I love California, but I LOVE California yoga. Sigh.
I attended Bryan Kest’s Power Yoga while visiting Santa Monica last weekend, and the class was awesome: 1) it’s donation based (suggested amount is $14), 2) I worked hard, 3) I loved the mediation practice, 4) the studio was laid back and unpretentious, 5) Brian Kest (“BK”) is funny, and 6) the studio is spacious and bright with a nice big abstract painting on one wall.
I’ve been to other studios with a similar donation/laid-back ethos, but not one with this quality of instruction. And by quality of instruction I mean an equal mastery of both the philosophy and the asana. BK’s yoga philosophy isn’t academic, it seems to be the product of significant self study and compassion for himself and his students. He calls his style “power yoga” which should put me off (“yuck! that’s not authentic”), and I suspect BK would love to put people like me off, but you can’t deny great teaching. I crave a workout and need to CTFO* like anyone else, plus his accent is charming (it sounds Boston to me but apparently he is from Detroit). (BK has an interesting bio. He was one of Pattabhi Jois’s first Western students.) It’s vinyasa style, nothing fancy, but what sets BK apart is the way he communicates the philosophy of non-harming, of quieting the mind–it’s in plain English.
This yoga is no frills. By this I mean there was no music, no changing rooms, no liability waiver, no sign in sheet, no front desk, no props, no retail store, no shelves for belongings, no Sanskrit, no rule about taking off your shoes. What the studio did have was a bearded older dude who seemed to be helper at large, who took my money for the $2 (skanky-ass) mat rental and advised me on protocol; a large lovely room in which to practice; lots of students; and a teacher who emphasized the breath and being gentle (while having us hold a 15-breath dhanurasana/bow pose). Every now and then BK would say something like “and this pose is called holding your right leg up while bending over pose” (not Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana/standing split). Yoga humor. Har Har.
The gratefulness meditation at the end was the best part. We sat still for 5 minutes and thought of everything and everyone in our life we are grateful for. And I have so many things to list! It is wonderful to remember this. BK said, you do this everyday for 3 months and you’ll never have to do it again. Highly recommended. Yay for California.