Scout Out: Yoga by Any Other Name

Photo by Shane Godfrey

Photo by Shane Godfrey

By Sam Trevino

In this Scout Out, Sam Trevino finds his inner “bro” and gives Broga – yoga for men – a try.

On an evening in early November, I find myself making the the hike from my apartment in Union Square to the Center for Arts at the Armory. The temperature is in the high twenties, reminding me that winter has already arrived with a vengeance. As I finally reach 191 Highland Avenue, I’m feeling a bit nervous.  No, I’m not going for the Zumba or an open mic at the café or to enjoy a bit of local theater. I am here for Broga.

Marketed as the ‘yoga for bros,’ the Broga brand is growing in popularity with franchises all over Massachusetts and a few in Illinois, Minnesota and Missouri. There are many more Broga studios opening soon in Texas, California, Florida and Tennessee. With many yoga options to be found near and far (especially in Somerville), Broga co-founders Robert Sidoti and Adam O’Neill thought it was time to break the stereotype of yoga as a strictly feminine exercise. Retreats become “expeditions” and musical selections lean more towards Radiohead and The Black Keys than Enya. It had been a good while since I had been to any sort of yoga class, although I’d just gotten back into a serious jogging routine. After browsing the Broga website, my curiosity was piqued. According to the website’s description, Broga is “a yoga class geared for men (where it’s okay if you can’t touch your toes).” I decided to try out the beginner’s class, Broga 1, which was described as “energetic, fun, challenging, but set to a chill, accessible pace.” This seemed perfect for a mid-twenties dude wanting to get back into an exercise routine, as the description continued: “perfect for Broga or yoga newbies or those interested in focusing on fundamentals.” This seemed like just the easy-going and slightly silly class to get me back into the yoga scene after a long and slothful absence.

I walk into the Armory, pay the $16 for a drop-in class and head to the designated Broga space on the top floor. I’m hit by a feeling of apprehension, expecting some sort of macho yoga variation pandering to meatheads and men of the popped-collar persuasion. As I reach the sign-in table, however, I look around at the rest of the class and feel pleasantly surprised. The class is easy-going enough, no different from any other yoga group I’d been to in the past. We open with an ice-breaker, the same kind you experience at undergraduate orientation or work-related team-building seminars. As we go around the room sharing our names and favorite breakfast cereal cartoon characters, I take note of the work-out space and my fellow classmates.

My fellow brogis are as diverse as Somerville, ranging in age and race, with the oldest participant in at least his fifties. There is even one woman in the class, and it is explained to me that Broga is geared towards men but open to anyone. So far this is not the bro-centric ordeal that I had so dreaded. I introduce myself as a first-timer to the class everyone is extra warm and welcoming. The man on the mat next to mine congratulates me on getting back into yoga, advising me to just go with the flow and enjoy the class. During the lesson I struggle with a few poses – being out of shape – but I am encouraged by the instructor, Colin Scott, to know my limits. With a warm smile and lean build, Colin gives this gentle encouragement to everyone in the class, regardless of their skill level or physical prowess. He cracks jokes throughout the class, with a cheerful enthusiasm showing that he truly loves teaching yoga.

The space itself is on the top floor of the Armory in a large open room with windows offering a fantastic moonlit view. The class is made up of maybe fifteen to twenty students plus the instructor. We go through several poses, all fairly basic (this is Broga 1 after all), and they all build upon one another. This includes poses with names like downward-dog, table, and cobra, focusing on core-strengthening, muscle-toning, and cardio exercise. The class ends with a “namaste” and I exit the warmth of the Armory, my muscles and joints feel better than they have in ages. I know I’ll be a bit sore in the morning, but the experience and post-yoga burn is worth it. I have never sweated this much doing yoga in my life, but the class doesn’t wipe me out like I had expected it to. By the end there is a sense of community I find refreshing among a room full of strangers, and a sense that all trepidation any of us had entered with has been purged through stretching and laughter.  As somebody with bad knees and occasional back problems, I would recommend this beginner’s Broga class to anybody looking for a healthy and energetic New Year’s resolution.