Bryan Kest Immersion Day 1

A Bryan Kest yoga teacher training is not for the shallow end swimmers, the easily kerfuffled, or anyone who takes offense at the word fuck. You learn this within the first hour of your week with him. I knew this going into our immersion, and it is precisely why I paid lots of money to learn from him. This is a teacher who, in roughly the same breath, challenged us to learn from Jesus how to forgive and show compassion, proposed that we practice yoga as if we are making love, and be sure to take a good shit before we hit the mat. This guy speaks my language.

Now, this isn’t meant to be a review of the training itself, but a decompression from our eight hours of daily lecture and practice, meant to help me absorb what I learned and also share some of it with you. I’m taking pages and pages of notes each day and will give you a taste of some of the most delicious nuggets I bring out with me at the end of the day.

One of the reasons I think Bryan’s teaching style lands with me, feels natural to me, and makes so much sense to my brain is because of how NOT systematic he is- he relies on instinct, experience, and an informed intuition that comes from lots of study and even more practice. He is sharing his experience. Period. Isn’t that all we can hope to do when we teach? If a teacher – of anything- tells you he or she has found the right way for you, run. Humans are great at creating systems and systems tend to turn into dogma and dogma has a nasty habit of turning us into real judgmental assholes. Look at every major political, religious, philosophical, even yogic system on planet earth, the systems run by the humans who live here, and try to find one that hasn’t become polluted with, “my way is the best/only/right way”. What are we doing  to ourselves? To each other?  When we judge others according to the system we like the best, and that is exactly what we tend to do when we buy into a system, we slip into a toxic mindset of competitiveness, ego, and pride. Isn’t that exactly the opposite thing we’re after with our yoga? Isn’t the purpose of our yoga to allow us to sit still in our minds, to show compassion to ourselves and others, to hold space for all of our differences, to be gentle with one another, and support one another on the journey to becoming our best selves? We cannot do that if we’re upset by the fact that the guy across the room is doing his pose the “wrong way” according to our favorite system. All of that is to say I appreciate the fact that Bryan’s answer to “Where should my bottom hand be in triangle pose?” is “Wherever the fuck you want it to be.”

Consciousness over alignment. Intuition over dogma. Instinct over “the rules”.

Here is a really good reminder for all of us: We are all doing our best. The world  and its systems tell you that you are broken, bad, and wrong, and that if you buy the most expensive stuff, upgrade to the latest technology, and chisel the perfect body, you might have a shot at happiness. Yoga asks you to look at yourself as an artful, beautiful, and unique expression of the creativity of God who does not need to be fixed. No amount of wrinkle cream, plastic surgery, or protein powder can make you any more perfect that you already are. Yoga never saw you as broken, ugly, or damaged. Do you see yourself that way?

Yoga asks you to be intimately aware of yourself. It asks you to strip away the layers of ego, self doubt, self hatred, anxiety, and expectation that you have built up around yourself and see yourself for who and what you really are: A unique manifestation of the imagination of a God who did not make mistakes when He crafted you, bone by bone. Yoga tells us to strengthen the muscles of humility, forgiveness, kindness, and unconditional love. Yoga doesn’t give a damn how many calories you burn in your asana practice. Yoga isn’t interested in feeding the monster inside of you that insists you must look a certain way in order to be valuable. Yoga says you are valuable as you are, and that monster is a damn liar.

So, go get on your mat. Breathe deeply and move through some poses and a meditation that helps you calm the chatter in your mind and see yourself and the world around you more clearly. Practice knowing yourself, practice honesty, practice vulnerability. Cut yourself some slack. Rinse. Repeat.

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