Post image for Bryan Kest: Gentleness is Powerful

Bryan Kest: Gentleness is Powerful

by jenny sansouci on September 12, 2012

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?)

Check out more from Bryan Kest here!





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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Maeg September 15, 2012 at 7:28 am

“What’s more powerful than gentleness?”

I love this! Sounds like an incredible class.

His words about going hard at something vs approaching with gentleness really resonate; recently I picked up “When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chodron and (like this class, maybe) I’ve been completely humbled by her words about softening and acceptance, instead of hardening around difficult (or even joyful) things.

A huge shift in my perspective and in both my internal and external responses.

(Btw, I also love the idea of not looking at anyone in class!)

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Daniel September 16, 2012 at 11:55 pm

Great blog. Brian is a maverick. I love his Midwest sensibility. As a Cleveland boy his Detroit roots shine through to me. It’s a privilege to be mentioned in the same article. Thank you

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Sylvia Alakusheva September 28, 2012 at 6:17 pm

Love this! As a yoga teacher myself, I see a lot of students trying to out-do themselves in yoga class, treating their practice as just another workout. Our culture promotes competitiveness and a do-it-all attitude, so it is nice to be given the “permission” to “chill and fuck out” every now and again. Great post!

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Melissa Feldman September 29, 2012 at 7:35 am

I love Bryan. When I first took class from him about 15 years ago, his style completely changed my practice, and has influenced it ever since. I love his honesty, clarity, and sensitivity.

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Kell September 30, 2012 at 11:28 pm

He is so cool, hope to one day do a teacher training with him.

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