Part of the ever-growing fraternal culture of "brohood," an increasing male demand for yoga (possibly driven in part by pro basketball player advocates such as LeBron James, Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O'Neal) has spawned a new wave of guy-centric "broga" courses.
Broga Yoga trademarked the catchy term in 2009 and debuted its program for guys by guys — namely, co-founders Robert Sidoti and Adam O'Neill — in Martha's Vineyard. Described by O'Neill as "a unique blend of vinyasa-style yoga, body-weight based functional fitness movements and high-intensity interval training," the regimen also substitutes rock music for chanting in the safety zone of a "bro" environment, although approximately 15% of class participants are women.
According to Yoga Journal's most recent 2012 Yoga in America study, 20.4 million Americans practice yoga, up from 15.8 million in 2008, and 17.8% of them are men.
"[The] study also indicated that there are 105 million 'aspirational yogis' in the U.S. and roughly half of those are men," O'Neill said. "Based on current trends, we expect about 2 million men to take up yoga within the next year. With the adoption of yoga among professional male athletes, special-forces military training programs and police departments, men are gaining a greater understanding of yoga's many benefits and beginning to participate in increased numbers."
Broga Yoga began training and licensing instructors in 2012; now there are more than 100 Broga Yoga instructors, expected to grow to 500 by the end of the year, according to O'Neill. Classes are offered in 17 states and being developed in seven more. Broga classes began in late September at Crunch gym's West Hollywood location.
"We have seen an uptick in the last year in the number of men participating in power-based and strength-oriented yoga classes [from 30% to 40%], and it is even greater in L.A.," says Donna Cyrus, senior vice president of programming for Crunch gyms. "Broga has a very robust program for men. A lot of the poses speak to athletic specifications and are much more strength-involved, so they take it up a notch."
DavidBartonGyms launched Yoga for Jocks classes in 2005 in New York, Chicago and Seattle "for the jock in every guy and girl," according to davidbartongym.com.
"Men are more interested in the flexibility and mobility benefits of yoga than ever before; it helps them in life and sports performance — better strides in running sports, better golf swings," said Keith Irace, regional director of group fitness for Equinox fitness clubs. "There is also a desirable aesthetic benefit that's attractive to men. A male yoga body is lean and defined.
"Men make up easily one-third of all [intermediate and advanced] yoga classes at Equinox, and the percentage is higher in some locations, like West Hollywood," Irace said. "The high-male-attendance classes also happen to be male-instructed."
But the chain has no plans to add classes that target guys.
"That would be gender-ist!" jokes West Coast Equinox spokeswoman Chelsea Hagler.
Yet some yoga aficionados are moving even further into man-cave mode, with the incongruous pairing of broga and booze. In a growing trend, craft breweries are offering on-site yoga instruction followed by beer tastings, known as BrewAsanas or, locally, Detox Retox — a 90-minute morning vinyasa flow class by Los Angeles instructor Rob Rice that includes a draft beer for $10 at Golden Road Brewing (goldenroad.la) in Atwater Village on Saturdays or at Angel City Brewery in downtown Los Angeles on Sundays.
Yoga fashion and accessories — it's a guy thing
"I never thought I'd get into yoga, but when I threw out my back a couple of years ago I got really into it," says Dan Abramson, founder of San Francisco-based company Brogamats. "I got the idea in September 2013, when I carried my girlfriend's pink yoga mat to a yoga class. I admit, I was self-conscious to be a dude and trying yoga.
"We joked that I should design tough-guy yoga mats and bags," says Abramson, who came up with bags shaped like a log, a quiver of arrows, and a giant burrito. Other tongue-in-cheek Brogamats bag designs ($35 each) include a sword-print ninja and a buffalo-check plaid lumberjack; a built-in inner pocket holds keys and phone; 72-inch-long mats are $69 each.
Abramson also launched a line of 3-D-printed Yoga Joe action figures, modeled after the green molded plastic miniature army figurines that have been a toy box staple since the early 1950s —albeit Yoga Joes find power in holding poses rather than bearing arms.
Beyond encouraging more guys of all ages to try yoga, Abramson says his new toy was also driven by the desire "to make a violent toy peaceful" and to support the use of yoga "being advocated by the U.S. military as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder."
Lululemon targets guys with the Big Mat, ($84 at lululemon.com), a yoga mat that is 84-by-29 inches compared with its 71-by-26 inch mats. Although the men's apparel line (which accounts for about 12% of sales) does not include yoga-specific styles, spokeswoman Karen O'Connor says the company plans to release a men's yoga short this winter. She also confirms that the brand plans dedicated men's stores by 2016, so more yoga styles may be in the works.
Electric & Rose is a new Venice-based yoga- and surf-oriented apparel line for men and women that will be carried at local retailers, including the Shop at Equinox and Ron Robinson, when it launches Nov. 1. Created by actor Eric Balfour and his fiancée, Erin Chiamulon, the fashion-wise 20-piece collection ($29-$149) includes 10 styles for guys and is made in Los Angeles.
"I wanted the men's collection to be the perfect blend of style and substance," Chiamulon says. "[A] gusset design on our board short allows for maximum flexibility and comfort in the water, in the gym and on the mat … [and] the Venice Board Pant was directly inspired by Eric's desire for something he could surf, travel and do yoga in. It draws influence from traditional jujitsu gi pants and traditional surf trunks, [with] super-stretch fabric."
Florida-based YOGiiZA, launched last year by yoga instructor and surfer Mark Oliver, recently expanded to California retailers such as Exhale spa shops. Crafted of 100% organic cotton, the eco-conscious apparel collection for men and women features basic silhouettes, such as T-shirts, pants, shorts and underpinnings. Roomy, wide-leg yoga pants ($68), inspired by martial arts gi pants, are the top seller.
"They have a huge gusseted crotch area [to] allow for a full range of motion when performing yoga poses," Oliver says. "Most men in my classes were wearing a variety of different athletic clothes, none of which were distinctly yoga-appropriate or inspired — surfing shorts, basketball shorts, clumsy old-school sweat pants. I knew there would be an opportunity to make yoga clothes that were both 'macho' and functional."
Apparel company PrAna, based in Carlsbad, Calif., has increased their men's yoga-oriented styles by 43% compared with last year, company spokeswoman Jasmine Schmidt says. Top sellers are the Mojo short, $49, in quick-dry fabric and a lightweight, relaxed-fit Sutra pant, $70, made of hemp and recycled fabrics.
In fall 2015, Los Angeles company Alo Yoga will relaunch a new, redesigned men's line featuring performance fabrics, according to spokeswoman Amanda Porter.