First confession: I’m a yoga virgin, too. That probably explains my mounting apprehension the morning before I departed for Virgin Active Holland Village. I was scrutinising my toe nails — overgrown and under-maintained. What would my Broga mates think of this grotesque sight? I proceeded to give them the most meticulous cut I have ever given anything. I then whiffed my PT clothes and they did not smell. Perhaps I was over-thinking being in an enclosed room with other strangers sweating it out, but in any case, good, now I’m ready.
No, I’m not ready, I thought in the middle of the roughly hour-long Broga session. But let’s backtrack a little, before the pain began. Broga, an amalgamation of “bro” and “yoga”, was created and co-founded by Robert Sidoti in the US in 2009. Unsurprisingly, it is meant to encourage men who feel the original version is too feminine or did not offer a solid-enough workout to take up the practice. As such, Broga combines simple yoga sequences with energetic high-intensity interval exercises. Purportedly, each session should see you burning up to 500 calories, equivalent to a bagel with cream cheese. Females are more than welcome to join the class, of course. In fact, the Broga class I attended had two females and three males, just to give you a picture of how un-sexist Broga is meant to be, despite its name. I arrived at the swanky club, and immediately regretted bringing my own clothes when I realised Virgin Active provided Under Armour sportswear (which you have to return).
The class was held in a light-filled wooden-floored room, and after the instructor introduced himself, the session kicked off with a few minutes of mindful breathing. Soothing music and the instructor’s gentle voice floated about. This was followed by a couple of basic yoga poses like forward fold and planking. “Chey”, I thought, “okay what.” How foolish was the inexperienced one. We soon progressed into a faster sequence of bodyweight exercises like lunges and squats. There were some balancing poses in between that I knew I was doing wrongly, as my reflection in the room’s wide mirror panel told me accusingly. The instructor corrected my pose halfway, but as soon as he left I was back to my faulty reiteration of the pose.
Then the high-intensity part began, and we did multiple intervals of burpees, pushups and jumping. I found myself lagging further and further behind, as my sweat pooled on the mat. I am not (okay, maybe slightly) ashamed to confess that I cut some corners as the lactic acid’s burn was too much to bear. While lying down for one of our 10-second interval rests, I started hearing voices. It wasn’t the instructor — I had already lost him at “don’t give up, you’re halfway there.” What I thought I was hearing were army sergeants shouting, because, I kid you not, this feels like the training you get during remedial trainings for IPPT. So tough for the unfit, you try to keng.
When, finally, the rough part was over, we lay on the mat, hands clasped over our stomach, and ‘meditated’. It was a hard-earned rest. I expected some spiritual realisation to hit me, because yoga. There was none. But I did feel clear-minded, and oddly enough, cleansed. Perhaps it was the calm after the storm, or the music doing its tricks, but whatever the reason, the closing mediation segment gave a serene and pleasant ending to this Broga experience.
Two days later, when I still couldn’t get out of bed without straining my still-delicate core, I realised I felt good. Like healthier, skinnier, better. Maybe yoga has the same effect, but broga definitely gives it a run for its money. Will I be back for more broga? Maybe when I recover.
Broga is available at all three Virgin Active outlets. Virgin Active Holland Village is at Raffles Holland V, 118 Holland Avenue, #03-05, S278997. To find out more, go to www.virginactive.com.sg.
Photos: Chee Yan