Peace, elegance and grace meet strength, power and control in these portraits of male yoga practitioners. Last year, when Los Angeles-based photographer Amy Goalen started practicing power yoga, she also started photographing her male yoga teacher. It soon became a larger project, and as more male yogis volunteered to hold their poses for the camera, Goalen realized how rarely yoga photography features men. “The current mainstream view of yoga is that it's for women,” she writes. “The majority of magazines and advertisements for the yoga industry feature women in beautiful, elegant poses.”
To show the mindful beauty of male-practised yoga, Goalen is creating a book titled Inside the Warrior – The Masculine Side of Yoga with writer Julian DeVoe. “One of the reasons we practice yoga is to embrace our present moment and to practice patience and self acceptance,” she reminds us. “Getting to interview and photograph as many different men as possible will allow us to create a book that will speak to all men.”
Framing each yogic pose as a heroic stance, Goalen shoots from floor-level. Her photography technique, she says, has strengthened with her own personal yoga practice.
We got in contact with Amy and asked her a few questions. Read our interview with her, below.
What inspired you to start photographing men practicing yoga?
Not long after I began my own steady yoga practice, one of my teachers needed some yoga pictures to use for promoting his classes. We borrowed a local studio one Sat afternoon and we just played around with some poses, angles, and window light from the studio. They ended up looking really incredible and immediately thought about doing a yoga series.
After photographing several yogis, I was looking at tons of yoga photography to find out what's been done, who's been doing it, and trying to see if there's something that hasn't been done yet. What started to become really obvious after a while was that most professional yoga photography was of women doing yoga. The magazines, the ads, the clothes…most of these things are geared towards women. So I decided to focus on yoga men.
Over the past year and a half I've gotten very involved in the yoga men community – the Yoga for Men FB page and group is over 100,000 members strong and many of them have offered a lot of perspective on what it feels like to begin and sustain a yoga practice even though many people still think “yoga is for chicks and hippies.”
What is your favorite part about photographing this series?
That I'm not only seeking out the model perfect “beautiful people.” I'm photographing men of all ages, body types, and practices for this project. I LOVE it when I can photograph a man and show him the results of one of my images and he is blown away that I am able to make a stunning piece of art of their body and their practice.
I have assured MANY men that you don't have to look like Adonis to be photographed by me. This project is about celebrating ALL men who practice and finding the beauty in all body types, shapes, sizes, and age.
It was surprising to me that many men are just as insecure about their bodies as women.
What are the differences between men and women while they are doing yoga?
Every single person's yoga practice is different. Whether they are a man or a woman. Some people go for the strong poses, some people like the balance postures, some people gravitate towards the restorative yin poses…for some people it's a physical workout and for some it's a meditative process and a powerful way to tune-in to their body and breath.
When I photograph a yogi, I don't bring any expectations of their practice to the photo session. Since anyone who practices regularly knows, your practice can look and feel different from day to day. So whatever their practice looks like on the day of the session is perfect. If they don't nail the handstand or arm balance we move on.
What I secretly look for in my sessions are the “in between” moments. That moment when the pose breaks or when the yogi is preparing to execute the pose. Those moments seem to reveal something. A moment of when they aren't aware of a camera being pointed at them.
Amy Goalen's Website
Inside the Warrior website
Yoga Men Calendar