James Swanwick: I am James Swanwick. Great to have you here. We’re talking to Dean Pohlman from Austin, Texas, who is an expert in yoga for men and who’s a pretty cool entrepreneur. I’ve actually interviewed him I think in 2015 for the James Swanwick Show back in the day. We’re now doing another interview five years apart. We’ve seen each other at various trade and events over the years, including the bulletproof conference in Pasadena, California, where I was promoting my Swannies blue light blocking glasses, which I’m rocking now. Dean, how are you mate? Great to have you here.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, I’m doing well. Thanks for having me. It’s been a long time. I’m excited to catch up and see what you’ve been doing. I know you’ve been going through a lot, seems like you’re living a totally different lifestyle than you were a few years ago. So I’m sure you’ll tell me a little bit about it.
James Swanwick: Tell us a little bit about you. Like I said you live in Austin, Texas but just give us a little bit about your background and your interests and what you’re doing?
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, sure. So I’m, I was a collegiate athlete in college. I came out and got a job that I didn’t really like and then that job kind of fell apart. At the time, I had kind of a Facebook page, and I had a website and I had no other really big job prospects. I was like, what do I do with this? I can go with this yoga thing, I can go and try and find another job that I don’t like and that’s the story of how I started, what I do. My whole thing is yoga for men. The kind of yoga for athletes and a more untraditional, more fitness-focused approach to yoga, because that’s what really helped me when I was in college when I was playing lacrosse. That’s what kind of helped me understand a whole bunch of these aspects of fitness that I wasn’t targeting with my other workouts. It helped me get stronger in new ways and also unlocked a lot of non-physical benefits as well. So getting into understanding how breathing can help your stress and your well being. It just took me on this kind of this different life path and I had envisioned for myself. I slowly built up a brand. I have been adding videos to YouTube and you know, writing blogs and making Facebook posts for almost eight years now. From there, we slowly built into other things, you know, books and DVDs and yoga mats and membership websites. Here I am now and, I think I live a pretty great life, doing what I enjoy doing and having enough time to take care of myself and my family with the free time. So that’s a very long, vague, and introduction to myself.
James Swanwick: I’m curious. You said that you think you live a pretty great life? Like, what’s a pretty great life to you? It’s different for everyone, but what are the ingredients of a great life for you?
Dean Pohlman: For me, I think it’s important that you have the work balance thing. I think the term work balance, you know, has so many connotations to it in the sense that I work from nine to five, and then from five o’clock on I’m not working. But for me, that means I work when I feel like working and I can take off and I don’t have to work and I don’t have to grind when I don’t feel that, that’s a big part of it. Another part, I really enjoy what I do. When I really get into the part of work that I enjoy doing in terms of making workouts and making programs and trying to tell and explain to somebody why this could help them with their fitness, you know that that gets me into the idea of flow, right? That gets me into this space where I’m completely immersed in what I’m doing, that I’m not worrying about other things. I enjoy helping people through teaching what I know. I enjoy working out so I get to work out a lot and a lot of my job is just showing people how I work out and I have a really good sense of purpose. Definitely the work-life balance, having a sense of purpose, having this you know a place of belonging, having mental wellness, having physical wellness through, you know, getting adequate sleep, managing your stress working out regularly, and then taking the time to work on kind of that sense of purpose. Grounding yourself in your situation in your life and journaling. Just taking time to sit down and think about this is where I am, is this really what I want to be doing, do I need to make a change? The job that I have with this really allows me to explore all of that into kind of making sure that I’m doing what I need to do to take care of myself, while also putting out content that’s helping, you know, 10s of thousands of people. So I think that’s, yeah, I think that’s, that’s kind of an unrehearsed kind of explanation of what I meant by I’m kind of in a good, you know, in a good place.
James Swanwick: Yeah, it’s a good reminder for me, actually. It’s a good reminder for me in terms of writing down, you know, what’s the vision? Am I going in the direction I want to go in? It’s funny, isn’t it because we all got 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We’ve all got the same amount of time, yet we convince ourselves often that we don’t have the time for certain things. When you say journaling, and I’m like, what’s my vision, am I going the right way, even for me, I keep putting that off. I keep procrastinating often. I mean, when I do it, it’s amazing. It’s right, I know I should do it. And even though I know I should do it, and even though I’ve preached that other people should do it, I don’t damn do it, at least enough. So I’m curious what your thoughts are around that. Here’s the thing, I had someone on the podcast recently and their advice was very similar to advice that I’ve heard, or I’ve conveyed 100,000 times around. Eating organic food and getting sunlight, and things like that. I suspect that we human beings, we kind of already know what to do. The issue, in many cases, we already know that we should be eating organic food, eating clean water, and getting sunlight and writing in a gratitude journal, having good relationships, and doing what we love, we get that. Why do you feel that even though we know that we still don’t do that often?
Dean Pohlman: Yeah. Wouldn’t it be great if we could take our own advice? A couple of things, The I should be doing this, whenever you say like, I should be doing this, there’s like some sort of, you’re not totally behind it, right? You’re saying I should be doing this because there’s some sort of pressure that makes you want to do that but you’re not really convinced on the idea as a whole. I think another part is, you know, you want to look at how our habits formed. Let’s read atomic habits, let’s look at Charles Duhigg’s book on habit, Power of Habit, and think about just what you really need to do to get into those habits that you actually want to do. And then you think, Oh, no, I’m different from other people, I don’t need to follow the steps because I, I have a website, or I have a social media following with x thousands people, and I read blogs for this so I don’t need to follow those steps. When reality is, you are wired no differently than other people so it helps for us to also follow those kinds of steps into building habits. Two days ago, someone asked me, I forgot exactly what the question was. I think it was something along the lines of how do you motivate yourself to do more working out? I said, I want you to ask yourself, what are those things that you do that you finish and then at the end of that, you’re like, that’s great. Why don’t I do this more often, make those things, the things that you want to do more often. I think another thing that’s important is to instead of looking at those things as extra, I think those things should be more of the primary things. I’m guilty of this, too. I remember a couple weeks ago, I just had a son about three months ago so my whole wellness routine is totally gone. A couple weeks ago, I’m like, Alright, you know what, I’m kind of understanding what this life is now and I knew what my responsibilities are and how much free time it has. So I want to start getting really back into working out and you know, this is what really makes me happy, this is what makes me feel fulfilled. When I work out I feel great immediately afterwards. When I’m working out consistently I feel fulfilled personally on an overall basis. But it took me so long to sit down and just write out, what do you want your workout plan to be like, what do you really want to focus on? I think if you can shift the mindset of this is something that’s just extra that’s going to help me feel better and spend a day doing that. Instead of a day doing the day-to-day things that you need to do for work, if you can shift the mindset and make that into a more non-negotiable priority. If you can understand it as more important than, you know, those other things that you’re doing, then I think that’s something that can be really helpful. Another thing is just keeping a journal or keeping some sort of self-tracking tool. I like the idea of a workout log is really helpful for me. These little notebooks, I have 10 of these just sitting around, and I add the journal in them, or I write my workouts in them. Not only are they something that helps me kind of look back and track patterns and analyze what I’m doing but it also is a physical representation of all the hard work that you’ve put into these things that are important to you. I’ve used star charts before, like the kindergarten charts that show if you showed up to class or not, I’ve actually used those to help reinforce habits. It actually works really well, my wife and I did it a couple years ago for I think 2018 New Year’s. But there are things like that, that can be really powerful that you might look at and say, Oh, I’m too good for that and in reality, they’re really helpful. So those are just a few of my thoughts on that.
James Swanwick: Yeah, nice. Obviously, you specialize in yoga for men. Tell us a little bit about that, and why Yoga is so important for men and women, and why you focused it on men. And then after that, I have a physical ailment, some lower back issues, which I’m going to describe to you and see whether you can prescribe some kind of exercises for me to overcome that. But first of all, tell us a little bit about your yoga for men business.
Dean Pohlman: The reason why I focus on yoga for men is because when I got started, I felt like the instructors and I felt like the classes were not geared toward my male body. Men and women have differences in their anatomy, this isn’t a political statement, this is just an anatomical science-based statement. Men are less flexible, and the hips, they tend to use their upper bodies more. Women are more flexible in the hips, and they use their lower body and their core more. There are common mistakes that men will make that woman will not make as much. And there are just differences in anatomy of differences in flexibility, that make it so that men and women newly do practice differently, or they move differently and they tend to have different starting points. I’m not saying that there are no women who are flexible, but I am saying that men are less flexible. It’s way more difficult for a guy to get started with yoga than it is for women, especially if he’s kind of in a place like me, where you spent your entire life doing strength training and doing conditioning for sports, you know, doing sprints, doing bench press, doing weights. You go into a yoga studio for the first time and you stretch and I have never done this before. I like the description of watching a flock of geese fly by while you’re just like leisurely stretching before you get started. Yoga is not like that, Yoga is much more focused. That was kind of why I decided I wanted to focus on men because I didn’t feel that the yoga industry was doing a good job of addressing men. As that style emerged, I kind of moved away from a more traditional flow approach to yoga and made it more about holding the postures themselves and less about moving from one movement to another as quickly as possible, or in one breath. It’s more about holding the postures for long enough that my inflexible male body could stretch and actually work into the postures. While I was there, I was also interested in the proper technique. So instead of talking about, you know, giving maybe some life advice about what to do about a work situation or how to let go of stress, I decided to talk about, “Hey, your knee should be in this position. If you’re wondering and you should feel this and your shoulder and your neck should be lifted or your head should be raised away from your shoulders”. Instead of filling it with more of a life guidance or spiritual guidance dialog, I focused more on the proper technique to make sure that you’re doing the posture as effectively as possible. That you’re targeting the right areas that you’re modifying, if you need to, and that you’re doing the posture in a way that works for you. So that’s kind of the style that emerged. There are plenty of men who like the traditional approach to yoga, but my experience has been, most men who are new to yoga might not be as interested in that spiritual side in their workout. I’m not saying that men aren’t spiritual, I’m saying that men might want to separate, you know, doing isometric strengthening and mobility work from their spiritual practice. And we actually have a lot of women that enjoy that approach, too.
So that’s kind of that.
James Swanwick: Let’s let’s dig in here to an issue that I have noticed that I’ve been having. And just the context, I’m a 45-year-old man who has been lifting weights, mostly for 10 years, maybe 12 years. So going to the gym bench press, back, vanity, muscles and biceps, triceps, shoulders, sometimes, but not often, legs. I’ve gone through phases before where I’ve incorporated two sessions a week of legs into it, very little core, you know, focusing on call work. Over time, I’ve done lots of F 45, kind of like circuit training stuff. I’ve done some yoga stuff. I’ve run several half marathons. I’m active, like I’m moving and sweating at least five, six times a week and have done for 12 years. Being sedentary is not my issue. Having said that I have noticed that in the last year I’ve experienced considerable back, lower back pain. I noticed now that you and I are both standing, right, we’re doing this interview, we’re standing, I’m standing. My lower back pain will tend to happen mostly after I wake up in the morning, and I’ll come and I’ll stand at my desk and all of a sudden, just the simple act of standing will cause me lower back pain. Likewise, whenever I drive a car for anything longer than 20 minutes, I have lower back pain, like just crippling back pain. I seem to be doing everything right in the sense that I’m moving, I’m lifting, I’m running, I’m doing some stretching.I’m active, but I still get this low back pain. Knowing what you know, is there anything there based on what I shared that could be a possible cause of that and what could be a possible solution?
Dean Pohlman: Oh, yeah, for sure. So back pain is a function of four things. It is related to spinal mobility, to core strength to hip mobility and hip strength. So those four things are the most important when it comes to your overall back health. The other big factor in that is how often are you moving throughout the day? So are you sitting for six, eight hours or are you getting up and moving every 30 minutes? What I found is that generally, if you can start working on your core strength, working on your hip mobility, working on stretching and strengthening the muscles that connect to your spine for 30 minutes, 20 to 30 minutes, three times per week, then that back pain can go away in as little as two or three weeks. You’ll notice significant improvements in two to three weeks. If you’re doing the right exercises, you’re doing hip mobility, if you’re doing core strengthening, and you’re really taking time and effort to focus on the proper technique and the proper muscle engagement then you can notice an immediate improvement. You could do a 40 or 30-minute yoga session and afterwards, you’re like, oh, wow, this feels a lot better. So my recommendation would be to start working on that hip mobility, working on core strength, working on your spine and mobility in kind of doing those movements that your body needs that you’re probably not getting from weight training or from running. I also believe that just living in a sedentary world it’s not enough for us to go out and exercise and then not do any sort of mobility to counter what we are not doing. We need to do mobility work really on a daily basis to counter the relative inactivity of our lifestyles. So things like twisting, things like sustained backbends, doing hip openers, like lunges, doing specific hip stretches for your hip flexors, your glutes, your hamstrings. A lot of people think that it’s just stretching, I’ve had so many people come to me and say, I stretch my hamstrings all the time, but they still hurt my back. I’m like, stop stretching your hamstrings then because backing isn’t just about stretching it’s also about building strength. Personally, I’ve actually found better results from building strength with mobility than just doing passive stretching on its own. That’s what I try to focus on with manful Yoga, is combining that strength and flexibility into a more functional, more useful kind of aspect of fitness.
James Swanwick: Thank you so much for that suggestion. In actual fact, I’m actually doing the very thing that you suggested, which is great, I’m on the right track. What I ended up doing, what I suspect I was doing wrong to try to combat the problem for a couple of months, was simply stretching, stretching hamstrings. I actually hired a guy, I said, all I want you to do is just stretch me, stretch the hamstring, stretch the glutes and stretch, stretch, stretch. I did that, and it felt good in the moment that I was doing. I mean, it was challenging to be stretched like that, quite frankly, in the hour or two afterwards. Oh, that actually feels good, mentally I feel really good on that but I noticed that the pain didn’t really go away. But then since we switched to doing core strength exercises, and building strength, and doing lunges, carrying dumbbells, and you know, building up the strength. In particular, I think focusing on the glutes I’ve noticed the pain has subsided dramatically, knock on wood, because I don’t want to come back but really, my glutes aren’t firing at all. Like I would grab my ass and go, I’ve got a pathetic little man ass, which got no strength to it. But then just after two weeks of actually focusing on the glutes, and actually just even just like stretching, or even focusing on my mind that my glutes are there and kind of like tensing them, or what’s the word I’m looking for just kind
Dean Pohlman: Building that muscle engagement, that muscle
James Swanwick: Engaging them, thank you. Yeah, engaging them all of a sudden, my pain has started to subside. In conjunction I’ve started swimming for about 30 minutes, four or five times a week in a 25-meter pool, and I’m just, I’m just doing freestyle and some whatever. I don’t know how that’s helped but mentally, whether it’s a placebo effect or whatever, like just leaning out, putting my arms out and kicking my legs, I’m sure it’s working my core, it’s stretching your muscles. Not to mention the power of the breath, like 30 minutes of like coming up and breathing and going back down and holding your breath and breathing has been quite a meditative experience also.
Dean Pohlman: A lot of core there. I’m actually glad you brought up the muscle activation thing. The other point I was going to say is, there’s a disconnect between the muscles that you’re supposed to be using, and the workouts that you’re doing that supposedly target those muscles. So if you do deadlift, and you just squat, but you have terrible glute activation, and you have you know, terrible core activation, then those exercises are just contributing to muscular imbalances that are going to cause pain and going to make your back hurt. Another thing that I really focus on is just like you were doing, doing exercises, in a way doing yoga postures in a way that helps you build that muscle activation, and then doing it in a way that carries over into your movement throughout the day. So when you’re walking up steps, and when you’re doing your other nonyoga workouts, you’re like, Oh, I can feel my glutes engaging. And I can feel my abs working as I’m going through this. So that is another huge factor. So even if you’re working out and you’re targeting all these muscle groups, you think most people just don’t have those muscles firing. It’s because of that sedentary lifestyle. You know, every time you sit down, you’re just training your glutes to disengage, you’re training your core to turn off and when you stand up, that doesn’t go away. Your body remembers that and it’s like, oh, how do we engage your glutes, I don’t know, just use your quads. That’s kind of like what your body’s doing, that is a huge part of it.
James Swanwick: I’m sure you don’t want to know this, but I’m engaging my glute muscles as we’re doing this interview right now. I’m actually just doing little pulses just to remind my body that my glutes are there.
Dean Pohlman: It can see it in your face. It’s like it’s the glute gauge on your face.
James Swanwick: Yeah. I love that. Just tell us where our listeners and viewers can actually read up more about you and what you do and the yoga for men. Just give us those URLs. and then we’ll continue on with a couple more questions. I just want to make sure that our listeners can find you effectively.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, sure. My website is https://manflowyoga.com . We’ve got a lot of resources there. I have a free seven-day intro if you want to go to https://manflowyoga.com/intro We actually set up a COVID page with 20 workouts from five programs at https://manflowyoga.com/free If you want to kind of learn about my workout approach and get started that’s a cool place to do it.
James Swanwick: I’m wearing my Swannies blue light blocking glasses. I’m curious as to when and how you might wear blue light blocking glasses and how you incorporate those into either your work or your sleep routine.
Dean Pohlman: I actually have my blue light blocking glasses by my TV. If I’m watching TV later, and I feel like I’m really tired, and this light is just too much right now, then I will wear the glasses if I’m if I’m watching TV. I’m rarely on the computer after dark, so it’s still not dark yet, this doesn’t count. So I’m rarely on the computer after dark so I don’t really worry about it that much. If I start to feel that strain, I have flux turned on, I’m using that on all of my screens. I actually did the, if you go into your phone, you can go into the handicap settings and just make it black and white so your phone is like you just don’t want to look at it which makes it difficult if you’re trying to do social media, so I had to turn it off. I wear my blue eye blockers at night if I’m watching TV or if I really have to be on the computer, then I’ll wear them for that.
James Swanwick: Great. What effect does that have on you, when you do wear your blue light blockers?
Dean Pohlman: I just noticed that my eyes feel a lot less strained. At that point, if I’m looking at a screen and my eyes are saying “no, no, no” it’s kind of, you know, that’s my body’s way of saying, hey, you’re tired, dude, you know, stop looking at the light. So me using the glasses in those situations is a way for me to kind of listen to my body and allow me to relax more. So I find that I am able to relax and get to sleep sooner and definitely get improved sleep and more so just falling asleep. I think that’s the biggest effect. If I’m watching TV, if I’m doing something at night that is in the light and wearing those glasses, then it’s helpful.
James Swanwick: Yeah, nice one. If you’re listening to this, and you’re curious about the Swannies, blue light blocking glasses, and you haven’t already got a pair, then you can go to https://www.swanwicksleep.com and use the code James at checkout for the friends and family discount. If you’re listening or watching this in the US, you can always text the word Swannies to the number 44222. If you’re listening to this outside of the US don’t bother doing that it won’t work. But if you are in the US, you can text the word Swannies to the number 44222 and I’ll send you a link. Dean, you have a four-month-old son is that right? So as a father, then how has that disrupted your exercise and health regimen? And what advice would you give yourself and then give to someone else who has distractions, whether it’s a child or family member or something else? Like how do you overcome that?
Dean Pohlman: I think I was prepared for having less free time. What I was not prepared for was just a completely unstructured schedule of having a child because it’s not like you can say, Oh, I’m gonna work from eight to four and then I’ll maybe watch from four to eight, that’s just not how it works, it’s just on demand whenever. Some things that I’ve done to make sure that I can continue to work out, number one, my wife and I just had a conversation. I told her I know that working out is important to you, I’ll watch Declan, when you need to work out, just let me know, and I’ll make sure that I’ll be available so that I can watch him for you and kind of the same thing with her. I tell her, hey, I really want to work out today. Do you need me to do anything like right now, or can I do something in the next 20 minutes before I work out and she is pretty understanding. If she knows that I’m working out she won’t bug me or she won’t get me unless it’s really important. So part of that was just having a conversation with the family and making sure that we’re on the same page and helping us support each other’s goals of being fit. Another part of that is I make all my workouts as accessible as possible, which means I have all my workout equipment at my home, it’s in my office. I have all the weights, I have the bands, I have the foam rollers, I have the kettlebells, I have all the stuff that I need right here. That has been huge, because I’m able to get in a workout in the time that it would take me to go to a gym and get back. So having all that equipment here and then also writing out your workout beforehand, or knowing kind of what you’re going to do so that you don’t have to spend energy or time on coming up with the workout. I think that’s really important. As far as the workout, it would just fix themselves. The goal is consistency and the goal is just getting in the necessary reps and exercises to stimulate growth. It’s not about killing myself with every workout. It’s not about listening to the Rocky soundtrack every time and working out like I’m Rocky training to fight Drago. It’s just doing the exercises that are on your checklist and then getting through them and doing them to the best of your ability, not feeling like you have to kill yourself with every workout. That makes it a lot more manageable in terms of, you know, consistency, and showing up and doing it regularly.
James Swanwick: Yeah, wonderful! I’ve actually haven’t lifted, haven’t done a chest exercise or a bicep curl in almost a month, which is the longest I’ve gone in 12 years without actually lifting something. That has coincided with me feeling pretty terrific, quite frankly. I’m not going to stop forever but I have noticed that in those four weeks since I started stretching and doing core and swimming my body’s it kind of feels like Ah, it’s kind of like, Ah, thank you, thanks for the relaxation work. So I’m kind of suspecting that maybe my body was ready for an extended break. I don’t know if that’s just a story I’m creating in my mind whether there’s any validity to that.
Dean Pohlman: I think your body goes through phases. Like sometimes you’ll really want to do strength training, sometimes you’ll really want to work on mobility and sometimes you just don’t want to do anything. I think it’s okay to go with it.
James Swanwick: I’ve had a lot of resistance about going with it, which is stopping the chest and upper body, shoulder muscles because now you lose a little bit of size. All of a sudden you put your shirts on, which is going to fit nicely and aesthetically and for vanity purposes, you go, oh, good, I look strong, I’m a strong man. And then all of a sudden you see it kind of “warr” and the biceps don’t pop as much out of the shirt and you’re like, oh, sheez’s, I’m shrinking away here. But I’ve lost maybe in aesthetics and least in my own ego and vanity are made up for in terms of I have noticed that my energy levels have increased. I always used to think that if I just lifted heavy in the gym, that would be great to create energy, which it did but since I stopped doing that, and just been swimming and stretching and doing core, I’ve noticed I’ve got more energy, physical energy at the end of the day. The example of that is I have a two-level home, and there’s a set of stairs that come up and then go up again, it’s like a zigzag up upstairs. When I was lifting weights, towards the end of the day, I would just kind of walk up the stairs, not necessarily slowly or labored. I just walk up. Since I’ve stopped doing the upper body stuff and started swimming and stretching, and working on core, I’m surprised at how often I run upstairs now and I’ve noticed that isn’t that’s not a placebo thing. I’ve actually noticed I’m now like at times I’m skipping three stairs at a time and running up the stairs and that didn’t happen when I was lifting weights. So anyway, interesting.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, you’ve got that extra energy. It sounds like to me you’re working out for so long that your body is just trying to recover, trying to recover, trying to recover. If you actually let it take that time off, then your body just recovers. You feel that extra energy and you feel you feel so much better. That was kind of what happened with me when I was doing yoga. Because I’d been lifting and training for so long and I was doing yoga, and I’m like, wow, I’m not sore all the time and eventually, I started to really lose a lot of muscle mass. I looked in the mirror one day, and I was like, What am I doing? And then I started lifting again, but for a while I felt really good, I still look toned,I think I still look pretty good. I kept it up and then I got to a point, I looked in the mirror one day, and I was like, oh wow, we got to get the weights going again.
James Swanwick: Well, I’m enjoying the break that I’m giving myself at the moment. Like I said, I’ll bring it back in but I don’t actually think I’m going to go back to the way I was doing. I think now I’m probably gonna just incorporate pushing weights and lifting weights more as part of an overall routine that involves swimming and stretching versus just going to the gym and lifting weights. I think I’m confident that’ll work considerably better for me, but like anything, bracket, I’m gonna measure it, I’ll keep testing it. Maybe I’m just going through a phase and wake up in a week, and I’m like, ready to hit the gym and lift weights again and I go back, and I love it and my body’s got no pain and everything’s awesome. Who knows? There’s no blanket statement for everyone. Certainly people, men and women go through different phases as well. I’m just this time listening to my body versus overriding my body with what I think is best. Dean, thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate that. Just give us that website one more time.
Dean Pohlman: Sure, https://manflowyoga.com
James Swanwick: Awesome. Dean, thank you so much for joining us. Appreciate your words of expertise and your guidance and great to see you again and hopefully see you sooner rather than later.
Dean Pohlman: Yeah, you too. James. Take care. Good luck with your future workouts.
James Swanwick: Thank you