When Bryan Kest walked into Yoga Sanctuary on Jan. 12, students who were new to his classes probably wondered why he wasn’t dressed in the usual yoga attire. The handsome teacher with closely cropped hair instead wore a pair of tight-fitting pants that appeared more suited to going out to lunch than doing virabhadrasana.
Why he wasn’t dressed in Lululemon’s latest, however, soon became apparent. Kest didn’t lead the class by demonstrating yoga poses. Instead, the Southern California-based teacher continuously weaved his way through the 75 or so students spread out in the large Las Vegas studio, seamlessly and humorously guiding them through a 90-plus-minute power-yoga class. His clear, concise instructions and words of wisdom came from 33 years of practice and 27 years of teaching.
“As of December  I have taught 17,000 classes,” said Kest.
Kest's style of dress wasn't the only thing different than most yoga instructors. It soon became apparent his style of teaching was the polar opposite of others who describe in detail how students should align themselves from head to toe. Instead Kest offered this advice:
There’s no right way to do a pose.
In trikonasana, for instance, whether you put your hand on the floor inside or outside your foot depends on which part of your body you want to open. The correct way to do a pose is to do what’s right for you.
Before diving into a mostly standing series, Kest spent the first half of the three-and-a-half-hour workshop sharing his thoughts on what he calls “yoga calisthenics,” exercises developed by yogis who sat in meditation all day and found their bodies were atrophying from lack of movement.
He told the class, in a forward bend the goal isn’t to touch your head to your legs, it’s to bend over as far as is right for you so that you stimulate circulation and flush out toxins. In a difficult pose, the goal is to be gentle with yourself and remain calm in a challenging situation. He explained:
Most people bring their shit to yoga and turn their yoga into shit.
In other words, if you are competitive in your daily life, more than likely you will be competitive in the classroom. You will be the person who wants to go deeper than anyone else while striving for perfect alignment. If you have tendencies towards anger, you’re will probably get angry when you fall out of a pose.
“Yoga is meant to free us from our agenda,” he explained, but most people bring their agenda to class. In yoga our body is talking to us. Most people aren’t listening because they’re trying to make the pose a certain way. Your job is to quiet your mind and figure out where you should be in the pose.”
Having freed students to find the alignment that was just right for them (or to not even do the pose at all), Kest led students through what could have been one of the least taxing yet most effective power yoga classes on the planet. He didn’t push students deeper with his hands or stand on their backs while they were in paschimottanasana, rather he guided them with wisdom and reminders to quiet their minds and listen to their bodies.
The only thing yoga will tell you is wake the f#?k up.
By the way, did we mention, Kest curses, too?
To learn more about Kest, the owner of Power Yoga, a donation-based studio in Santa Monica, Calif., go to his website poweryoga.com.