What famous poets, doctors, psychologists and yoga guru, Bryan Kest, can teach us about finding our inner warrior.
William Wordsworth wrote in Character of a Happy Warrior, one of his works from 1806 (published in 1807) in which he describes a most perfect ideal of a soldier:
“Who is the happy warrior? Who is he, That every man in arms should wish to be? It is the generous Spirit, who, when brought, Among the tasks of real life, hath wrought…”
In some circles a soldier is a warrior. In others, it’s a religious advocate; for some, it’s a basic but important yoga posture with Hindu lore behind it.
The famous poem goes on to mark characteristics and virtues all of which can be found in many places: on the mat, in yoga or in the therapy room. It’s a series of perceptions.
When do you know you’re a warrior?
How do you get there?
When is the shift?
For me there was never a moment when I had a perception shift. Same as there wasn’t a moment when all of my hair turned gray.
It’s been a gradual process of awakening. And I think for the students, there’s a huge epiphany after the first class because of how good they feel. They are not used to having that felling that you have after a yoga class, so it has a strong effect on them the first time. And that feeling gets them to come back to the next class.
But again, I don’t think there is a single moment or one time experience.
I think the awakening and the shifting happens gradually over time. At least for most of us.
~ Bryan Kest, international yoga celebrity and teacher, based out of California, USA.
Anyone who has participated in Bryan Kest’s yoga classes could say that he’s got a bit of Wordsworth mixed with a bit of a romantic idealist poet, a twist of William James, and perhaps also just an edge of James Dean in him.
If you are not familiar with Kest, then understand that he doesn’t sugar coat.
Sure, he knows all the Sanskrit, history, and has lived in India before it was popular to do so, but he teaches very straight forward.
“Bend at the hips, touch the feet, do you know what this is called? It’s called bending and touching your toes,” Kest remarks, and the class giggles a bit but in the face of such truth.
His classes are not for virgin ears; the class can get colorful, but then so can life.
Life is filled with obstacles on the mat. While taking one of his classes online recently, he remarked that some people stay frustrated during class.
As a yoga teacher, I’ve seen it a million times. Someone is on the mat, sweating, grimacing, even if they are deep breathing they look like they’d sooner prefer to meet you in the back alley to steal your baubles much less wish you a namaste.
It’s not who they are, it’s what they feel.
“Some people actually practice frustration, can you believe it? They come here and get more and more frustrated. It’s only strengthening their frustration.”
As he says this, I remind myself of therapy clients who sometimes have a hard time in the beginning with change. They want to do things the same way and expect different outcomes.
When I asked Kest about yoga and obstacles, he said:
“Yoga was made to alleviate these obstacles by developing awareness, and with awareness you can recognize these tendencies and stop feeding them mental energy and unconscious loyalty. Like anything else, when you stop feeding something, it starves and dies.”
This is a theory behind changing the subconscious; it is rooted deeply in hypnotherapy. Franz Mesmer, a physician and astronomer, brought forth the idea of an exchange of energy, and a lure of energy (magnetism). Soon after, James Braid, also a physician, coined the term hypnosis, and it was considered a medical form of healing before it entered more into the psychological realm.
Through all of this, yoga had already been around for a few millennium or perhaps even eons for all we know. What did yoga know that scientists were just finding out?
We spend so much time not being connected to our surroundings, our families and friends, even our selves.
When asked about this level of disconnect, Kest affirms,
“I stay connected off the mat by spending time daily on the mat and on the meditation cushion.”
Isn’t this a lot like therapy?
By becoming grounded, yoga already knows this.
Psychology and even medicine are all working together to connect to what yoga already teaches; this is not to say there is not a place for medicine or psychology. As a hypnotherapist and yogi, I see it as the more modalities the better.
Why have a tool chest with only one tool, you know? At the same time, yoga, often called an “alternative,” has been around longer than science as we know it.
A lot of people struggle to live authentically in all realms of life. Sometimes people wear their coping skills like a costume they can’t pry off, while others simply have limited awareness. We all have coping skills; it’s about being as authentic as possible to reach into yourself to know what will bring you your own truth.
How does that truth get there?
How do we create a society of awareness and authenticity?
Kest tells it simply and bluntly,
“A person can enhance their authenticity by having the guts to live truthfully and others being inspired by that truthfulness. And that spreads, and then there is a possibility for shift.”
When asked to share his views on difficulties, he replied, “I feel like all difficulties and challenges are opportunities to learn and grow and become stronger and wiser. So although difficult times may not feel good and may take a little time and a little room to breathe into, ultimately I believe that they are positive which leaves me affected less negatively by them.”
So, we see that the Character of a Happy Warrior, perhaps was written years ago but resides in Kest, and perhaps, resides in all of us.
The more time we spend on the yoga mat, on the meditation cushion and in our truth is perhaps the answer to creating a more authentic life, by following our own inner warrior, while also learning from others.
“And, while the mortal mist is gathering, draws
His breath in confidence of Heaven’s applause:
Character of a Happy Warrior, Wordsworth.”
What was your Happy Warrior moment in life on the mat and off the mat?
When did you live the most authentically in life or how do you retain your authenticity? Share.
Michele M. Paiva, E-RYT, is a psychotherapist, yogi and author. She lives with a well-dressed but ill-behaved Chihuahua in suburban Philadelphia. Michelepaiva.com
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Assistant Ed: Christa Angelo
Ed: Brianna Bemel