Yoga Joes were designed to get guys into yoga. But it's not just men who love them.
Big news, everyone: G.I. Joe has traded in his weapon for a yoga mat.
The toys, called Yoga Joes, are the creation of designer Dan Abramson, who was looking for ways to get more dudes into yoga.
Abramson started doing yoga years ago to help with a back injury. But even though he was amazed by all its health benefits, he wasn't seeing a lot of other men in his classes.
The numbers back up his observation too, with some estimates saying that only about 18% of the millions of people who do yoga are men.
"In America, yoga is often viewed as a woman's sport," Abramson said. But he didn't see why it had to be that way.
You might know Abramson from his first yoga enterprise, Broga Mats — "manly" yoga mats that look like burritos or arrow quivers.
But when he launched a Kickstarter to bring Yoga Joes to life, Abramson quickly realized he had stumbled onto something much bigger than bro-ga.
His fundraising goal was blown out of the water almost immediately, and suddenly, Yoga Joes were real. And they were selling out.
But, more importantly, Abramson found that these silly little Army men were speaking to more than just the regular dudes who were nervous about going to a yoga class.
First, there were the soldiers and veterans who use yoga to cope with major stress or PTSD.
"It was sort of an accidental discovery," Abramson admitted. "I knew they were doing yoga, but I didn't know it was on this scale."
Tons of military members and their families reached out to him after the launch. And Abramson quickly became close with organizations like Connected Warriors, who offer free yoga programs to veterans.
"The coolest example was when I got an email from the girlfriend of a senior staff sergeant in the Air Force," Abramson said. "She said, 'My boyfriend is handing them out to his pilots before they go up to fly so they remember to keep calm and breathe.'"
A few months later, Abramson said, she sent him photos of his Yoga Joes in inverted high-speed flight.
"It's pretty sweet," he said.
Other customers just like having Yoga Joes around to remind them to chill out.
Abramson said people often put them on their car dashboards as a reminder to keep calm in traffic. Or on their desks at the office. Or on the kitchen counter.
Or any place where they find themselves getting overwhelmed or frustrated. Which could be pretty much anywhere.
For others, Yoga Joes are a symbol of peace.
A Yoga Joe is a soldier disarmed and choosing meditation over violence. At least, that's how some people see it.
"Generally when you hear about peace, it can be very preachy. This is kind of like, funny peace. People like funny peace," Abramson said.
Abramson said the response to Yoga Joes has been overwhelming, and it's inspired him to work even harder.
Abramson is getting ready to launch a new series of Joes that shows off more advanced yoga poses. And if you don't think he's taking this seriously, you should hear him describe going back and forth between engineers and yoga experts to design figurines that are both accurately posed and capable of standing on their own.
"This became bigger than I ever planned," Abramson said. "And I'm trying to do justice for that, the way it's touched people."
Not bad for an idea that started as a jokey way to get dudes into yoga. Not bad at all.