a lot of flexibility to warm up the body, so you’re moving from poses that require less flexibility to poses that require the utmost flexibility.
Ben: So when you’re saying you’re starting off by warming up the body and then doing some of these static exercises, would that be, for example, a set of body weight squats followed by isometric squat hold or lunge hold type of positions?
Dean: Yeah, exactly. Think of a wall set. For those of you listening who don’t do yoga, think of a wall set to warm up and then starting to stretch and then starting to do something like a lunge that requires some flexibility.
Ben: Gotcha. Now are you doing the static holds prior to jumping in to your actual yoga session to build up lactic acid in the muscles or to increase the heat within the muscle, or is there a specific reason that you choose isometrics or static holds as part of the warm-up?
Dean: Yeah, I think that it’s for both of the reasons you mentioned. I want people to feel that lactic acid build up before really starting to stretch ’cause that means your muscles are warming up. So feeling your muscles warm up, feeling your body warming up before you start your stretch, and that also keeps the workout intensity higher. So once you get heated up and your muscles are warm, after you’ve done that intense isometric hold, then the rest of the workout feels more intense. It feels like you’re getting more done, so that’s to answer your question.
Ben: Okay, got you. So we’ve got our body weight movements and isometrics that we use as a warm-up, and then what do you move into from there?
Dean: From there, it’s moving into the traditional yoga postures, so the Warrior 1, Warrior 2, standing side stretches, chair poses, lunges, but I make the poses less a lot longer, and I pay a huge amount of attention to detail. One of the things that bugged the crap out of me when I was in the yoga class was that we would transition into a pose, and then ten seconds later, we’d be out of it, and I wouldn’t have had a chance to correct my form, to make sure what I’m doing was right, to make sure that I was actually getting deeper into the pose. So instead of going into a Warrior 2 pose for example, let’s just call it a modified lunge, for those of you who aren’t familiar with yoga, and holding it for ten seconds, go into it and hold it for a minute, and you talk about the technique involved the whole time, and what to pay attention for all the way from your feet up through your head.
Ben: Now when you’re holding a position for that long, you’re obviously not just inhaling and then exhaling, you’re breathing multiple times I would imagine through that one minute, right? You’re not doing all that in one breath?
Dean: Right, yeah that’s definitely not on one breath, unless you’ve trained yourself to that point.
Ben: A beast when it comes to lung control for that which you heard about some of these yogis that will take eight breaths in a day, right? They’ll do this box breathing where they’ll breathe in for a ten minute count and then hold and then out through a ten minute count. You hear these crazy anecdotal stories about things like that, but for you, you’re actually breathing as you hold each position for what it sounds like is significantly longer than what you’d experience during a normal yoga class.
Dean: Correct, so the yoga class that you’re referring to is going to be called a Flow or Vinyasa class, and typically those classes are one breath, one movement, and so what I’m emphasizing with Man Flow yoga is getting in a pose and staying in it for a few breaths, so you have time to refine the technique to go deeper. So you’re actually building flexibility, and also get to that point of muscle fatigue, muscle failure, when you’re muscles start to shake and you’ll actually get stronger instead of just a stretch.
Ben: Yeah, are you familiar with Jay Schroeder at all? He’s a guy who works with NFL athletes, and he’ll do entire workouts made up of only isometric positions. I actually was able to hang out with him at one of Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof Biohacking conferences, and he would go as far as to not only have you do something like a workout, for example, would be a five-minute squat hold, five-minute push-up hold, five-minute plank hold, five-minute lunge for the right, five-minute lunge for the left and then almost like a door frame hang, but he would in addition to that, sometimes even use electrostims.
So actually put electrostim electrodes on the muscle that you’re holding, so not only are you jacking up ungodly amounts of lactic acid from simply holding a muscle in a position without allowing yourself to pump blood and out of, but then you add electrodes to that, and so you’re getting the electrostim, grabbing even more muscle fibers, and it’s a crazy workout in terms of its intensity and its difficulty, but it sounds to me like you’re relying upon some of the similar physiological advantages of just holding positions for long periods of time.
Dean: Yeah, exactly. That’s exactly what I’m doing. Putting that into it, I just had something.
Ben: Yeah, you should try it some time. Well the Compex is an example of an electrostim unit that isn’t quite as expensive as, I think it’s an eight to ten thousand dollar unit that Jay uses, but you can have a pretty good effect if you put that thing in strength mode or power mode and then go through a series of isometric holds, you might get a kick out of it with your Man Flow yoga technique.
Dean: Oh yeah. Man Flow yoga with that.
Ben: So you’ve got your dynamic warm-up and then some isometric holds to start the actual routine, and then you’re holding each move of a Flow move of, sounds like a sun salutation series except you’re holding each position for sixty second for example. What else is unique about the form of yoga that you’re doing?
Dean: One thing that I try to emphasize with my yoga is more upper body and more upper body hold. So very rarely will you do an Up-Dog for more than one breath, or very rarely will you do the second part of a Vinyasa, or what we call the yoga a Chataranga, but is really just a push-up. The lower part of there, where your forms are perpendicular to the ground. You’re in a plank, but your upper arms are parallel to the ground, so ninety degree hold. So I’ll emphasize a lot more upper body with that, and also emphasize more back engagement. So the poses are very similar, it’s just what do I put more in there. So there’s more planks, there’s more upper body stuff because with the guy in mind, with Man Flow yoga in mind, guys do want to develop upper body strength, they do want to develop chest and the arms, and typically with a yoga workout, you don’t target that. You just target the lower body. So that’s another difference with Man Flow yoga that I put in a lot more upper body.
Ben: Now how do you approach some of the pulling muscles, right? Like the scapula retractors and the level scapula and the rhomboids. That’s always a tricky part about yoga, and I got to tell you that a lot of times when I’m doing a yoga session, I’ll finish up with 25 pull-ups or some inverted rows or something that hits some of those pulling muscles I didn’t really get a chance to work. How do you get around that issue?
Dean: Yeah, that is the big issue with yoga. There’s not a lot of pulling exercises. You can push the ground away from you, but you can’t pull the ground toward you. So what I try to do with that is squeezing your back muscles together. I mean, just taking your arms up to cool cold arms and contracting your back muscles, squeezing your shoulder blades together as much as you can like you were doing a row. Or when you’re doing a cobra, insert in cobra rows, so pulling your elbow back as far as you can, releasing and then doing it again a few more times. But ultimately, you can’t just do yoga with it. You’ve got to insert in some using resistance bands, just hang them on a door frame and do some of those afterwards, or like you do, do some pull-ups.
I think that yoga is fantastic, but yeah like you said. Those pulling exercises, it’s hard to get. Some other things you can do is focusing on engaging those back muscles whenever you possibly can. So for example on Down-Dog, even if there’s a lot of emphasis on your lower back and your hamstrings, emphasize getting your shoulders, pulling back and engaging those scapula muscles to stabilize and pulling your shoulder blades in to your body rather than letting them open up. That can also be very effective in helping to counter balance the large amount of pushing with your upper body found in yoga.
Ben: Yeah, it always seems that yoga is a little bit push centric, and I’ve even found that if I don’t focus on doing something to keep the shoulder blades retracted, I can get shoulder pain if I’m doing too many of these sun salutations or plank holds or the type of push-up-like activities that you’ll find in yoga. So it really is something important to think about, and I did notice in a couple of videos that I saw on your site how you are emphasizing some of that shoulder retraction which is good ’cause a lot of people don’t think about that during yoga.
Now we talked a little bit about the isometric holds, your focus on some of the upper body positions and making sure you’re not overloading the legs which happen so often in many a yoga class, what else are you doing in your Man Flow Yoga that is unique?
Dean: So this kind of goes back to what I said earlier, but assuming that people are not flexible, I’m providing modifications that I didn’t even know about or that a lot of instructors don’t know exist because I started yoga, I’m 5’10, and I started yoga when I was a hundred and eighty pounds, probably 10% body fat but just really bulky. A really bulky muscle lies, and not a lot of flexibility. So I had to come up with these exercises or come up with modifications to poses that worked for me, that other instructors, they would say okay, try this. I’m like I can’t do that, so I had to come up with modifications that would work for people who are inflexible. So these are what I use to make Man Flow yoga a little bit unique.
So if people can’t narrow their fingers behind their back, it’s using a strap. If people can’t wind their arms together in equal pose, that’s squeezing your forearms together. If people can’t lift their arms overhead, it’s taking your arms to goalpost arms and engaging your back muscles instead of trying to lift your arms overhead and just wearing open your chest and arching your back. So it’s modifications that make it different, modifications to the standard poses that apply to more inflexible people. Rather than making that the hey, okay let’s go to this pose, and then if you can’t do this, do this. It’s just go to the modification instantly.
Ben: What would you say to the people though who would argue that lack of mobility or that lack of flexibility is not necessarily brought on by the inability to hold some static stretch pose for a long period of time but is in fact due to fascial immobilities like cross linking of fibers and things that would better be addressed via Lacrosse balls and foam rollers. Do you incorporate those at all, or what’s your take on addressing that other element of mobility rather than just, well I’ll ask you this, have you heard about this analogy of taking a rope, but that has a knot in it, pulling the rope on both ends as you would during a static stretch and just making that knot even tighter?
Dean: Yeah. It’s funny that you brought that up because I use that rope analogy a lot to explain what muscle knots are, and I actually work with a lot of my remote training clients, people that I train via webcam. I usually within five lessons, we talk about and we do something with foam rollers and Lacrosse balls because like you said, you can’t just keep pulling on a muscle if there’s a knot there. It’s not going to get it out, so Lacrosse balls are absolutely very important for what I do, and I put some stuff about that on my YouTube channel and on my website. I use foam roller, I use the Lacrosse balls, and I actually had the same issue. I was doing yoga a lot, I mean I was doing it three or four times a day, I was actually teaching and doing all of the classes that I was teaching. My shoulders were just getting torn up because I wasn’t doing the proper deep tissue, the soft tissue manipulation that Lacrosse balls and foam rollers would have helped out with, and I had to stop doing any pushing exercises whatsoever for two whole months, and all I did was Lacrosse ball, foam roll, hang on a bar. So yeah, Lacrosse balls are something that I do incorporate into it.
Ben: Yeah. So in terms of a couple of missing components that you’ll see a lot of people complain are not present in yoga, how are you introducing these? The first would be strength, the ability to actually subject the body to a load that allows you to build significant amounts of bone density or even to say add muscle. How are you able to work those kind of moves into yoga? What are some examples?
Dean: So putting your body on one leg, and so do a chair pose with both legs, doing a chair pose with one leg, or doing something resembling a pistol squat, or let’s see. You’ve got side planks you can do, the low plank which I talked about before, going into a low push-up and holding it, and that gets pretty taxing for almost anybody who’s unfamiliar. So I can do that with most people, and they won’t make it past 15 seconds. So just being innovative with yoga like that can help address that issue, but there are things like the pulling exercises that you have to do outside of yoga. You have to get a pull bar involved, or you have to go up on your arms and do a handstand or do a curl pose. So there isn’t any way to get around the lack of a pulling weight.
Ben: Yeah. One of the things, and I know I brought it up in jest earlier but actually thought it was kind of cool in these Diamond Dallas Page yoga videos. You know the ones I’m talking about? Have you seen this?
Dean: Oh yeah.
Ben: So he’ll have some moves where, for example, you’ll reach up, wrap your hands around in an imaginary pull-up bar and pull your elbows down really slowly, engaging in a conscious full-body contraction of the lats, just as though you were doing a pull-up, and when you’re going through a three-minute set of ten of those really slow, basically imaginary pull-ups, I got to say, my muscles are shaking, and my lats feel just like they would have after I’ve done a set of pull-ups when I do something like that. And so I can’t say I’ve seen any research that shows a very super slow or isometric contraction of say the lats, is going to elicit any type of muscle hypertrophy or satellite cell reaction compared to say doing a real pull-up or say even doing a deadlift, but I think that you can achieve quite a bit with yoga.
Dean: Well I mean how does it feel? What is your body telling you when you’re doing that?
Ben: It feels great, but I still feel guilty that I’m not lifting, right? Like even today, even this morning, I was like I ‘m going to interview Dean, so I’m going to get pumped up and I will end at yoga with my elevation training mask. So I did a half hour of yoga in my front driveway, but then afterwards I went downstairs to the gym, and I did five-by-five on the bar with the deadlifts, and then I did twenty-five pull-ups just because I felt like I still needed a tap into that, and maybe part of that is mental, but I personally feel, and I know that your message is primarily that you use yoga as one of the main means to get fit, but I still have that mentality of really wanting to add in actual weight as well and feel like I get a better workout when I do that.
Dean: Let me tell you that there is nothing that will ever replace the feeling of satisfaction of killing a weight workout. Yoga does not give you that same feeling of, oh man, I can’t even lift my arms anymore, or I just feel so pumped up. Look how big my muscles look right now. There’s nothing that replaces that feeling of finishing a weight workout, but it is balanced out by the fact that you can finish your workout and the next day you wake up, and you don’t step out of bed and say, “ugh no, leg day. It was yesterday, I’m not going to be able to walk upstairs today.”
Ben: Yeah, you certainly bounce back more quickly from the yoga.
Dean: Yeah, you feel sore, but you don’t feel dehabilitatingly sore.
Ben: So in terms of your own routine, how often are you doing yoga versus traditional cardio running versus weightlifting?
Dean: I haven’t lifted weights in a long time. I think I’m going to get back to it eventually, just because I just want to keep it exciting, change it up. So I do yoga about usually, at least once, but probably twice a day. Anywhere from a thirty-minute session to a sixty-minute session, usually on my own or when I’m working out with my clients, one or two times a day. A far as cardio goes, I’m not doing too much cardio apart from taking my dog, I just got a dog about a month ago, so starting to do some ten to fifteen minute jogs with him. It’s not something significant enough for that counting as a workout, but strength training, as far as that goes, I will use resistance bands, I’ll use pull-up bars. It’s all body weight stuff, but I do that probably twice a week or two or three times a week maybe, and that helps to address the inequality of pulling exercises that I’ve found in yoga, but I’m probably going to. Diamond, don’t sue me or anything, but I think I’m going to start doing those pull-ups you talked about.
Ben: Yeah, TM. Just make sure you reference them, they’re the Ben Greenfield Post-Pull-up yoga that I’ve trademarked, are post yoga pull-ups. Another question that I have for you is cardio. How do you get to that point where you’re gassed, where you’re breathing really heavily during a yoga class? Do you have moves that you’ll put in to your yoga routine that allow you to tap into that part of the physiological stimulus that you might be missing with a yoga class?
Dean: No I really don’t. I do not address that in my classes. It’s one thing I that I felt doesn’t really jive with what I’m doing with Man Flow yoga. The emphasis is on slow, controlled movement, and so putting in something like cardio into the workout, it would just change it up too much.
Ben: Do you ever measure your heart rate to see how high your heart rate gets?
Dean: I have not measured my heart rate. I have a Pebble, but I’ve never measured my heart rate in one of my own workouts to see. I do have people who have done that, and I think I don’t know what their heart rate was, but I think they got up to in an hour, they were burning 800 and 900 calories.
Ben: Okay, gotcha. Yeah. I mean again, I’m not a huge fan of the accuracy of those calorie burn meters and don’t necessarily think of cardio intervals. I don’t think of their primary benefit as being to burn calories. But as far as building up a bigger cardiovascular engine, I can tell you that if it’s hot and I’m going through a series of difficult moves and even incorporating some of the strategies that you’ve talked about, it’s kind of interesting. It sounds like you and I even though we haven’t talked before, I’ve come to some similar conclusions when it comes to how to make yoga more difficult, but when I’m holding those isometric positions for long periods of time or I’m even doing something that requires a little bit more full body contraction like an inverted pose or a pose where you’re supporting your body with your hands or something like that, I’ve found that I’m able to get my heart rate pretty close to what my predicted maximum would be.
I mean I can get to the point where my heart feels like it’s pounding out my chest, and I’m breathing hard, and I can get there even faster when I’m wearing, for example, one of these training masks, but you have to make some definite modifications, and I have to admit and I’m curious about your thoughts on this. Sometimes I will stop in the middle of a yoga routine that I feel isn’t challenging me as cardiovascularly as it could, and I’ll just do thirty burpees or a set of jumping lunges or something that jacks up the heart rate. You don’t ever do anything like that?
Dean: I think that well, I’m usually in control in the workout, so if it ever gets to a point where it’s too boring, I’ll get into something like a chair pose, squat hold or a plank, or a low plank, and I’ll just hold it until I feel like my heart rate starts to increase. So I do make a distinction between heart rate and breathing, so even though my heart rate is going up, I’m really focused on controlling my breath to make sure it’s never getting to the point where I’m breathing quickly but at least breathing in control in and out of my mouth even if my whole body is shaking and my heart is pounding.
Ben: Yeah, it sounds like you’re getting there primarily through the isometrics which I mentioned with Jay Schroeder protocol. That extreme isometrics stuff. He can certainly get the heart rate jacked up pretty high from that type of thing, and I think it depends on your goals too, right? Like I am still trying to stay on the point of the edge of fitness for things like Spartan racing and triathlon where I just have to have a bigger VO2 Max than I’d probably be willing to settle for a little bit less when it comes to oxygen pass if I were just training for say general fitness or I guess golf or something like that. No offense to all you golfers out there.
So you’ve got videos that range from ten minutes or less all the way up to twenty-five minutes or more on your site, and each of these videos, one’s upper body yoga workout, intense, lower body yoga workout, intense, your Man Flow yoga pyramid. You’ve got one called Death by Warrior. If you were to take what you would consider to be one of your more difficult workouts, in just one to two minutes describe what that workout would actually look like, can you give us a pretty good idea? Help us wrap our heads around what would be one of your more favorite or difficult yoga routines that you’ve invented.
Dean: Sure. Yoga workouts are sequenced doing counter pose to pose to counter pose. So if you’re doing something with your legs straight, you’re going to do something where your leg is bent. So the way that I keep my workouts really intense is that I’m going from something that requires you to bend your legs to doing a squat. Going with something that requires straight legs, but both of these exercises are very difficult. So it’s pretty much constant the whole time minus the break that traditional yoga classes would have by inserting the Vinyasa or inserting in that Plank 2, Up-Dog to Down-Dog movement and then the rest in Down-Dog. Everything is [48:10] ______ and I try to make it so that you’re never taking a break which makes it a little bit different. More than that, you’re also staying in the pose for a much longer time. So that’s really the basis of my upper body and my lower body workout, the lower body workout intense and the upper body yoga workout intense on the website that you’ll find. I also have an eighteen-minute core workout which is extremely difficult, very popular which just keeps the pound to the floor the whole time.
Ben: What would you say are the toughest three exercises in that core workout that make it so hard?
Dean: In the core workout, what makes it so hard is it’s a runner’s lunge. It’s just a basic lunge, but you’re holding it for two minutes, and then you’re going into another variation for another minute. So it’s a really simple exercise, but it’s just when you hold an isometric exercise like that for a long time, it just gets really hard. That and the low plank where you hold it with your arms at a ninety degree bend, those are two of the most difficult exercises that you’re going to find in there.
Ben: So I know that you’ve got a ton of these routines on your sight and Man Flow yoga that are just free, but then you’ve also got this book that you wrote called “Yoga Basics for Men”. Why would someone want to read that versus just grabbing what’s on your sight, what’s on the book?
Dean: So the e-book, I wrote that last year. It got number one on Amazon in four categories, and it has a ton of information on poses most likely utilized in Man Flow yoga workouts. Sample sequences, key concepts, both mental and physical, and keep in mind while you’re doing yoga, but the reason why it’s so useful to beginners is because you can’t go into yoga class and expect for the teacher to break down the pose from your head to your toes every time a pose is announced. In fact most times, she or he will out to pose, and they will expect you to be able to replicate the pose without any instruction. So what my e-book does is it explains the poses. It says, what’s the target area of this pose? What’s a practical benefit of this pose? If I do this pose and I’m a baseball player, what does this help me do?
It also goes through very easy to follow and in-depth technique explanation of the pose. So building from the feet up to your head, what is my back leg doing? What’s my front leg doing? What should I be doing with my core? Where is my chest in relation to my legs? Where are my shoulder, and what should I do with my hips? So it just makes it a lot easier for someone to learn yoga more quickly as opposed to them just going to a yoga studio and learning slowly as I did. So it’s a hack for learning yoga, that’s what it is.
Ben: Right, gotcha. Okay so, that one’s called, what’s the name of it again?
Dean: “Yoga Basics for Men”?
Ben: I keep saying Man Yoga. Yes, “Yoga Basics for Men” and then your site is Man Flow Yoga, and that’s one of the things that I mentioned that I do for better or for worse as I look for yoga routines that really challenge me. I still feel relaxed at the end after I focused on the breathing and usually you’ve got a lot of body mindfulness and mindfulness that you’re working on during the session to where I feel a drop in cortisol, and I’ve worn the heart rate variability, so the increase in variability happens, and it’s higher than what it would be after a normal workout that beats me up, but then I get the increase in my breath control, the drop in blood pressure, and so I think it’s okay to have yoga routines be able to kick your butt but also give you some of that same relaxation and mobility benefit that yoga can give you as well, and your routine is among others that I’ve found that actually push me outside my comfort zone when it comes to this stuff.
Again, I still will do things like the elevation training mask and the post-yoga pull-ups or deadlifts and we’ll even throw in the burpees here and there, but ultimately I like your routines, so if you’re listening in to this show, you can check out any of Dean’s routines. A bunch of them are free over at manflowyoga.com. I’ll put links in the show notes to the stuff that we talked about, and also Dean’s book, “Yoga Basics for Men” along with a couple of photos of Dean so you can see just how ripped he’s gotten with doing yoga over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/manyoga. Dean, anything else that you want to share with us?
Dean: Yeah, so we talk a lot about yoga and stress relief, and the thing is that you don’t have to talk about it. You don’t have to describe the philosophy, you don’t have to describe what’s going on in the mind. I think that the fact that you’re just moving mindfully and breathing and linking your breath with your movement just creates that stress relief all on its own. So whether you know it or not, you’re getting the stress relief benefits just by doing yoga, whatever form it happens to be.
Ben: Right, that makes sense. As far as stress relief and working this kind of stuff in goes, a know a lot of people complain that yoga is just one more thing that I got to squeeze in to my treadmill, and my lifting, and my rock climbing, and everything else I’m trying to do, and what I would say for me personally, I’ve incorporated most of my yoga into ten to fifteen minutes in the morning, really super short routines. More like the ten minute or less routines that you have on your site, and then about once a week, sometimes twice a week in like the off season, I will do a harder yoga session. Thirty to sixty minutes that involves some of these longer holds that you’re talking about that involves some of the burpees that involve wearing an elevation mask. You’re doing it in a really cold situation or a really hot situation or even going to the dry sauna and doing yoga, and so I use as not necessarily as an addition to a lot of my normal workouts but as a replacement or just this part of my normal routine where I’d normally be doing something relaxing anyways. So there are ways that you can squeeze this stuff in, right?
Dean: Yeah, if there’s one thing I had to say, another thing to address what you just said, you have to do your strength training, you have to do your rock climbing and you’re running. What I try to do with Man Flow yoga is make it a yoga workout that replaces your body weight, or your weight training workout. It’s a workout that will tax your muscles to the point of muscle failure while working into the full range of motion in your body. That’s what I try to do.
Ben: Yeah, and for anybody who wants to see what that four range of motion feels like, once you’re holding a position for one to two minutes, you definitely feel a pretty intense increase in your mobility and your ability to be able to get into that position which is important to when you’re looking at something like how a lunge simulates the same position you’ll find yourself in a run or a squat simulates. An isometric squat simulates a huge amount of strength and lactic acid build up and can develop power in strength. So there’s a lot of cool cross-over benefits here, and we could obviously talk for a long time, but we’re pressed for time now, I know. So again, I’ll link to some stuff if you want to go check this out over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/manyoga, and Dean, thanks for coming on the call today.
Dean: Yeah, thank you, Ben. It was a great conversation. Thanks for being a good interviewer. It flowed pretty well despite this being our first in-person conversation, so thank you.
Ben: That’s okay, I do my best. It usually involves copious amounts of coffee pre-interview, along with some yoga, right? Some Elevation training mask. My coffee this morning was actually mushroom coffee with cordyceps. So it was from this company called FourSigma Foods that they make rieshi and maitake and shitake and all sorts of extracts, but one of the things they have is mushroom coffee. So that was my beverage of choice this morning, over ice with some chocolate stevia, so there you go. It’s about as foofy as it gets.
Dean: Sounds very good.
Ben: Alright, well folks. Thanks for listening in. Again, check out bengreenfieldfitness.com/manyoga for the show notes, and until next time. This is Ben Greenfield and Dean Pohlman from manflowyoga.com, signing out.
Dean Pohlman’s first yoga class was entirely on accident. He says:
“I was looking for the tailor and stumbled into a Bikram Yoga studio. I had always been interested in yoga but had never taken a yoga class before that day. I asked the yoga instructor if this class would help my athletic performance. [At the time I was a lacrosse player for the University of Wisconsin.] She told me that it would help me tone my muscles and make me much more flexible. That was exactly what I was looking for. Two hours later, drenched in sweat from head to toe, feeling like I had just exited the pool, and utterly exhausted, I had just completed my first yoga class. It was, and probably will remain, the hardest workout that I have ever done. From that point on, I was sold.”
After two months of doing yoga consistently, Dean realized that the benefits of yoga extended far beyond flexibility…
“My level of limberness skyrocketed, and so did my endurance, body control, core strength, and balance, just to name a few of the benefits I was experiencing. More than that, it made me even stronger in the weight room.”
Dean first began instructing yoga as the conditioning coach of his lacrosse team in 2011. That success encouraged him to take his knowledge and passion to a larger audience, and in January of 2013, Dean founded Man Flow Yoga in order to bring the physical benefits of yoga to as many people as possible, and since then, Dean has been teaching at gyms, parks, workshops, international retreats, and online.
As you can see in the photos above and below, Dean has certainly figured out how to get ripped with yoga, and in today’s podcast you’ll discover:
-If it is possible to separate the movements involved in yoga from the spirituality and philosophy of yoga…
-What makes Dean’s form of yoga different from other forms of yoga…
-Why the the yoga industry has done a poor job in reaching the male audience or the extreme fitness crowd…
-What you’ll find in Dean’s book “Yoga Basics for Men” (use 25% discount – “BENGREENFIELD25” – on the eBook)….
-And much more!
Questions, comments or feedback about how to get ripped with yoga? Leave your thoughts below, and be sure to check out Dean’s book “Yoga Basics for Men” (you can use 25% discount – “BENGREENFIELD25” – on the eBook).