The other day I drove out to Altamonte Springs for a day of yoga with Bryan Kest. Bryan’s one of the handful of people credited with creating Power Yoga, which, not incidentally, is the style I attempt to teach every week. Power Yoga is the less fussy, less bossy child of Ashtanga Yoga, and with 75% less contortionism. A Power class is usually a challenging mind/body workout for anybody who’s healthy enough to exercise. So, a hard class, but made up of poses that most people can do or approximate or just fake. That’s why it’s cool.I wasn’t expecting much. On his site Bryan looks like just another professional yoga salesman: kind of dreamy, and with that gentle, benevolent look that male yogis seem to master for their promotional materials. In person, however, he was sort of like the Fonz of yoga teachers. He quit school after 9th grade, and he’s got a Detroit accent to his speech, which is liberally peppered with fucks, shits, and hells, as in, “I don’t fucking know the correct way to do the pose, why the hell you askin’ me?” And, “People bring their shit to yoga and turn yoga to shit.” It was certainly a schtick, but I liked it. He spoke and hammed and sometimes belched for over an hour, and many times I felt like giving him an “Amen” in the creepy church style. I refrained. Anyway, Bryan’s message was simple: Yoga is simple. There’s more to it, but I don’t have an hour of your time nor 30 years of teaching to have honed my spiel. But listen, friends: yoga is for everyone. Yoga poses are not sacrosanct — they’re just ways of stimulating, stretching and strengthening every little bit of corporeal you. We need these abused bodies and buggy brains for the remainders of our lives. So what do we want to nurture? What will keep us happy and feeling alive? Calmness of mind. Mobility and range of motion. And to not start shitting ourselves. So don’t forget your aswini mudra, kids.
After his talk he led a 90-minute power class, which was a pretty typical power class, except that he directed most of it in rhyme. Which wasn’t quite as nice as musical accompaniment may have been, but at least he was entertained. After a short break we returned for an excrutiating two-and-a-half hour Yin class. Kest calls them LSD classes (long, slow, deep, and because you leave tripping), and they are made up of stretching poses which you hold for an uncomfortable amount of time. The point is to really get into our tight, tight hips, hammies, butts, etc., while also getting into the connective tissues. It kind of sucks.
Which brings us to the “mind” aspect of the practice, if anyone’s still reading. Actually, my day off is dwindling away and I want to get out in the boat. So I’ll just say for now that yoga is a spiritual but rational practice. It is not about faith, religion or dogma. You needn’t leave your critical thinking skills at the door, because everything we do should be for a reasonably-supportable reason, or at least shouldn’t be completely ridiculous. And that includes practicing new ways of dealing with our every day stressors: frustration, judgment, cynicism, anger, pain. Doesn’t that sound fun? Come to my class and practice suffering in a supportive environment 🙂