6 MARCH 2019
Peace of Mind - Broga founder Matthew Miller tells us why yoga is just as important for men
I never got into the field of fitness because I wanted to share or show off what I had done for myself. I tell every aspiring PT or group fitness instructor I meet who asks me for advice one simple question, “why do you want get into this business?”
If they answer, “financial rewards, personal freedom, working in a place I love and want to be in or getting to train and get paid for it”, I tell them to reconsider.
There is only one answer that, as a by product, will manifest all those other things. The correct answer is simply, “I am passionate about helping people.”
At the core a truly exceptional Personal Trainer/Fitness Professional is so much more than what they offer by way of physical coaching. They are inspiring, confidential, empathetic, kind, receptive, perceptive, and most of all, offer a safe space for a client to be in without judgment and always on the lookout for positives and progress. I have in the past internally referred to clients as patients, half joking but also serious, because of the different levels of treatment I was in charge of.
This puts us in an incredibly unique position to help people both physically and mentally. And it is a necessary aspect of the job since, in my opinion, the two are intertwined.
The male mental health crisis
I find it especially true with male clients as men make up 75% of suicide deaths.
How can we help?
Never underestimate the power of fitness to shape and change lives nor the impact we can have on people through fitness. There is a lot of talk right now about “men’s mental health” and “the silent crisis” but no one seems to have concrete solutions to solve it.
I am confident that as an industry we can help by becoming educated in and incorporating yoga methodology with our male clients – both on a one to one basis and also by encouraging them into group yoga classes.
Why is yoga important for men?
One of the most important beneficial factors for men needing to participate in yoga is the whole “mind body” thing. And I say this with a cheeky tone because that phrase, “mind and body” sounds a bit corny to me.
That said, there genuinely is a whole movement of men who are now starting to speak publicly about personal suffering caused by a disconnect in mental health awareness and options for treatment. And they have a genuine frustration in not knowing how to tackle this.
My opinion is that most men probably will not actively seek out professional help just because they are feeling consistently “meh” or even depressed. I think that is where the beauty of yoga lies for men especially. Yes, you get the obvious stretching and flexibility benefits, but going to a yoga class and making a detailed and controlled connection with physical movements, static postures and controlled breath – all at the same time – has a widely documented effect of improving mental attitude and improving overall sense of well-being by shifting hormone balances and central nervous system activity to a normalised baseline state. In effect, it is a form of active self help and treatment towards better mental health.
What are the other key benefits of getting men to incorporate yoga in their routine?
Most men have something physical they do and love that they are good at, have a youthful history with or just plain enjoy. This is fantastic. I get excited and inspired when I encounter someone with a any type of physical activity routine they maintain on a regular basis.
Next to proper nutrition, moving and staying active is the best medicine we have to stay young. On the flip side, our bodies are amazing machines that do a fantastic job of putting up with our faults, flaws and bad habits.
For a time anyways. Eventually, open poor diet, open circuit faults and over-tension from our training routine over the years will catch up with us. It is just a question of when. The biggest advice I give a man who is a cyclist, runner, weightlifter or whatever is to find a balance in what they are doing with time and energy spent on the opposite movements.
A cyclist needs to focus on hip flexors and back extension, a runner needs to pay attention to the tibialis, dorsal foot extension and balancing stabilisers and a weightlifter needs to be mindful that the sub scapula, pectorals and biceps remain lengthened. And in my opinion regular yoga practice is the best way to ensure the right amount of work and physical release is being performed to have a meaningful impact toward achieving a balanced body.
How does Broga differ from your average yoga class?
My first experience of yoga was with private lessons by high level instructors who were guiding me based on my broken male athlete body. I was hooked on the benefits from moment one.
But when I started branching out to a public classes I immediately hated yoga. I did not understand what language they were speaking, not to mention wondering how I got myself into something that felt a lot more religious that I signed up for. But most horrifying of all, I was one of the only men in class and clearly the worst off. The feeling of being so awkward and terrible in the midst of such grace left me feeling demoralised about myself rather than feeling better, or at least like I had picked a crumb of progress off the studio floor. I vowed to change yoga so the people who needed it most would have a safe space to start from while still being challenged to their maximum.
And Broga differs from a garden variety yoga class in three key ways:
- Every class sequence builds in difficulty. We design our classes so they start with something everyone can do, and build from there. Each level repeats for reps so that people have a chance to actually progress and be able to move on to the next level – or simply remain at the level they are at until the next challenge feels suitable.
- No one is speaking in tongues, latin or any other language you don’t understand. Words used in class are always actionable on an anatomical level. And if an instructor does choose to use some ancient Sanskrit word or medical grade anatomical reference, it is always done with an educational reference so the class participants can be educated in the process. A Broga class has a sensibility that you are going to be directly told what you are getting out of class on a physical level and the exact path to get there.
- Broga at it heart stands for “brotherly”. Unlike a regulator class where people leave in resolute silence and individual calm, a Broga class ends in partner assists, high fives, laughter, smiles and people having felt that they helped each other do more than they could ever do on their own. And in my eyes that is what “namaste” is really all about.
Let's be the solution
Look, I am not saying yoga is going to solve the world’s problems, far from it, but I will tell you this: yoga is the fastest growing and most subscribed to group fitness activity – even over spinning, cross fit and les Mills. Why? Because it is the real deal.
Over 3000 years of development to get us to this moment where we are trying to get people to improve and connect their bodies and minds at the same time. It’s revelatory and stupidly simple simultaneously.
So if you are smart, you will expand you CPD learning and take up a yoga course. And if you own or manage a gym, be bold, put different kinds of yoga on your timetable that don’t just appeal to a female 30-40 something market. For if we as an industry, take the reigns on men’s mental health, I believe we can make a big impact on the solution.