Go Power! Go Yoga to Host Bryan Kest of Power Yoga in March
I will never dance on stage with Madonna, but I can take a class with her yoga teacher! Go Yoga will host the inventor of Power Yoga, Bryan Kest, for a one-night only yoga event in Powell on Tuesday, March 24, 2015.
In the 1990’s, Kest along with Beryl Bender Birch, Larry Schultz and others, popularized vigorous yoga flow programs loosely based on Ashtanga yoga. Kest coined the phrase “power yoga” and released a classic (and sometimes parodied) DVD in 1995 that features a young Seane Corne in the ensemble. By his count, he has taught over 18,400 yoga classes and will appear in 100 cities this year. He has inspired a great many yoga teachers and students.
“Bryan Kest is a huge reason for the existence of Go Yoga” says Zach Spafford, co-owner of Go Yoga. Spafford and his partner Alissa Rodgers have traveled to many locations in the U.S. to take classes from Kest.
“Bryan has an amazing gift for teaching others,” says Rodgers. “We are very influenced by not only his teachings, but also the culture he has built around yoga. I traveled a lot for work and did yoga in many places, especially Santa Monica and I wanted to bring to Columbus the yoga that I found there.”
For years, Kest has taught yoga to everyday people as well as A-list celebrities in Los Angeles and all over the world. Despite the Hollywood base, Kest is known for, as Spafford of Go Yoga says, “[H]is realness – it is incredible.”
A short sample of Kest’s philosophy: “You practice yoga to feel good. Not to become pretty or get great abs or to be something that you think others think you should be. Your yoga is your way plugging into the peace inside of you, and that is f*cking bigger than having the best Triangle pose in the class.”
Kest coined the phrase Power Yoga, but he is also known for using quite colorful language in his yoga classes. Having taken several classes with him, I can affirm that I have never heard the f-word, uttered more often in any yoga class, and, yes, I have taken classes with Lara Falberg at Balanced Yoga.
“We may have to put up a sign warning people about the language,” the Go Yoga owners noted.
In Germany, one interviewer gave Kest the moniker “the bad boy of yoga”. Kest’s route to becoming a yoga teacher was anything but straight.
“I was a meat-and-potatoes kid from Detroit,” he says. “I got into trouble and at age 15 my mom kicked me out, and I went to live with my dad who did yoga for his back pain. He said, ‘Do yoga every day, or I’ll kick you out of my house.’ So I did it. It just happened that I learned from one of the first Ashtanga teachers in the West and after a while, I went to India to get a stronger hit of yoga. It was not such a fashionable or easy thing to do back then – [in Mysore,] sometimes I was Pattabhi Jois’ only student.”
He returned to the United States, and while bussing tables in Los Angeles, started teaching yoga privately in homes and then in dance spaces. His clientele grew more numerous and well-to-do, and he now owns Santa Monica Power Yoga.
“The studio that he has now is just beautiful,” says Rodgers. “When we started Go Yoga, even though we had to rent spaces in gyms and karate studios, we knew something like that was what we were working towards.”
Go Yoga now has three locations and is soon to open a fourth in Linworth. Their largest studio space in Powell is where they will host Bryan Kest Tuesday, March 24.
Kest’s Power Yoga classes are famous for physical strenuousness and straight-forward instructions in American English. Although he studied Ashtanga yoga for twelve years, including with the famous of K. Pattabhi Jois in Mysore, India, he does not routinely use Sanskrit terms or mention the mysterious mula bandha.
“What really sold me was when [Kest] was leading a class and said, ‘Now this pose is called Bending Over Your Leg.’ That was just great!” Spafford says.
Bryan Kest also loves jokes -sometimes rather risqué ones- which make his yoga classes more humorous than some. In the yoga world, Power Yoga has been criticized for being less than serious. Flow yoga in general contrasts sharply with more quiet or rigorous disciplines of yoga. When I questioned Taylor Hunt of Ashtanga Yoga Columbus, he remarked that, “Practicing classical Ashtanga has a real depth and richness to it.”
Power Yoga/Flow Yoga has become increasingly popular, especially in Columbus, but the way some teachers lead classes makes it “Busy yoga for busy people,” as Mr. Kest commented to me. And while to each their own, and that may be a place to start a yoga practice, Kest says that, “Yoga should really be about exercising calmness as you would any muscle. Learning to not react to stress is huge. The essence of what I teach is strengthening the benevolent qualities of the mind and eradicating the qualities that are hurting us. And, it doesn’t happen the first time; it’s a practice.”
Many people find Kest’s Power Yoga accessible and agree that Kest is like a Zen master.
“He strips things down to the present the important essence,” says Spafford.
While Kest is in demand all over the world, he likes visiting the Midwest due to having multiple family members in the area.
“I was born in Cleveland,” he says. “Grew up in Michigan. Several family members went to college in Columbus and stayed, so I am looking forward to visiting Columbus.”
Typically, Kest has a two-year waiting lists for his events. Go Yoga owners were very persistent with Kest’s staff in Los Angeles and managed to jump the queue when he had a cancellation this March.
Author’s note: I have taken three sets of classes with Mr. Kest since I started seriously practicing yoga in 2011. Despite his famously crude behaviours, he really creates a nurturing atmosphere to explore what is possible in your yoga practice. He leads a physically demanding class, but he constantly encourages students to be gentle with themselves. Famously, he says that here in the West people, “bring their stress to yoga and turn yoga into stress” (actually, he often uses another four letter word that begins with “s”). He also encourages students to think beyond the classroom and bring compassion and gratitude to their lives off the yoga mat.
“Yoga touches every part of the fitness paradigm … more importantly, it helps re-train your brain,” he says. “The opposite of a stressful brain is a peaceful brain.”
I think that anyone who attends his class in Columbus with an open mind will enjoy his combination of power, humor, and wish for a more peaceful planet.
For more on Bryan Kest’s Power Yoga, visit poweryoga.com.
As noted, Go Yoga has several locations throughout Columbus. The Powell location at 10227 Sawmill Parkway, Powell, OH 43065 (in the Vittoria plaza) will host Bryan Kest on Tuesday, March 24, 2015. Visit goyogausa.com for more information and to sign up for the class.