Last week, Time ran a story with the headline “Broga: Finally, Yoga For Dudes,” which is about studios that are offering competitive, “manlier” yoga for men. Which immediately irritated me, because not only is that is a terrible name, but there are always men in my yoga class, so it’s not as if they’ve been banned all these years. Is this another crappy marketing campaign–like Dr. Pepper Ten or Charles Barkley’s Weight Watchers ads–to make men believe that caring about health is innately feminine (unless there is a specific male product to make it less so)? Or are many men secretly suffering from a serious phobia of being surrounded by flexible, lululemon-swaddled bodies? “Broga” brought up many questions for me–so I asked Neal Pollack, an actual who does actual, non-bro-specific yoga.
Pollack is a writer and dad-type-guy who has written extensively on his experience with yoga. Most recently, he wrote this excellent article in Yoga Journal, about how he reconciles the zen-ness of his yoga self, with the cynicism and pragmatism of his real life. He is also the author of Stretch: The Unlikely Making of a Yoga Dude. So he seemed like maybe he would be the target audience for yoga targeted at, well, dudes. But, it turns out, even though he likes the idea of getting more men to try yoga, the idea of separating the sexes doesn’t sit well. Here’s our conversation:
Ok, first things first–you’re a man. And you do yoga. How does the former impact the latter?
There are some differences between the typical male body and the typical female body, so those differences might impact the kinds of hatha yoga I do and the kinds of practices I undertake. I also have various male-based neuroses and occasional health problems. Obviously, the genders aren’t the same in every way. But when it comes to yoga with a capital Y, it makes very little difference. We are all one under yoga’s big umbrella.
Have you ever wished for a male-specific yoga class?
Lord no. I like doing everything in the company of women. An all-man yoga class just doesn’t sound fun to me.
Why do you think yoga, which has been practiced by men for centuries, has, in the Western world, become so seemingly female-based?
Mostly marketing. There’s a population of urban and close-in suburban upper-middle-class and upper-class women who comprise your “yoga mom” stereotype. They have disposable income to spend on fancy yoga wear, fancy yoga gear, fancy yoga classes, fancy yoga retreats, and fancy yoga festivals. So because of that, the yoga media and yoga industry focus on women like that in their imagery and coverage. But that’s merely the attractive skin of yoga culture. It actually runs much deeper than that, and I feel like yoga in the West, or at least our understanding of it, has only just begun to evolve into something more textured.
Do you think that male-specific yoga classes are more likely to bring men into class? And, follow-up question, is that worth it, if the classes are more focused on athleticism and competition, rather than, say, getting centered and focusing on mindfulness?
I think that anything that gets men onto the mat is good, as long as it’s only a starting point. But it seems a tad limited to me. Not every man is a “bro”, just like every woman isn’t a bendy yogini. Yoga should bring people together, not separate them.
Do you think that men can benefit from those traditionally “female” (I guess?) yogic values?
Anything that helps men understand that they’re not actually the center of the universe is a good thing. We can still be strong guys physically, while working on compassion, empathy, gentleness, and other bits of yogic mushiness. Yoga is also an excellent tool for controlling the rampages of the ego, which I know comes as a relief for me, so it’ll probably come as a relief for other men, too.
Any final thoughts on “broga” (which is truly the worst name since “man cave”)?
Have fun in your broga class, brohammer. I’m gonna go practice with the ladies now.
Yup. Even a confirmed yoga-practicing man thinks “broga” is a steaming pile of marketing garbage, designed to further separate the sexes and confuse men as to what is “acceptable.” Men, keep coming to “regular” (read: multi-gendered) yoga class.
Image: CREATISTA via Shutterstock