Bryan Kest at Harmony Yoga
Last month Bryan Kest taught a workshop at Harmony Yoga. Although I had taken classes with Kest before, it was really interesting to hear him speak in depth. Kest has a unique and profound understanding of yoga history and philosophy which he communicates in a simple, concise, and plain manner. In fact, you may not even realize he is talking about ancient yogic texts especially since he freely drops the F-bomb and speaks colloquially. His presentation felt like a casual conversation with a friend. I found him light and relatable. He covered more ground than I can discuss in this blog. So, I share with you the thread that resonated with me most, gentleness.
Put simply, Kest said, “The harder you are on anything, the faster it wears out.” If you are hard on a car, it has a short life span. It you are hard on your relationships, they suffer. Our bodies are the same. Professional athletes are the perfect example. They push themselves past the brink during their careers, and then suffer in retirement. If you really want something to last, you must touch it gently. Similarly, if you want something to heal, you must handle it gently. This universal truth holds true for our physical bodies, emotions, relationships, possessions, and even the earth. Kest elaborated on the relationship we have with our bodies. He pointed out that most of us are remarkably judgmental, critical, and harsh when it comes to our physique. We complain about the outside world sending us negative feedback about our physical form, but to change that, we must first change the way we think about ourselves.
During the practice of yoga, our relationship with ourselves is revealed. Physical pain is the way our body tells us that something is wrong, but how many of us ignore that message and push through anyway? According to Kest, a sign of a good relationship with ourselves would be to back off during those times. The intelligent yogi turns inward, listens to her/his body, recognizes that opting out or choosing modification does not equate to doing or being less. Being gentle requires that we pay attention to our bodies. Kest says that when we are being mindful, we not only recognize the times when we need to physically back off, but we will start to observe our thoughts and refrain from feeding the qualities of the mind that harm us – fear, envy, ego, self-loathing, etc.
After speaking, Kest lead a yoga class, repeatedly reminding us that he was only making suggestions, and that we should listen to our bodies and choose the poses or modifications that are right for us. I found the class very challenging, although the poses were neither complex nor required a lot of flexibility. In fact, Kest joked that it was “Grandma Yoga” as there was nothing your grandmother could not attempt. That being said, we held the poses for a very long time! Listening to Kest, I felt completely free to modify Warrior III, a pose that sometimes causes me pain.
Kest finished class with a Gratitude Meditation and Savasana. He called everything before that the “warm up” which actually aligns with the ancient yogic texts. I felt completely at peace during this time, while my neighbor was moved to tears.