Category Archives: Yoga

on the mat: Believe in CLE practices in downtown Cleveland on The Mall

After a productive day at the office, it was time to kick off the weekend with fun Friday plans. This included a chance to attend another Believe in CLE yoga event — on The Mall between the Public Auditorium and the Cleveland Convention Center.

From the Believe in CLE website: “In partnership with the Land Studio & the AHA! Event, Believe in CLE was invited to light up Cleveland with breath and movement as we flow and glow beneath a sky full of lights! As we come together to celebrate our city, we also give our worldwide guests of the International Gay Games 9, a warm welcome and a giant ommmmmm straight from the heart of CLE.”

Believe in CLE officially began at 7:30 pm with a special speaker, Deputy Chief of Police Ed Tomba. Since I teach til 6:45(ish) on Friday nights, I managed to make it down just in time to pick up my yoga partner-in-crime, Kimberly from Smitten in Cleveland, and power walk it over from our parking garage of choice. We rolled out our mats towards the back of the crowd (note to self: move to the front next time!) and we were ready to flow. Sorry we missed you, Chief!

From there, the vinyasa practice got going just a few minutes before 8:00 pm. Adam Tilocco — a fellow CLE yoga teacher I’ve known since we went through new employee orientation together at lululemon back in 2011 — began the practice, encouraging us to send our three OMs out to the city of C-L-E. Adam’s words set the tone for Tammy Lyons – from Inner Bliss Yoga Studio – to take us on an adventure of down dogs, handstands, crescent lunges and every asana in between!

Photo ℅ @aerialagents’ Instagram feed

At the end of the practice during savasana, my great friend Ylonda Rosenthal-Greene closed the practice by chanting the Ganesha chant. The words ”om gum ganapatayei namaha” are sang with the purpose of removing obstacles. (You may remember it if you joined us back in February at her Hearts on Fire class at lululemon athletica Eton Chagrin.) Instead of laying in savasana, I sat and sang with her — it was the moment of complete connection for me that made the entire practice come together.

After the practice, we played around in the AHA! light show as DJ Rimon played some tunes.

believe in cle pic c

A wheel on the light was bound to happen. #youcanttakemeanywhere

By 9:30ish, we were ready for a bit of refreshment. Unfortunately, there were only a few food trucks that showed up that evening (seriously CLE food truck owners: there is a KILLING to be made with this many yogis ready to chow down – get it together, ha!)  With the long long lines for the trucks, Kimberly and I headed to a spot that never disappoints, Hodge’s Cleveland.

…and with a glass a wine, Hodge’s deviled eggs and a celebrity sighting (hello Lance Bass!), we called it a night — hearts open, energy heightened and the belief that our city could do anything.

Many thanks to Tammy, Adam, Ylonda and the entire Believe in CLE crew for another opportunity to bring more yoga to more Clevelanders. Rumor has it (via the @believeCLE Twitter feed) that the next event is going to be at Quicken Loans Arena this fall. Should be another excellent opportunity to roll out your mat in a new location!

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on the mat: Bryan Kest’s Power Yoga {hosted by Evolution Yoga}

Congrats to Aaron (@AaronPikeCPA on Twitter): you won two tickets to Locavore on August 21st! Didn’t win? Purchase tickets online at the event website.


Next month is my yoga teaching anniversary. With just under two years under my belt, the lessons keep coming — some faster than others. One of the many reasons why I enjoy being a part of the Evolution Yoga team is that owner and studio director Sandy Gross continues her lifelong education of yoga by hosting the best yoga teachers in the world here in Cleveland.

One of those teachers that she’s asked to return several times is Bryan Kest. He is recognized as a creator of Power Yoga. Bryan is the founder of Santa Monica Power Yoga in Santa Monica, but continues to teach classes, retreats and workshops all over the world. Since Bryan was born here in Cleveland, Ohio (someone update his Wikipedia page, please!), he’s always welcome to working in a visit to the Northeastern Ohio area.

This Wednesday night, Bryan made his ninth visit to Evolution Yoga, teaching a room full of 90+ yogis at the Shaker Dance Academy.

Bryan Kest Power Yoga Talk

Starting at 6:45PM, Bryan class ran all the way until 10:20PM. Part lecture and part asana practice, he challenged our thought patterns while keeping us on our toes the entire evening.  If you know anything about Bryan’s teaching style, he’s been known to add some colorful language into his lessons. This is just a collection of some of the quotes from Wednesday’s practice:

  • “Yoga is like a buffet. Eat what you want, don’t eat what you don’t want – and don’t blame the chef if you ate too much!”
  • (after someone let out a fairly long sigh in down dog) “We’ve got a moaner!!”
  • “I’ve been asked, “should you do inversions while you are menstruating?” How the f*ck would I know?!? Ladies, you have some crazy sh*it going on!”

With a name like “power yoga”, you knew exactly what you were getting into in terms of the asana practice. The flows were challenging, inspiring and kept you on your toes – even when you knew what was coming. Bryan told us to consider the class to be a big game of Simon Says – so while I knew we had to still flow the pattern of poses on our opposite side, I remained intensely focused – mostly because I wasn’t sure what was up his sleeve.

Bryan Kest Power Yoga Class

As we moved, Bryan also snuck in a plethora of gems – even with the occasional curse word:

  • “Yoga NEVER tells you what to do. Yoga doesn’t ask you to do anything except to wake the f*ck up.”
  • If you bring your sh*t to yoga (competition, vanity, judgment, reactivity), your yoga turns to sh*t.”

But then there were some that were sans cursing — all golden:

  • “Yoga is not a sport. It is awareness. Meditation is killing the enemy.”
  • “Cultivate the benevolent. Eliminate the malevolent.”
  • And my personal favorite: “Yoga doesn’t want to change you — it wants to take care of you.”

When the words came out of Bryan’s mouth, my eyes looked up from my trusty notebook — the light bulb had appeared over my head. Lately, I’ve been noticing just how hard I am on myself. While fully aware of it, it’s been hard to kick that habit — and to embrace one of being kind — forgiving of myself even.  Bryan encouraged us to drop those habits of negativity, judgement and aggression; noting how much better our lives would be if we could just seek the peace that lived inside us already. That last quote was exactly what I needed to hear that night. It’s been easy to take that lesson with me since — and I’m grateful to him for that.

LONG STORY SHORT: Earlier that night, I joined Sandy as she picked Bryan up before the class. On the car ride there, I could tell by her giddiness that we were all in for a treat. I purposefully came in to the night blindly — not watching any YouTube videos or even reading up all that much about Bryan. I wanted to be surprised by the experience in his class — and he didn’t disappoint. Bryan’s going to be visiting us at Evolution again this coming February, so keep an eye on the Evolution Yoga website. Sign up early — this last session sold out and I’m sure Clevelanders will be back for more Bryan Kest this winter!

Disclosure: I work at Evolution Yoga as a yoga teacher. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

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on the mat: teaching Yoga Rocks the Park Cleveland

Congrats to Megan K. (@megstar131 on Twitter): you won two tickets to Twilight at the Zoo on August 1! Didn’t win? Get your tickets quick – they will sell out…

Also, tonight’s the next Believe in CLE event & we’re headed back to the Rock Hall! The program starts around 6:15, the practice starts at 7:00… I’ll be down there after teaching my 5:45 at Evolution Yoga, so save me a spot!


Last year, I had the opportunity to teach my first Yoga Rocks the Park Cleveland event – and my goodness, did I learn a lot in the process.  As I hadn’t even been teaching for a full year yet, anxiety and nerves were my primary emotions of note last July while prepping for the session that took place inside Tremont’s Merrick House. #forgetyourainshowers

So when the Yoga Rocks the Park Cleveland team approached me for round two in 2014, I was amped. I have to admit though — when your name, bio and face end up in an email sent to hundreds via email and show up on a Facebook feed that has more than 28,000 followers, it’s natural to get a bit queezy… right?

But just like last year, I stacked the deck and prepared accordingly.  Family, friends, the best local DJ I know and many fellow Clevelanders came out last Saturday evening for a 75 minute all-levels vinyasa class that I’ll never forget.

YRP collage 1

photos ℅ Brittany Gifford

My great friend Chris (@christopherftraining on Instagram and @EffisforFitness on Twitter) prepared a set list of music that perfectly balanced the flows I had planned for the evening. I found myself on several occasions giving him a big thumbs up as I was teaching… and as caught myself dancing along!

Going in to Saturday night, I was much more confident this year, but the nerves still snuck up on me right before we started. Knowing my tendencies for anxiety, I stuck with my style of teaching: a bit of the familiar with a few “remix” moments along the way. Yes, you’ll find yourself in Sun A, with a little extra (yet optional) challenge mixed in. You will do chair pose, but not necessarily when you expect it in a Sun B. I will say words like “shenanigans”, “wonky” and “hashtag” as I teach – as well as laugh at myself, a lot.  As we used to say back at my old studio, “we take our yoga seriously, but not necessarily ourselves.”

As it was my first time teaching outside, in a public setting, it was another type of learning experience.  Wearing a headset microphone is not something I normally do while teaching, and that technology made things interesting as the sound reverbed off the Lincoln Park trees. I heard myself about a second after I said the words… it was quite the challenge to get used to as I was cuing the first set of flows! Reminding myself to “do my best”, I focused on just talking (not listening to myself), which seemed to help. Thank you YRP students for staying with me as I adjusted!

Before I knew it, it was time for savasana. I guided the 60+ yogis through a heart centered meditation — one of my favorites in my own personal practice. After finding a seat and a final “OM”, we were all smiles.

YRP collage 2

 photos ℅ Brittany Gifford: with Chris on the left, with Kevin (@KevinGregJo) and my dad on the top right; and with Andy, YRP CLE event director, bottom left

And in true “us” fashion, a group of us headed over to the porch at DANTE to celebrate the summer solstice and another one of my yoga firsts. Over dinner, Kimberly said to me “there’s no question that this is exactly what you’re supposed to be doing.”  I stopped mid-bite and smiled — shined, even. Teaching makes me so incredibly happy, and I’m lucky to be able to share what I’ve learned with fellow Northeastern Ohioans.  She, and all the other YRP participants, might have been sharing their appreciation after we were done — but the pleasure was truly all my mine.

Join YPR this Sunday as Linda Stevenson from Zen Yoga Studio will teach a class starting at 10AM on June 29th in Tremont’s Lincoln Park. Sign up in advance

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