About Power Yoga

A fitness routine based on aesthetics feeds your ego, not your spirit.

Born in 1964, Bryan Kest has been practicing yoga since 1979, starting when he was 14 years old.

Aloha, I am Bryan Kest, owner of Santa Monica Power Yoga & Meditation and poweryoga.com, located in Santa Monica, CA. I am 52 years old and I was born in Cleveland, OH and raised in the suburbs of Detroit, MI. I was very fortunate to move to Hawaii at the age of 14. It was in Hawaii that I was even more fortunate to meet David Williams at David’s and Brad Ramsey’s class. David was the first person to bring Ashtanga Yoga to the world outside of India. Brad became an incredibly influential example of how to be a man and a yogi.

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I first started leading yoga classes at age 20 when I was invited by a clinic who specialized in eating disorders to share my practice with their clients. The clinic, called Esteem Clinic (in Santa Monica), was so happy with the results that they offered me more clients, and a yoga career was born.

At the age of 24, I entered my first ten-day Goenka Vipassana meditation course, after returning from living in India, where I studied with K. Patthabi Jois, before it was a trendy thing to go to India and study yoga. When I was there, it was just me, my traveling mate, and Patthabi Jois, all by ourselves. Upon my return, I enrolled in the Goenka course; being informed through meditation, my Ashtanga yoga practice began morphing from its generic sequence into something more personal. In a lot of ways, this is what Power Yoga is: freedom and discovery! This is what I meant when I coined the term Power Yoga.

I was very much inspired by Goenka. The practice he shared is profound and his delivery is equally profound. For me, his donation model touched me deeply and said to me so much more than simply “give what you can give.” I immediately thought, why can’t I run a yoga studio in the same way? Welcome to Santa Monica Power Yoga & Meditation. We have been a donation-based studio for decades here at my Santa Monica studio ever since.

My Santa Monica studio is unique, not only in our donation concept. Our studio was created to give yoga instructors a space to share their practice without the need to conform to a studio lineage. Instructors simply rent time slots, while keeping all donations. Within these time slots, the space is theirs. This has created an eclectic group of instructors who seem to carry a similar torch.

My yoga classes online or in my studio are truly a multi-dynamic experience–a confluence of movements combining a balanced sequence with all elements of physical exercise, mindfulness, moderation and meditation. All of these are within a supportive dialogue developed to empower the practitioner. The distinct objective is strengthening the benevolent and eradicating the malevolent.

Poweryoga.com offers online yoga classes, class schedules, instructor bios, my event calendar and more. It is a resource for personal, consistent home yoga practices, and we hope you join us.

Aloha,

Bryan Kest

Frequently asked questions.

  1. What is the appropriate amount of time to wait after eating, before practicing asana or meditation? And after practicing, before eating?

    Meat: 2-3 hours.Carbs, starches: 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 hours. Fruits and Veggies: 1/2 - 1 hour. The issue is the stomach should be empty. Food in the stomach can reduce range of motion and reduce energy level, which can adversely effect your strength & stamina as well as your ability to concentrate. Now you know the issues, knowing the expediency of your own digestive system, you can make your own decisions. After practicing, before eating: I'm not sure.

  2. Do you have to be a vegetarian?

    No, but if being a vegetarian is important to you, go for it. Personally, I like to call myself a selectarian. In other words, I consciously select the food I eat, which is different than unconscious eating, which is eating due to old habit patterns without questioning its health effects & potency. The Dalai Lama, who is considered in Tibetan culture to be a great Yogi, eats meat, and others don't. What works for you? Experiment!

  3. Are there any specific ages that should not participate in yoga practice?

    No. Although, there are more appropriate ways to practice depending on age and mental & physical ability. For example, for very young people (kids), yoga might be turned into games to help maintain their interest. For older people (seniors), the physical practices may be modified to fit their abilities as well as their specific needs.

  4. Do women that are menstruating need to take any precautions?

    Yes. No. Maybe. There are different points of view. Some yoga traditions say not to practice asanas (poses) at all during the full cycle of menstruation. Others say that asana practice is OK, just that one should refrain from any inverted postures (head stand, shoulder stand, plough, etc....) One of the issues seems to be the flow of toxic matter (discarded blood) down and out of the body, and not changing the direction of that flow. Although, I know women who disregard all of these precautions and swear they are fine. So, again, after experimentation and using your rational & intuitive capacities, make your own decision. Some of the issues here may be linked to a time when women were not allowed to practice yoga. Also, I have not heard that the menstrual cycle affects any other aspect of yoga practice outside of asana.

  5. What's the scoop for pregnant women?

    From a doctors point of view, I've heard everything from, "don't do yoga asana" to "do whatever you want to do as long as it feels right." Clearly a responsible doctor would not want to give permission to partake in something he or she does not understand, which probably would lead to the conservative instruction to not partake. In my experience, I've seen over 50 pregnant women in class and have seen at least 10 go through most or all of the full term of their pregnancy while practicing asana in my class at least 3 times per week with very good results. Of course, pregnancy poses certain vulnerabilities and conditions that need to be assessed and addressed. The abdominal region needs to be protected from stress, strain and compression. So, I would avoid all poses that have you lay on your stomach. Similarly, as you get bigger avoid forward bends that compress the stomach region. To avoid this compression as you get bigger, spread your legs more and more, creating room for the stomach. Also avoid stomach exercises that strain the stomach region. I have been asked about inversions, and find no problem or negative effects with them, although some may need to be modified to avoid compression, such as halasana (plough pose), as well as the added pressure on the head, neck and spine because of the extra weight you are carrying. If something does not feel right, don't second guess yourself . Skip it or modify it. The larger you get the more you will need to modify most all poses to fit your size, needs and energy levels. After intuition, your breathing is your greatest ally. Make sure your breathing is calm and even at all times. If your breath is strained or becomes erratic, it is a sure sign that you are becoming stressed, which usually always attacks your most vulnerable link. In this case that would be your abdominal region. I do want to make it clear, I am not a doctor or an expert. I am only sharing my opinions and my experience. Please hear me, but don't listen to me, listen to yourself as well as get as many opinions as you can from anybody you respect!! Good luck & congratulations if you are pregnant!!

  6. Do yoga and weightlifting work well together?

    I don't think it's a marriage made in heaven, so to speak, but I don't see why they can't coexist together if practiced consciously. The thing is, it's really hard to practice asana fully and maybe even correctly if the muscles are too fatigued from a weight lifting work out. So, I recommend not stressing your muscles to the point of total fatigue and maybe using lighter weights.

  7. Is it necessary to add cardio exercise to my yoga practice?

    The yoga routines provided, for example, by my videos are enough to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system. However, you may feel on an individual basis that you would like more cardio exercise, in which case I encourage you to seek out additional, non- or low-impact exercise. Personally, I find it helpful to add regular walks to my practice, taking long walks with my dogs and getting outside for some fresh air.

  8. Is the stress weights put on bones better for women with osteoporosis, than simply the body weight used in yoga asana?

    I don't think there is sufficient research done on this subject. At least, not that I'm aware of. My opinion at this point is no! I don't see how our body weight would be less potent or efficient than the dead weight of steel.

  9. How often should I practice and how long should each practice be?

    These are personal questions with personal answers. Yet, obviously the more you practice, the more you benefit. The practice needs to happen with wisdom. Becoming extreme will definitely not benefit you. Practicing often does not mean practicing aggressively. The practice will need to be modified according to your energy level and level of fatigue. Maybe practicing a little every day is your thing, maybe practicing strongly just 3 times a week is most optimal for you. One thing I've learned over 24 years of practicing yoga asana, I need to listen very carefully to what I'm feeling in order to know what I'm needing and what I'm needing changes all the time! One word of advice, if I may. Try not to do what you did and try not to do what you wish you could do and try to do what you need according to how you feel!

  10. What if I'm not flexible?

    I know it might be hard to believe due to our assumptions about yoga because of the few images we've glimpsed at (like that guy on that TV show "That's Incredible" who tied himself up in a knot and stuffed his body into a box for the duration of the show). Yet, you know what happens when we assume. But yoga really has nothing to do with being flexible. Then why do all the poses seem designed to create flexibility? This is an important point! The poses really are not created to promote flexibility. They are created to heal or maintain the health and vitality of the places they expose. Yes, if you are carrying a lot of tension in an area a pose exposes, the tension will release, and your range of motion will increase. Yet, if there is no tension in the area, there is no need to release any, and the pose's job is now to maintain its tension free status as well as create stimulation, which facilitates circulation which promotes oxygenation which is a prerequisite for regeneration as well as flushing out toxicity. Remember, the goal is to maintain vitality, not to create flexibility. After all, too much flexibility creates a state of instability and that's not healthy. Just like we have different faces and personalities, we have different hips and different length hamstrings. We are not all supposed to get our head to our legs in forward bends. We all need to find our own place in each pose. That way the pose becomes ours. We are not supposed to look the same in every pose. The beauty of the human race is the differences among us all. It would be boring if everybody looked the same in every pose. Let's flourish in our differences. Plus, I don't believe there is any proof that looser people are healthier or happier, so what's the point? Isn't the goal Health and Happiness? So, no, you don't need to be flexible. All you need is the time to breathe and move! Amen!

  11. Can I expect to see a change in the way I look? What kinds of kind of physical results should I expect from my yoga practice?

    A fitness routine based on aesthetics feeds your ego, not your spirit. By increasing your ego, you actually become more vulnerable, more susceptible to the everyday occurrences that are out of your control. By feeding your ego, you ignore what you truly need in order to create something your ego desires.

    Consequently, you end up working against yourself and your goal of health, and you actually create more imbalance. Power Yoga is directed at creating the highest level of energy, vitality and freedom. The only way to do this is to work with yourself, not against yourself. By working hard sensitively, we create an environment that's healing and that honors each individual, an environment that respects our boundaries and works within him or her. In this way, we create an atmosphere conducive to natural expansion and growth. We're not interested in pushing past our edge to get to a place where we've been brainwashed into thinking we need to be in order to have happiness!

    The fact is, we're all different: different faces, shapes, sizes, personalities, etc.... We all shouldn't have and can't have the same bodies. Our life experiences and genetic dispositions make us different. Real health and vitality comes when we stop comparing and competing with each other, and start listening to the voice within that tells us what we need. We don't need to have the "best body;" we need to have our own body. By turning off the controlling mind, we can finally listen to the innate wisdom that waits to be heard.

  12. Shouldn't we listen to our body and use our own judgement in determining how much or little yoga we should practice?

    The sad state of this planet is a prime example of how we've stopped listening. Our egos and intellects have gotten so big we've become enamored with ourselves and our capabilities. Our great societies, with all their cities and technological advances, are monuments to the seemingly unfailing prowess of the intellect. But the fact is, our intellect is only a small fraction of our intelligence. By shutting down our other faculties in favor of the intellect, we move away from our natural balance. Hence, the state of our people and planet.

    To heal our planet, we need to heal ourselves…because we are the source of the imbalance. We need to quiet down, stop thinking, stop controlling, and start listening. Our bodies are the natural world, even as we live in an unnatural environment. If we quiet down and listen to what our bodies need (instead of telling it), we can then feed ourselves naturally and properly, and become more in harmony with the natural world. All our activities and endeavors will resonate with this harmony and we, as well as our planet, can begin to heal. No longer will our actions be governed by ego or intellect; they'll be guided by the deeper wisdom within. We can then use the intellect as it was meant to be used: to help us shape the wisdom coming through.
    This brings us full circle back to yoga. Originally, yoga was created to facilitate the stillness in order to emancipate the wisdom. Some still use it for this purpose. Beyond this, yoga is a tool or system created to facilitate balance. In order to facilitate balance, the imbalances need to be exposed and eradicated. This can be a totally possible yet challenging endeavor, and this is where we start losing people.

  13. What are some of the more important things we should do in practicing yoga?

    Originally, yoga was created to facilitate the stillness in order to emancipate the wisdom. Some still use it for this purpose. Beyond this, yoga is a tool or system created to facilitate balance. In order to facilitate balance, the imbalances need to be exposed and eradicated. This can be a totally possible yet challenging endeavor, and this is where we start losing people.

    Unfortunately, many people don't seem to want to do the work necessary to create harmony. When you spill something on the floor, you clean it up, right? You don't want to live with that mess. Well, that's all yoga is designed to do: bring awareness to the mess and give you direction to help start the cleanup.

  14. How do I know when I am getting positive results from my yoga practice?

    From the first step in yoga, you start feeling better simply because your house has just begun to become cleaner or less cluttered. The move toward harmony begins immediately. You don't need some blind faith that someday down the road yoga will enlighten you. The first class helps us quiet our minds and experience the peace beyond. This same first class helps us release some tension, which gives us a feeling of lightness, balance and connectedness. We've begun to restore the web.
    As long as we approach our yoga practice by listening carefully to what the body needs and by moving away from any existing ideas of where our ego wants this body to be, our initial experience can be wholly satisfying.

  15. What are some of the hardest things about practicing yoga? What mistakes can I make in practicing the "wrong" way?

    The hardest part of the practice of yoga can be honoring our bodies and what they need in this moment. Too often we find ourselves slipping back into our old habits of goal orientation, self-criticism and re-activeness, which are the root of so much imbalance, disharmony, misery, and so forth. Goal orientation, which sometimes is expressed as "I'll be happy when," leads you away from the here and now. Looking outside yourself for happiness doesn't work. If you're not happy now, you won't be happy for long no matter where you go. Why? Because happiness, or wholeness, has to come from within. And wholeness comes with acceptance of Right Now! There will always be another place to go, so there is no such thing as getting there. As far as your potential for happiness is concerned, "You are there." Self-criticism leads us to feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, worthlessness, and low self-esteem, as well as the criticism of others, which keeps us at each other's throat.

  16. Should I be worried if I experience feelings of discomfort or tension in my yoga practice?

    Re-activeness creates tension. Discomfort is a part of life. Unwanted things happen, and wanted things don't happen. Our comfort zones get trampled. No one, no matter how wealthy or powerful, can escape discomfort. Yet within our discomfort, we actually have a choice: Shall I accept it or not? Accepting discomfort is intentional passivity. Non-acceptance is resistance.
    But the truth can't be resisted, so resistance creates disharmony. This resistance manifests itself as re-activeness, and these reactions create internal locks or knots. These locks are held in the body. As we unconsciously react more and more, knots upon knots are built in the body, slowly but surely forming walls or barriers that start disconnecting us from ourselves. Fortunately, our yoga class helps to create optimal physical health by enlivening and invigorating our whole body, ending dormancy, strengthening the weak links, and releasing the knots. It also energizes the mind and provides a safe, controlled environment for working on all the negative issues that are exposed. This is the real key!

    Because the body is a direct manifestation of the mind, as we heal our mind, our bodies naturally follow. Also, our bodies are subject to the laws of nature. Eventually they will dry up and blow away, because all matter is in a state of flux. Yet it seems our minds are subject to no laws. As far as we know, our minds are limitless. So it makes sense that through yoga poses we start to hone and strengthen the unlimited aspect of ourselves, our minds! This leads us into a whole new place of connectedness, balance and satisfaction.

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