Rob Welk had a hard time pulling on his socks before he discovered yoga.
“I didn’t look anything like this,” he said with a laugh. “My belly was out to here,” he added, motioning several inches in front of his now-flat midsection.
About two years ago, at a weight of 245 pounds with a 42-inch waistline, Welk started doing yoga classes.
Today, at 198 pounds and a 35-inch waist, Welk describes himself as a “60-year-old yoga convert.”
Now he does yoga about five times a week — and spinning and total-body conditioning classes. He has no need for the blood pressure and antidepressant medications he used to take.
And he can touch his hands to the floor, so pulling on his socks is definitely not a problem.
Welk is one of the many committed guys who take Cheryl Brousseau’s yoga-for-men classes. She started teaching these specialty sessions, affectionately called “broga,” for brothers yoga, a couple of years ago at private clubs and yoga studios across the area.
Brousseau said, “There is a reluctance of a lot of guys to go into a room with a bunch of flexy women.”
Indeed, Welk’s first experience with yoga was in a workshop of just men. Now that he practices all the time, though, he’s comfortable in a coed setting as well.
Stephen Loderick also found yoga at one of Brousseau’s men-only sessions. Now he does yoga regularly, and finds that it helps him apply “mindfulness” to everyday life.
“I don’t care what gets you in the room,” Loderick said. “Give it a couple months, and this begins to click.”
Men of all shapes, sizes and ages gathered on a recent Sunday afternoon at Studio D, a yoga studio off Huguenot Road in Chesterfield County, to take one of Brousseau’s classes.
Two of them, Darius Reyes and Andron Wright, said they did mixed martial arts, and found that yoga enhanced their athletic performance.
“Especially the breathing,” Reyes said. “I found I could really use the breathing in grappling.”
Brousseau said it’s not unusual for men to find that yoga, particularly the breathing patterns and stretching moves, can help with sports.
“I’ve even done a yoga-for-golfers class,” she said. “I brought in clubs and put them into the poses.”
In a typical class for guys, Brousseau leans toward a power yoga format with long strength portions as well as stretching.
“The type of yoga that I teach is challenging,” she said, adding that she tries to incorporate readings or quotes that make participants think about how that exercise can help them in life.
“I get them thinking: ‘How do we respond off the mat to those moments that are challenging?’ ”
Welk certainly can see how yoga has changed his approach to life.
“As a longtime corporate controller, I was wound way too tightly,” he said.