October 4, 2010

How Bryan Kest Single-Handedly Changed The Way I Think About Yoga.

(Or at least, caused me to shift my perspective.)

So I fell off the yoga train. I “got busy”, “life happened”, whatever you want to call it, for the past month I completely neglected my yoga practice and left my mat unused and unloved in my closet. I was suffering from all the classic symptoms of yoga-withdrawal: feelings of guilt, stress levels through the roof, frenzied thoughts and angst-y behavior. I mean, yoga’s supposed to be like…my thing. And I totally let that go.

I had known that Bryan Kest would be coming to a studio near me for months, but could never bring myself to fork out the payment for his “Master Class”. One day, in a moment of frenzied, angst-y desperation, I whipped out my Mastercard and signed myself up. If anyone could get me back into my regular practice, it would be Bryan Kest, I convinced myself. Certainly a man who has practiced with Sri Pattabhi Jois himself is worth taking a class from. Certainly spending $100 for a workshop would encourage me to begin practicing again.

The evening of the workshop, I was feeling particularly exhausted and could find no enthusiasm or motivation within myself whatsoever to change out of my pajamas and into my yoga clothes. Alas, I summoned up the strength to get dressed, pack my bag, print off the directions to the studio, and I was on my merry way. Being the always-on-time type of girl that I am, I left two hours early to factor in rush-hour traffic, to accommodate the likely situation that I would get lost, and to give myself enough time to make it to the studio and land myself a prime piece of yoga mat real estate.

As I was driving down the highway (well above the speed limit, may I add), a cursory glance in my rearview mirror shed light upon the fact that I was being tailgated rather closely. Slightly unnerved, I watched as the perpetrator veered into the lane beside me and began to gesture rudely. I pretended not to notice and fought back the urge to flip him off – maybe because I was trying to be yogic, or maybe due to my paranoid fear that he may be a member of the mafia and send his goons after me. I admit nothing.

After I lost sight of my newfound enemy, I realized that I seemed to be heading in the wrong direction. MapQuest had forsaken me! I made an impromptu turn in an effort to regain my directional senses, and I was soon hopelessly lost. So, I pulled over, picked up the phone and called my mother.

“Hello?” she said, blearily (I woke her up from a nap).


“W…what? Where are you?” she responded, confused.

“WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU? JUST DO WHAT I ASK!” I screeched, feeling angry tears bubbling beneath my eyelids. I then hung up the phone, exasperatedly shouting, “THANKS FOR NOTHING!”

I sat there in the car for a long time, wiping away my tears and wondering what to do next. I contemplated giving up and going home. Bryan Kest and I? We just weren’t meant to be. Finally, I turned my car around and headed in the opposite direction from which I came. Miraculously, I found the studio with five minutes to spare.

As I entered the room, I felt certain that everyone knew what a bad person I was, that I had just thrown a hissy fit and screamed at my mother needlessly. I am already feeling decidedly un-yogic, I scrawl in my notebook. I’m stressed out and frustrated with absolutely everyone and everything. I need this. I need this.

Suddenly, the conversational din quieted down. Bryan Kest sauntered into the room, wearing cargo shorts and a Santa Monica Power Yoga T-shirt. He stood at the front of the room and said, in his Detroit accent: “Anything in your life can become yoga if you bring a yoga mentality to it. People think the poses are important, they spend their whole life trying to do the perfect triangle. Guess what? The poses are fuckin’ stupid.”

Then I just wanted to laugh. There I was, having paid $100 for a yoga class where the teacher shows up dressed in street clothes and stands at the front of the room telling everyone how fucking stupid yoga poses are. He wasn’t trying to be anything other than what he is, and he wasn’t passing yoga off as anything else either.

“The only thing esoteric about yoga is how fuckin’ simple it is,” he said. “Yoga will never tell you to do something or not do something – yoga will only tell you to wake up and decide whether or not you want to do something.”

Then he led us through a flow that did not involve handstands or jump-backs or even any arm balances at all. He kept things simple, reminding me all the while that yoga isn’t about doing 3 hours of asana a day or remaining perfectly calm when you get lost. It’s about paying attention, and having awareness, which gives you choices about how you want to live your life: in a way that is constructive, or a way that is destructive. So I came home, wrote a blog post about my experience, apologized to my mother for shouting at her, and signed up for a Simon Park workshop next week.

Ah…it feels good to be practicing yoga again.

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