(Guest Blog by Adam O’Neil)
When we first started Broga, the rationale was pretty straightforward: We wanted to expose the benefits of yoga to a wider audience.
Personally, for me growing up, yoga was always a topic of interest for my yoga-teaching Mom. And though neither my father, brother, nor I, often — if ever — took advantage of Mom’s classes we did hear about the many benefits she was experiencing: Decreased stress, greater flexibility, improved strength, better mind/body awareness, better sleep, the list was long.
Mom often recommended that my brother and I incorporate a yoga practice into our cross-training for sports, but there was no way I was going to practice yoga. It was hard enough trying to be “cool” in my small middle class hometown without adding the socially treacherous label of “yogi” (aka “hippie” aka “crunchy” aka “tree hugger” aka “sissy”, etc.) to my campaign. In retrospect, I probably could have been more self-possessed, more confident, less concerned about how I was perceived, but I had goals, and practicing yoga wasn’t anywhere close to being on the list of ways to accomplish them. At least I didn’t think so.
My early exposure gave me an appreciation, at least conceptually, for yoga’s value, but it wasn’t until I was recovering from a back injury in my mid-twenties that I actually started attending classes and experienced what I’d been missing. Many of the impressive claims people made about how yoga makes you feel better and improves other aspects of your life — they were true!
As I became more drawn to the mat, and began attending more classes in the Boston area, I quickly noticed I was in the minority. I realized that many of my friends had a difficult time even imagining themselves trying yoga. And honestly, who could blame them? Society’s general message to young men has historically been that they should pursue muscle-bound, competition-based, winning-focused, barbell-heaving, power pursuits in a headlong sprint to “rule” their worlds. For guys on that path, it’s easy to imagine how disinterested or uncommitted they’d be to sign-up for a one-hour class where they’d be expected to perform contorted poses with names like “adho mukha svanasana” (aka “downward facing dog”) and hear about intangible concepts like prana and chakra… in a room of mostly women who would almost certainly be much “better than them” at it.
After thinking this through and talking it over with some friends, I realized that in most instances, the greatest barrier for guys was often just simply showing up to that first class. If a guy could get past his social conditioning (which might include some haranguing from friends), the discomfort of venturing outside of his comfort zone, and go to just one class, the yoga practice would take care of itself… and him. (If not in the first class, we’ve seen that many guys will feel a sense of comfort and confidence by their second or third classes.)
It was somewhere during my early experiences practicing yoga that I had an epiphany: if we could change the perception of yoga, perhaps we could help more people make it to that first class and feel the benefits for themselves. And once they realized the benefits, they’d be in the best mindset to continue their practice. One of best ways I knew how to change the perception of something? Change its name. And at that point, “Broga” was born.
But when Robert Sidoti officially formed and launched Broga a couple of years later, it was much more than a mere play on words. Robert had designed a unique flow that catered towards all experience levels, and incorporated more strength-building and cardio elements than any a “traditional” yoga practice. He created an experience and an environment that was welcoming, challenging, fun, and rewarding for any guy, for the ‘everyman’. And to our surprise, what originally started as a way for us to lower the barrier to entry for men to practice yoga, quickly turned into a way to lower the barrier to entry for anyone to practice yoga.
Over the years, our community has continued to grow and evolve, as men and women of different ages and exercise backgrounds have made their way into Broga classes time and time again. There is nothing more rewarding than to hear about people’s journeys into yoga and how Broga played a part in that.
We’ve been listening to the thousands of students and hundreds of instructors we’ve worked since we started Broga almost six years ago, and we’re still listening now. We want to know what you love about Broga (or any other yoga class you take), what you don’t, how your class experiences are going, and especially what we can do to improve in the future.
With that mindset, we’ve decided to open ourselves completely and are excited to launch our own online community with Jowl. Through this community, we hope that you come, share your stories with us and continue to be a member of our family.
To kickstart the conversation in Jowl, we wanted to ask one simple question and we’d love to hear your answer…
“What is the personal reason you tried yoga for the first time, and why do you continue to believe in it (or why did you stop)? Whether it’s the mental benefits, physical benefits, or the amazing synergy of both, we all have our reasons, and those reasons may be enough to get someone else involved, so please let us know and get in on the conversation” Broga Community
PS: If you think this blog is worthy, please recommend it!
PPS: If you have a community that’s worth bringing together, learn a bit about Jowl here