Tag Archives: cleveland

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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#CLEfood: Restaurant Trentina

The recent New York Times article, Cleveland, a City Repurposed, has been on my mind after giving it a quick scan this past week.  I love the writer’s suggestion of  “what’s old is new again” — and like many other Northeastern Ohioans, it seems Chef Jonathon Sawyer took hold of this way of thinking with the opening of his location, Restaurant Trentina, located in the University Circle building where Sergio’s once was located.

As we were seated promptly for our 8:30 reservation time on Saturday night, we had a few moments to look over the tasting menu for the friends and family preview:

  • Primi Assaggio: Crusto di Polenta, Carne Salata alla Trentina, Tyralean Speck, Vegetables from our Larder & Fields
  • Caviar + Ciccoli: Sumac, Cucumber and Puffed Pasta
  • Crustaceo Crudo: Vintage Ohio Apple and Citrus
  • Sable Fish al Cartoccio: Celtuce, Wild Ohio Crown Tipped Coral Mushroom, TNT Larder Yogurt and Fumet
  • Edible Candle: 24k Gold Honey, Aged Beef Suet, Crunchy Salt and Fresh Bread
  • Pasta alla Chitarra: Ohio Farm Egg
  • Pasta Cuscino: Cabbages, Onion, Spicebush and Formaggio Che Cola
  • Game Birds: Livers and Madeira
  • Beasts Roasted Over Embers
  • Primi Dolce: Strawberries, Yogurt and Pistachio
  • Dolce: Strudel alla Trentina
  • Grazia: Gold Milk Chocolate

 The Primi Assaggio course – plus a certain ginger and his matching beer.

Knowing that Trentina is inspired by Northern Italian cuisine, there’s a lot of the “old” in there — from the progression of the courses, to the ingredients used, and so on. But don’t get too attached to what you know about that style of food — Chef Sawyer, executive chef Matt Danko and their team throw your expectations out on to Ford Drive, mixing up the usual with ways with methods you never could have expected. At least I didn’t.

I’ll let Joe Crea from cleveland.com get in the fine details of this uber fine dining experience — he’s much more versed than I — but know it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen in Cleveland.  I knew Hans and I were experiencing something unique – almost magical – at times.

The most important thing I can share from my experience was the care Chef Sawyer took with my gluten intolerance. He came out to the table before the meal began, asking detailed questions to understand my level of intolerance — even offering to send me home with some farro to try (even though it has a lower level of gluten, I haven’t tried it since going GF in 2010).

Course by course, he guided us carefully through the slight alterations he made as necessary for me — my favorite being his use of pig’s ear for pasta in the pasta course. Yes, pig’s ear — sliced into almost an orzo shape, served with a farm fresh egg that was cooked in a spoon in the embers of the fire.  Chewy, exactly like an al dente noodle, I was mildly shocked at how successful the substitution was.

By the end of the meal, we left incredibly satisfied and completely blown away. As we walked back down Ford towards the Peter B. Lewis Building on Case Western’s campus, I looked at Hans and said, “I think we’ve just got treated to one of the most unique dining experiences of our lives.”

LONG STORY SHORT:  Trentina is not your everyday, run-of-the-mill dining experience.  Every single plate of the multi-course meal that arrived at our table had the care of a fine artist creating a unique piece of their specialized craft — and we were lucky to have the artist come and share his passion for his creation.  Chef Sawyer has given life again to more than just an old Cleveland building, but to a way of dining – and to an experience while eating – that we didn’t even know we wanted.  But if that means saving room for fig leaf gelato, then sign me up.

Get ready, CLE:  Restaurant Trentina opens to the public on July 8th. Stay in the know by following Restaurant Trentina on Facebook, on Twitter and on Instagram.

Disclosure:  As a part of the Trentina friends and family preview nights, I was invited to attend this tasting menu opportunity with a guest. 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 yogarocksthepark.com/cleveland.

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