A yoga teacher friend of mine recommended that I take a class with Bryan Kest while I’m in LA (Bryan teaches Power Yoga in Santa Monica). My friend seemed pretty enthusiastic about him, so I decided to check it out.
When I looked at Bryan’s schedule online, nothing matched up right away so I kind of let go of the idea. Then, a few days later, I found out I was going out to Bhakti Fest in Joshua Tree. On the teacher lineup? Bryan Kest! Yeah! Everything works out.
When I got to Bhakti Fest, I met another guy who said he takes Bryan Kest’s classes every week in Santa Monica and loves them. This was sounding better and better.
I have to admit, before taking Bryan’s class, I had a preconceived notion about what it would be like. Power Yoga…I was thinking it was going to be one of those super fast-paced yoga classes that combines aerobics and strength training and leaves you panting and sweating on the mat. I pictured a class I took recently with a drill-sargeant-like teacher, pushing us past our limits. I took a deep breath as I walked into his class and prepared myself. I brought my sister to this class too, and when I told her it was called “power yoga” she looked at me with a skeptical eye.
That’s why I was totally caught off guard by the way Bryan opened class:
“Can you think of anything more powerful than gentleness?”
Oh yeah! I relaxed immediately. I could tell that my sister did too. Right on, this is awesome.
“What’s more powerful than self-acceptance? What’s more powerful than being patient, humble, less critical, less judgmental? That’s why we call this power yoga. Because that shit’s powerful.”
Bryan went on to say that the harder you work at something, the faster you wear out. The only way to truly take care of yourself is to be gentle.
When it comes to pushing yourself in yoga class, he said, we should treat yoga like a buffet. “Eat what you want, season it the way you want it, but don’t blame the chef if you overeat!” (i.e. don’t push yourself to the point of pain…be gentle with yourself..take what works for you).
Bryan also emphasized that there’s a quietness that differentiates yoga from other physical activity. The quietness opens up a whole new realm of possibility. It’s only in the quietness that you can get the distractions out of your mind. We have a negative addiction to unnecessary thoughts that fill our head. How else are we going to get rid of those distracting thoughts if we’re incessantly feeding our mind?
He also suggested that we don’t look around at anybody else during class, so we couldn’t compare our practice to anybody else’s. It made me realize how often I am usually checking out what everyone else is doing.
Don’t get me wrong. Bryan’s class was definitely super challenging and a great workout — but he also kept emphasizing to only go as far as we feel comfortable with each pose, and rest, modify or take it easy if need be.
Do you ever feel like you’re pushing yourself incessantly and nothing is ever good enough? I know I used to be that way with running. I felt like I should run as far and as long as I possibly could — which resulted in injured knees and ankles. So next time you get in that mode, remember how powerful gentleness can be. How powerful quietness can be. Let yourself be where you are. Of course, challenge yourself. But as another one of my yoga teachers, Daniel Overberger said today, “If you’re feeling pain, that’s a sure sign that it’s time to chill the fuck out.”
(Sorry for all the swearing in this post….but I kind of like it when yoga teachers are a little edgy, don’t you?)