Bending little green army men into a different kind of warrior pose

Yoga Joes are not your father's little green army men. No sir. A contemporary riff on the toy box staple, these plastic figurines will soon be available to the general public thanks to a highly successful Kickstarter fundraising campaign.

Dan Abramson, founder of Brogamats, a company that designs and manufactures yoga bags and mats in manly-man patterns (think burritos and lumberjack plaid), came up with the Yoga Joes concept as a way to raise awareness of yoga "in a way other than from a yoga class. What if yoga could be transmitted through a toy?" Abramason wrote on his Kickstarter page. The campaign was wildly successful, raising more than $108,000, well beyond the $40,000 goal. "In order to make Yoga Joes a toy that people can easily afford, I need funding to create a metal mold, so that the figures can be made through plastic injection," said Abramson. "This is an expensive upfront cost, and so this idea needs to be supported by a community of yoga fans who believe that it deserves to exist." Abramson found his cohort, and then some.

As a molding neophyte, Abramson ran into several roadblocks on his path to countercultural toy entrepreneur. "The design process was as scientific as it was efficient, in that it was one fail after another for about a year," he told PlasticsToday. "The rhythm of the game was fail, fail, pivot."

Yoga Joe warrior pose

He began by slicing up traditional green army men toys and melting them into yoga poses with a heat gun. The end result was not pretty. In fact, "they looked pretty Frankensteiny," says Abramson. "So I took a 3D scanning class to scan existing army men, but I couldn't really get a precise scan, only blobs. I then taught myself some simple 3D design software, and 3D printed them with a resin," explains Abramson. He collaborated with his yoga instructor to get the poses just right. "It was a challenge, to say the least, but it was a project I just had to finish," says Abramson.

Now, funding in hand, he is facing the equally arduous task of sourcing vendors. It's too early to talk about this process, says Abramson, but he has promised to share the milestones of this journey with the PlasticsToday audience once the dust has settled.

Real men do yoga

Abramson started practicing yoga when he threw out his back a couple of years ago. It was when he borrowed his girlfriend's pink yoga bag that he came up with the idea of Brogamats, because, well, real men do yoga, too. Yoga Joes are another iteration of that concept.

While the stereotype that only women do yoga persists in the public mind, the reality is quite different. According to a 2012 study conducted by Yoga Journal, 20.4 million Americans practice yoga, 17.8% of whom are men. Approximately 2 million men are expected to take up yoga within the next year, reports the Los Angeles Times.

And while some might view the melding of yoga and an iconic military-themed toy as further evidence of the erosion of traditional American values, Abramson was heartened by the outpouring of support from the military community, notably Warriors at Ease, which has trained 500 yoga instructors to teach military members, veterans, and families since 2009.

There is evidence to suggest that yoga may be useful in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), writes Sarah Kessler in Fast Company. "One recent study found that after a week of meditation training, veterans with PTSD experienced reduced symptoms one year later, even if they hadn't continued practicing at home. Another found women with PTSD who participated in yoga classes were more likely to maintain progress achieved in their treatment programs," writes Kessler.

Warriors at Ease has already started discussing the possibility of starting a program for military kids, in which the Yoga Joes would be used not only as a reward for donations, but also as a tool for teachers to use in classes, adds Kessler.

Norbert Sparrow

Norbert Sparrow is Senior Editor at PlasticsToday. Follow him on twitter @norbertcsparrow and Google+.

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