Lost in Time: Staying true to Yoga in the 21st Century

A friend of mine recently shared with me the website of a new 'yoga' studio. Broga. Or 'Bro-Yoga', if you will. No I'm not kidding... see for yourself:

http://www.broga.uk.com/#intro

Yes, you did read that correctly, it is a unique practice that promises that the "gents...will never feel like a hippo tiptoeing through tulips...". Good. Great in fact. I so love the not-at-all subtle implication that the women-folk in a yoga class are delicate little flowers that must be 'tiptoed' over.

I fully accept that some more Westernised concepts of Yoga have drawn a more female crowd, but I'm just not sure how it can therefore be more integrated by making an exclusive 'bro club' of yoga, which, by the way is so ironic, because when Yoga was first being developed and practiced thousands of years ago in India, it was practiced pretty much only by men. Even when I went to India earlier this year, coming across a female yoga teacher was really quite unlikely. It isn't hard to see, and especially when you look at some more intermediate and advanced poses, that with all the upper-body strength required, Yoga was very much designed with men in mind. So Broga, if being true to it's branding, would probably make more sense if marketing itself as...Yoga?

For me, as someone who believes that you can, and should, honour the traditional roots of Yoga even as you bring it to the widest audience possible, something like Broga, just feels a lot like cultural white-washing. Perhaps I am reading too much into something that is, essentially, intended as tongue-in-cheek, which it no doubt is, but I find re-naming something, with a name that evidently references the very thing it is borrowing/stealing from, without any appreciation, reverence or even just acknowledgment, a bit uncomfortable.

And Broga certainly isn't the only culprit. Last year I came across 'Voga', a Yoga and Voguing hybrid, which, at the time, I thought was quite funny and sweet, if a little gimmicky, but a colleague of mine, herself a dancer, felt that it was a crass attempt at merging two mediums which each had incredibly strong identities and cultural histories, therefore just mocking and diluting both Yoga and the Voguing scene. And don't even get me started on 'Boozy Yoga', just why? Again, these are two things that are absolutely great on their own, and speaking as one of the biggest lush-yogis out there, I still don't think these two things belong together!

So how can you keep your Yoga practice authentic and contemplative, even whilst juggling a million and one other things? Well you can start by doing just that: being contemplative. When you walk into a Yoga class, you aren't just walking into group aerobics, where you stare fiercely, bee-line at yourself in the mirror (ever noticed that real yoga studios don't have mirrors?) and dodge being knocked out by some overly amped gym-goer, you're walking into a safe, communal space to be shared and practiced in; you're effectively doing a moving meditation as a group - no wonder people often leave a yoga class experiencing a kind of buzz. You don't have to chant OM with the teacher if you don't want, but then again, why not? There's nothing devotional or religious about this, merely the vibrations it releases have been shown to have a profound healing effect on a cellular level (anti-ageing, immunity boosting..? Oh I don't know, it's all airy-fairy hippy nonsense right..?!) You might even take a second to research the style of Yoga you have chosen to practice (there are so many!) Whether it's a highly respected and traditional brand such as that of B.K.S. Iyengar, or a more radical take such as Forrest (both brilliant), you can of course draw your own conclusions as to why you choose to practice the Yoga you do. Hey, maybe you can even justify Broga. At the end of the day, and as with everything in life, just make sure that it holds a meaning for you.

A real thing. From the very real Broga website...