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 yogarocksthepark.com/cleveland.

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Yoga: The Art of Transformation at the Cleveland Museum of Art

This past Sunday, the Yoga: The Art of Transformation special exhibition opened at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Thanks to a special invitation from one of my favorite local yogis, I found myself at one of Northeastern Ohio’s treasures this week.

From the CMA website, “The Cleveland Museum of Art will present Yoga: The Art of Transformation, the world’s first exhibition about yoga’s visual history, will explore yoga’s meanings and transformations over time, including its entry into the global arena; yoga’s goals of spiritual enlightenment, worldly power and health and well-being; and the beauty and profundity of Indian art.”

Sandy, the owner of Evolution Yoga School and Practice Space, invited me along for an orientation session for the Sunday Yoga program happening in conjunction with the exhibition, starting this Sunday, June 29th.

This AMAZING space is dedicated not only for those weekly classes, open to the public on Sundays, but open to Clevelanders to come and practice yoga WHENEVER THEY WANT.  (If you need me between now and September, you know where to find me.) I can’t wait to attend Sandy’s Sunday Yoga sessions on August 17th and August 31st.

The Sunday Yoga classes will take place at 11AM and 2:30PM every Sunday during the stay of the exhibit. The museum arranged an array of teachers from a wide span of CLE studios — there really is something for everyone. Space is limited, so reservations in advance are highly recommended. You can register online at tickets.clevelandart.org or call 216-421-7350. Registration fees are $19 for a single yoga session AND exhibition entry, $12 for a single yoga session only, or $8 for CMA members for a single yoga session.

Sandy and I stayed to watch the viewing of Yogawoman, a film that “reveals how yoga has utterly transformed the lives of thousands of over-stimulated, overscheduled, and multitasking modern women.” (description from the film’s website – linked above.)  Featuring interviews with some of yoga’s most prominent female teachers, I highly suggest taking the 90 minutes to watch this piece. It will excite you both as a woman and as a yogini. The museum is showing the film again this Friday night, June 27th, at 7:00PM if you’d like to check it out first hand.

LONG STORY SHORT: If you practice yoga, know someone who does, have always been curious about it or just have some time to kill, head over to CMA to see this wonderful exhibit. Only three cities in the entire United States will see it this year, so why not take advantage of it while it’s in your backyard?

Keep up to date with the Cleveland Museum of Art’s social media happenings on Facebook, Twitter at @ClevelandArt, and Instagram.

Disclosure:  As a part of the Sunday Yoga orientation session, I received complimentary admission to the special exhibition of Yoga: The Art of Transformation. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

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