Bryan Kest: Does the West have yoga all wrong?
I’m a movement artist. From the time of very young I studied dance in many forms and relished in the beauty of bodies, shapes, and rhythms. But I was brainwashed. I was taught that skinny was beautiful, to push through my pain, and to compete with my fellow dancers for attention, looks, and recognition. And while this was supposedly to achieve someones vision of beauty and art, it did not teach me to love myself or to treat others and myself with compassion and acceptance… and honestly it never claimed to.
Strangely enough it was this inner need to move and dance that attracted me to yoga back in 1999. Bikram Yoga specifically. And yes I was “good” at it. Some shapes came easy and others were more challenging, but because of my movement background the shapes of yoga found a home in my body. And while I was living in my mind set of yoga as a form of exercise and movement art, I learned to breathe, I learned to listen, and I learned to unlearn the habits of my early days… ahhhh Yoga!
It’s was a profound moment last night in a more than 3 hour long master class with Bryan Kest founder of Power Yoga that I realized that the changes I’ve been making these past few years is not because something was wrong with me and I was broken and needed fixing, it was because I needed healing. Brian spoke for more than an hour about yoga as a practice of the mind and not necessarily the body. The body and the yoga poses were simply a way to exercise our minds through listening to our bodies. To develop an intimacy with ourselves by bringing thoughts of compassion, acceptance, love and ease to our practice so that we may re-enter the world with this same fresh mind-set.
I felt Bryan’s passion and challenge in being a yoga teacher in the west where fancy ladies wear expensive yoga clothes, get lost in competition and achievement of extreme yoga postures, and have even sexualized this ancient practice in a way that only a society that values superficiality can. But just like we need to bring compassion to ourselves and loved ones we must also do that with our western yoga community.
We here in the West are in our infancy when it comes to the practice of the mind, the development of our hearts, and shifting our values from money, power, and being number one, to loving kindness, tolerance, and humility. One of my teachers once said in response to this exact conversation was “…let the asana do the work.” So for me, if yoga poses are the gateway for western enlightenment then so be it.
I see so many Western yogis in search of outward beauty through what has become the western yoga lifestyle, myself included. But with this path we also experience injuries, meet our demons on our mats, and see our relationships unravel and rebuild because we are working out the shit we brought to yoga class. This is still yoga. The mind can’t help but learn. The pain, the stress, the suffering, this is the hot sauce on our finger nails. And its working
Thank you Bryan Kest for your passion, humor, and wisdom. Your teaching is helping fuel a cultural shift– and it’s happening despite the rise other human issues. It not may happening in any traditional sense of what yoga is or was, but it is happening and the evolution of the human mind continues.
Yoga will continue to be my art AND my practice. It may not be what was intended by Pattabhi Jois, but it is what the practice has become to me. Each time I share my practice there are countless hours of learning, undoing, patience, and acceptance that must happen in that moment. As a yogi I seek love. As an individual I seek acceptance. As an artist I seek beauty. And as a human I seek compassion and evolution for my community toward a more connected intimate experience for all.
Thank you Groove Yoga and Banni Bunting for hosting Bryan. Thank you Bryan for visiting our small community and I so hope you will return.
Thank you Bryan Kest for your passion, humor, and wisdom. Your teaching is helping fuel a cultural shift-- and it's happening despite the rise other human issues. It not may happening in any traditional sense of what yoga is or was, but it is happening and the evolution of the human mind continues.