Here’s a popular comment my friends made when I first told them that I wanted to try out yoga: “You sure? Isn’t that just for girls?”
I rolled my eyes and chalked it down to testosterone poisoning – and the fragile state of masculinity. But after a couple of classes at the local yoga centre, I noticed that mine was almost always the only pair of gym shorts in a sea of colourful leggings. Sure, there was the sole, retired uncle with back problems – but where were the other dudes?
After collapsing into a heap for the umpteenth time in an attempt to reach my toes while the girl on the next mat got into a downward dog seamlessly, I threw in the towel. It was just too demotivating to continue when everyone else was leagues ahead.
Not too long after, I caught wind of Broga yoga and heard that it had arrived on our shores. Wanna know what it’s all about? “Broga yoga is a fitness-based yoga programme that was designed for men, but is open to all,” says Daniel Chandranayagam, Malaysia’s first licensed Broga instructor. “With Broga, we try to meet men at the point that’s accessible for them, which is strength. It comprises movements such as lunges, squats, push-ups, and locust rows (to engage the upper back), as well as a HIIT section. Most love – or love to hate – HIIT, and Broga’s fairly different from the usual yoga practice.”
But this doesn’t mean fans of more conventional yoga will be missing out on any of the traditional asanas (poses). “We incorporate dynamic stretching in the beginning, and more static, yet strong stretches at the end to balance it all,” Chandranayagam explains. “Broga includes a lot of bodyweight exercises into a flow that makes it a pretty unique experience for guys. As with other forms of yoga, we know how to regress and progress the poses or sequences for the guy on the mat.”
If you’re a seasoned gym bro who is unsure about belting out bakasanas instead of bench presses, listen up. “No one I know in any fitness discipline has said that yoga is a waste of time,” Chandranayagam emphasises. “I’ve trained Muay Thai guys, young professional golfers and bodybuilders. They all try to incorporate some yoga in their time.”
Athletes have a lot to gain from yoga, he continues, as the traditional sequences contain a lot more eccentric strength phases, such as lowering yourself from a plank into a chaturanga dandasana (the bottom segment of a push-up). “Broga has a lot of concentric strength moves, in addition to eccentric strength,” he adds. “There’s a lot of strength involved and that helps to develop muscles too.”
Still on the fence about yoga? Here’s some additional food for thought: “Yoga’s great for preventing and rehabbing injuries because it really is a mind-to-body connection,” Chandranayagam explains. “We aren’t banging out reps for time or trying to beat Personal Records; we’re engaging our mind to our bodies, and trying to move our limbs in the right direction with as minimal postural deviation as possible.”
It wouldn’t be a long stretch to claim that the benefits of yoga has far-reaching implications that extend beyond the mat; for example, the next time you hit the weights room or track field, you’ll find that you’re able to engage your limbs to move into a correct squat or even running gait, Chandranayagam says.
Keen to find out for myself what Broga yoga is really like, I got to experience it firsthand at its recent launch. The class started like other yoga sessions I’d attended in the past; we kicked off with some dynamic stretches to get the blood pumping, and paid extra attention to our breaths as we transitioned between each movement. The HIIT component, which came later in the class, reminded me a bit of military boot camp training – rising into no-jump burpees right after push-ups definitely got my heart rate up, and helped us break into a sweat!
One thing that stood out for me was how the movements engaged my smaller muscle groups. I have a tendency to go hard, fast and heavy when I lift weights on my own at the gym. As a result, most of my workouts tend to focus on the larger muscle groups through isolation exercises. When I tried Broga, however, I realised that doing some of the moves – and holding certain poses – was a lot more challenging as they engaged my core and muscles that might have been hitherto dormant.
The pace slowed down towards the end of the class; it’s safe to say that when we got into shavasana (corpse pose) at the very end, I let out a sigh of relief as a wave of endorphins washed over me. Talking to a couple of my friends who’d tagged along for the Broga class with me, we reflected that it was a refreshing change from conventional yoga, and one that we wouldn’t mind exploring further.