Fitness

Broga turning men from OOMPH to OM

Broga, an adaptation of traditional yoga, is based on easy moves rather than body contortion and the all-embracing classes are now available in Singapore.
Broga, an adaptation of traditional yoga, is based on easy moves rather than body contortion and the all-embracing classes are now available in Singapore.PHOTO: VIRGIN ACTIVE

A yoga programme specifically designed to appeal to men is drawing them to try classes once dominated by women

Yoga's popularity in the United States is undeniable. According to a Yoga in America study carried out last year, there are 36.7 million yogis, which is double what it was in 2012.

But while the benefits of yoga extend to everyone, yoga classes were usually dominated by women, with a few men occasionally clustered in a corner.

While yoga is great for bodyweight training and also improves body awareness, it is often simplistically portrayed as being about backbends, handstands, arm balances and splits.

Not surprisingly, it can alienate people who do not have a strong core or flexible limbs. And men - hardly the more loose-limbed of the two sexes - usually shy away from yoga studios, preferring to lift weights at the gym.

Yet, the tide is turning, as more men are getting on the mat. While women still represent 72 per cent of US practitioners, men are increasingly starting to take Broga.

An amalgamation of "bro" and "yoga", Broga was created and co-founded by Robert Sidoti in 2009, to encourage more men to take up yoga.

It is traditional yoga with a twist - one that usually invoves adding high-intensity interval training and strength exercises into the mix.

YOU'VE GOT MALE

Broga is like a bridge to yoga. Many students like it because it's so straightforward and non-abstract.

ROBERT SIDOTI, co-founder of Broga (a combination of "bro" and "yoga") on why his fitness routine appeals to men.

The style has grown consistently since 2009. There are more than 500 certified Broga instructors and classes are offered in the US, Dubai, Denmark and, from this month onwards, in Singapore at the Virgin Active Fitness Clubs.

Sidoti said: "Yoga is widely seen as a feminine activity for those who are flexible. How it's being offered isn't super appealing to the men, I know. Every guy thinks, 'I can't go do yoga, 'cause I can't touch my toes'."

  • 1 A typical Broga session begins with a few minutes of mindful breathing.

    2. Students then start with a few basic poses including the forward fold, the downward dog and the plank.

    3. High-intensity interval training exercises including jumping, squatting and burpees are practised.

    4. Bodyweight exercises like lunges and squats are interspersed with the poses.

    5. Session ends with cool-down exercises.

With that in mind, he designed a fitness routine that incorporates fundamental yoga poses, functional training and high-intensity interval training, and coined the term Broga Yoga.

Broga Yoga has since taken off, with just as many women signing up for classes as men.

Said Sidoti: "Broga is like a bridge to yoga. Many students like it because it's so straightforward and non-abstract.

"It gives them the confidence to enter a mind-body studio eventually. Some of my students have gone from 'Uh-uh, yoga is not for me' to becoming full-time yoga teachers."

Forget yoga poses that look like body contortion. In Broga, you will be able to do every move from start to finish. As Sidoti said: "Students come in knowing that they are building strength and flexibility through very accessible postures. In Broga, they will be able to do everything. There's no need to take a break until the next doable pose comes."

The session kicks off with a few minutes of mindful breathing, just like any other yoga class. Then, students will do a couple of basic Hatha poses like forward fold, plank and downward dog, before progressing to a faster sequence with more bodyweight exercises like lunges and squats.

Simple poses like tree and warrior three are included, followed by gentle cool-down exercises.

At around the halfway mark of each session, high-intensity interval training exercises are done - jumping, squatting and doing burpees. This segment is not long enough to wear one out, but you will definitely break a sweat.

Sidoti estimates that each hour-long class burns up to 500 calories, depending on how hard one pushes oneself.

The instructions are delivered in English. For instance, you will be asked to do push-ups instead of chaturangas, and do a chair pose instead of utkatasana, the Sanskrit word. You will not be asked to "open your heart", but instead instructed to "stretch your chest".

The benefits of each move are stated, like "This is going to strengthen your core, back and thighs," to motivate you. There's not even a "namaste" salutation at the start or end of the class. No spiritual connotations. Nothing to decode.

There is even a segment on functional training too, through exercises that involve pushing, pressing, squatting, rotating and bending. These improve mobility that is essential for daily movement.

For every move, the instructor will show at least three levels of progression, from the easiest to the hardest. Essentially, Broga is a multi-level class, so anyone from a fitness newbie to a seasoned yogi - and even women - can take part without feeling out of place.

•This article first appeared in www.shape.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 12, 2017, with the headline 'Broga turning men from OOMPH to OM'. Print Edition | Subscribe