"Broga" Is Exactly What You Think It Is

by Lara Rutherford-Morrison

We already have “Bro-tox” and “brogurt,” but if super-macho cosmetic fillers and dairy products aren’t enough to for some guys, they can now add an ancient spiritual practice to their cabinet of dude products: “Broga,” or yoga for BROS. According to Reuters, Broga Yoga was created by yoga instructor Robert Sidoti in Martha’s Vineyard, MA, in 2009. The company has since trained 200 Broga instructors who work in at least 22 states. Sidoti explains to Reuters that the idea for Broga came from seeing guys who were uncomfortable with yoga, both because they lack flexibility and because the majority of yoga practitioners in American classes are female. He says, “A lot of guys were saying: 'I can’t touch my knees, let alone my toes. I would never go to a mostly women class and do things I’m no good at.'”

The Broga Yoga website explains:

Broga combines the best core-strengthening, muscle-toning, cardio-working, stress-reducing, clarity-enhancing yoga postures with functional fitness exercises for an amazing workout.

“Broga” appears to have become a catchall word for guys who do yoga, and #broga is cropping up all over Instagram with pictures of guys looking uber-manly (seriously, some of them have beards and everything!) during their asana practice.

Is it bad that I find this whole concept kind of…douchey? Look, I’m happy for more people to get into yoga, by whatever means, and they have the right to practice in situations that let them feel comfortable and safe. The part I’m having trouble with is the “bro”-ification of yoga—because of what that prefix implies both about yoga and about men. First, “Broga” indirectly defines “regular” yoga as something only women do, which is insane because yoga was practiced almost exclusively by men for hundreds of years. It also implies that yoga is stereotypically feminine (passive, flowery, etc.) whereas Broga is oh-so-manly—forceful, athletic, and sweat-inducing. This is simply false. As anyone who has ever done an Ashtanga practice can tell you, you don’t need to add “bro” to your yoga to get a sweaty, strenuous workout.

Second, I find the trend of adding “bro” to things as a marketing tool to be generally insulting to men. It suggests that they are so obsessed with their own perceived masculinity that they can’t risk buying products that women also buy or doing activities that women also do. In a 2013 article in GQ, Oliver Franklin-Wallis aptly asked, “When did we become so sexually insecure as a gender that we need three additional letters to ensure us that something is a masculine pursuit?” Media coverage of Broga Yoga has painted a picture of poor, inflexible men in yoga classes surrounded by hyper-flexible, judgmental women. In the Reuters article, one Broga fan explains that, before trying Broga, he “didn’t like the thought of embarrassing myself in front of a group of women." A Time article about Broga Yoga even begins, “If you’re a guy who feels too shy or emasculated by the idea of attending a yoga class among a sea of women, you can now feel at ease at ‘Broga.’”

If I were a man, I would be offended by the implication that I am so insecure that simply doing some stretching in a class with women would emasculate me. And this image of class after class filled with contortionist women is simply inaccurate. The truth is, there are plenty of women in yoga classes who cannot put their legs behind their heads, or even touch their toes. The women who are really flexible are flexible because they’ve practiced a lot. So the suggestion seems to be, not simply that men can’t handle doing yoga with women, but that they can’t handle being beginners in the presence of advanced students, which is, again, pretty insulting. Men deserve credit for being more resilient than that.

All that said, I’m glad to see all these happy guys on social media getting their yoga on and showing off their hard-earned flexibility. But, dudes, drop the “bro.” You’re doing yoga.

Image: Flickr