Dylan Werner’s Up for a Challenge
Meet the yogi who has super-strength in body & mind
Dylan Werner may be known for his incredible arm balances and insane inversions on and off the mat (not sure what we mean? Just look at his Instagram), but to him, yoga’s about so much more than hitting a pose. It was the mental aspect that really hooked him and inspired him to share the practice with others. Now the yogi travels the world teaching yoga, spreading mindfulness and getting upside down whenever possible. We caught up with Dylan to learn more about his story, the major life lessons he’s learned from yoga and the songs he’s been jamming out to in practice.
How did you get into yoga?
My first experience with yoga was in 2001 in my martial arts practice, but it was only once a week and just aimed at flexibility. It wasn’t until 2009 that a friend invited me along to take a power yoga class with her. The class was hot, hard and sweaty, and there were lots of opportunities to go upside down. I was hooked and started taking classes almost every day after that.
What made you fall in love with the practice?
It was the physical practice, the handstands and arm balances that initially caught my interest, but it was the philosophical side of the practice that drew me in the deepest. I felt that something was missing from my life, and I was trying to fill that hole, but I felt emptier every time I accomplished another goal or fulfilled another dream. I wasn’t living in the present or finding contentment with who I am and what I had. Yoga gave me a new intention to follow and taught me to be present, to search for the truth and recognize my inherent inner bliss.
You were a firefighter and paramedic before you decided to pursue yoga full-time. When and how did that shift come about?
I was teaching yoga part-time and working full-time as a firefighter and paramedic. After four years on the job, I was laid off because of city budget cuts. Shortly after being laid off, I was offered an opportunity to help teach a teacher training with my yoga teacher and mentor. While leading that training, I felt like teaching was my life’s true purpose. So, I moved to LA and starting teaching full-time.
“When we focus on what we can change in the present and let go of future expectations, we find growth while feeling content with our place on this journey.”
Tell us about your band SHVA! What made you decide to turn mantras into songs?
I’ve been playing in bands with my two closest friends since high school, almost 25 years now. After our five-piece band lost two members to busy lives and careers, the remaining three of us decided to start a three-piece analog trans-rock band called SHVA. It was a really fun project, much different than the mantra album we released. After a few years of not really writing anything new, we decided to try something completely different. We went into the studio and, in a day, laid down the music for our version of the Gayatri Mantra. We all loved this new direction so much that we decided to record a full album of only mantras. Because I’m always traveling, it’s been hard to record another album, but we still have plans to record more in the future.
Your inversion and arm balance practice is next-level. What advice or pointers would you give to someone who wants to start their own?
The secret to being good at anything is the same. Dedicate ample time to a consistent practice, work hard and learn everything you can from those who are experts at what they do.
What lessons has yoga taught you that you try to impart on your students?
I feel like the most important lessons are learned only through the practice, but there are some ideas that have guided me on my yoga journey that I tend to share with my students.
Everything in the universe is continuously changing, and only in this moment are we experiencing the unchanging, undeniable truth. When we truly understand this, we will liberate ourselves from attachment and aversion, and find freedom from suffering.
We are each our greatest teacher. When we learn to listen to our deeper self, we can discover the true nature of reality and how we are unified with all things.
Let go of goals. Instead of trying to be better, work on giving your best every day. Better is about the future; your best is now. You can never do better than your best in this moment. When we focus on what we can change in the present and let go of future expectations, we find growth while feeling content with our place on this journey.
What’s been the most difficult obstacle in your yoga practice and how did you overcome it?
This is a great question! It depends on how I want to define “obstacle.” If I think of it as something that hinders or prevents my progress, then I would say that I am my own biggest obstacle, and getting out of my way is really the challenge. This is something that I work on daily through my meditation practice. By seeing things objectively rather than from my perspective, I can begin to see reality for what it is and not just how I look at it. This allows me to act from a place of truth. Then I can see obstacles more as challenges that don’t impede my growth but create a catalyst for change. Anything that holds us back is also there to push us to get better. If we didn’t have obstacles, we wouldn’t have the need to overcome, and without that, how could we grow?