Reflections on Broga® Yoga Teacher Training.

This weekend I completed a broga® yoga training and I have many feelings about it. I’m still trying to process the weekend and the information, but here are my initial thoughts…

I originally signed up for it after the owner of one of the studios I work at raved about it. I trusted her instincts that it would be a great fit for our studio and her enthusiasm for the program sold me on it immediately. Leading up to the training we were sent manuals to review and a sequence to memorize and as soon as I began to thumb through the manual I became angry. Like actually had a visceral response of rage. Let me preface this with the fact that I NEVER get angry. I very rarely get fired up about anything, I tend to find the positive in everything and let any negativity roll off my back without even thinking about it. I’m just a naturally happy and optimistic person and assume the best out of everything. But something in this manual got to me. Something reached into my soul and pissed me off. To be totally frank, I was dreading the training because I was afraid I was going to get uncontrollably angry, say how I felt (I have a tendency to do that…), and in turn embarrass and piss off my boss who I really admire and respect. I told myself going into the weekend that I was not going to say anything, but just wait until after it was over to calmly express how I felt and politely decline any offer to teach this format.

Boy was I wrong. Fifteen minutes into the training, Robert Sidoti, the creator of broga® said something that really struck a cord with me. He said something along the lines of even though we aren’t directly addressing the chakras, the nadis, the energy centers, the spirituality, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. YES. That was all I needed to hear. An acknowledgment of the fact that the deeper stuff in yoga is there no matter what. You can teach a physical practice, sans chanting and sanskrit and touchy feely feelings, and still get the “good stuff". It’s still there. It’s happening within you whether you call it savasana, final relaxation, or corpse pose.

The vinaysa flow classes that I teach tend to be quite physical. We breathe, we do address pranayama, I get a little into energy, but I don’t tend to get too deep into the metaphysical. I know and I trust that the process is happening, and when I’m ready to be more vocal about it, I will be. Robert’s statement affirmed every fear I had about my own teaching. Every bit of discomfort or self consciousness that I wasn’t providing this deep spiritual experience. YOU DON’T HAVE TO TALK ABOUT IT FOR IT TO BE HAPPENING. And wow. It was like one of those mind blown moments for me.

The traditional set broga® sequence did pose some physical issues for me. It was a very squared hip class. Nearly every movement is performed in the sagittal plane. Personally I am very open in my hips so it was uncomfortable for me to be squared for so long. Then again, yoga isn’t supposed to be comfortable. Yoga is supposed to challenge you so that you can LEARN to find comfort in the discomfort. So really, this class is great for me. There were several of poses I didn’t like, and a lot of poses left out of the sequence which I love. I recognize that this is a good thing for me. I do think men in particular need to move a little bit more laterally, open their hips, and their hammies a bit more than this sequence offered. The cool thing about Robert was that he was open to that feedback, understanding of it and though he explained it’s purpose of meeting dudes where they are rather where they need to be, he was open to us trainees to alter the sequence in an intelligent and intentional manner. Not many fitness trainings I have been to give you that autonomy as an instructor, so I really appreciate that and thought it was super rad of him to be open to that.

Men are not coming out in droves the way women are (nowadays in the Western world) to the yoga studio. Stereotypically speaking, men don’t want to feel stupid so they tend to stick to what they’re used to. Bis and tris and chest flys at the gym, right? Of course yoga eventually asks us to remove our ego and step into that place of discomfort, but first we have to enter the studio. If broga® achieves this, how can that be wrong?

I find myself relearning lessons about keeping an open mind, about not jumping to conclusions, about trusting that there is good in everything. I was so happily surprised by how much resonated with me during this weekend of training. Whether I end up teaching this broga® sequence or not doesn’t matter. I’m a better yoga instructor for taking the time to step out of my comfort zone, learn something new, and also learn how much yoga really means to me. The fact that I got so fired up and defensive because I thought broga® was shitting on yoga just shows me how important all that other stuff really is to me. Sometimes I put the other limbs of yoga on the back burner because I am so in love with the physical part that I lose focus, attention, and patience for the rest of the process. What a truly great yoga practice or teacher does is show you more about yourself and I really feel as though that mirror was held up to me this past weekend.

If you are interested in trying a broga® yoga class, it is designed for men but open to everyone. In Bloomington, IN we offer twice weekly classes at Bloomington Body Bar. Please visit the broga® yoga website to find classes in your area and more information on the brogram ;) Peace out, brogis!

Spirituality and Yoga.

I’ve been thinking about spirituality and yoga a lot lately. I was never, ever a spiritual person before I began practicing yoga. It really wasn’t until my teacher training that that aspect of the practice clicked. Thank you Marsha Pappas and Caroline Myss! Anyhow, I’ve been reflecting on my teaching a ton recently, always questioning whether my sequences make sense, whether people seem to be enjoying the practice, am I keeping them safe, and whether or not what I offer is unique and inspiring. I know my students don’t necessarily need to enjoy the class to have had a “successful” practice. (And by successful, I mean showing up—no more, no less). Still, I’m a people pleaser and I like to make people happy. I have a tough time giving people what they need; I find it rather easy to provide them with what they want, which is why I’m so good at kicking their ass with a strong and powerful practice, but always seem to run out of time for that ten minute savasana I aim for. At one of the studios where I teach, we are going to learn a new asana format specifically designed for men. It claims to take all the spirituality, chanting, and sanskrit out of yoga and just focus on the physical aspect, which is really what a lot of men need. Have you SEEN how tight their hamstrings are?! Lord in heaven, I don’t know how they do it! :) I digress. At first, when I learned about this format and heard all of the spirituality would be taken out of it, it was like a knife jabbed through my heart. “But that’s not YOGA! That’s ancient Indian calisthenics!”, a little voice in my head cried. Yoga has 8 limbs, and really in order for it to be yoga, you can’t take the spirituality out of it. That’s WHAT IT IS. Ah yes. But didn’t I start out in a hot power yoga class because I wanted a good workout? Didn’t my yogini-enlightened ass hit the mat day after day for years before I even had any idea that there was more to the practice than just triangle and warrior? Yes, I think I did. I would love to meet the Westerner out there who hit their yoga mat for the very first time because they were interested in opening their mind up to the possibilities of the universe. Seriously. We all start somewhere. Is it not yoga if you show up to your mat with the intention to work on bettering your body, to take care of yourself, alleviating back pain and keep your muscles strong and limber? How is that not “real yoga”? The more I thought about it the more I realized I am a great asana teacher. I know the poses backward and forward. I know the body. I know alignment. I can see people’s physical issues immediately without having to ask them what hurts. I can see why they fall out of a pose, what they need to strengthen, and how to make the physical practice work for them. I grew up as a ballet dancer so my attention to physical detail is incredibly meticulous. Although my personal practice has really blossomed into encompassing spirituality and the deeper roots and branches of yoga, I’m not as adept at sharing that. I’ve only begun to explore that myself so I don’t feel as comfortable sharing it with others. In fact, whenever I try to give a real dharma talk, I feel like a hack. My skill set as a yoga instructor is physical. As yoga instructors we also need to stop being so harsh and judgmental. Asana is yoga. Just because a person begins their practice of yoga in the physical branch does not mean they are not practicing yoga. Asana is like the Westerner’s gateway drug to all 8 limbs. I am beyond grateful and honored to aid in that bridge between simple physical practice and a complete yogic experience.