Sports & Recreation

Best Yogi for all Los Angeles 2008 

Bryan Kest's Santa Monica Power Yoga

As the world spins off its axis and bounces recklessly beyond the confines of the Milky Way, Bryan Kest leads his packed-to-the-gills Santa Monica power yoga classes with an endless stream of lyrical, Seussian rhymes loaded with humor and self-effacing sarcasm.

Breathe with me

best as can be

through your nostrils

if that's a pos-si-bi-li-ty.

It helps that Kest has soulful eyes and sensual Scorpio energy. Is this yoga the traditional capital-"Y" Yoga that purifies the subtle energy channels? Maybe not. Will it lead us out of the illusion of separateness to Oneness with All that Is? Quite possibly. Kest's nonstop stream of chatter isn't just narcissistic babble. It's plump with merit and mojo, mirroring our issues and our mind chatter, quelling our competitive natures, pointing out our vanity and tirelessly reminding us to be gentle with ourselves and to honor our limitations without judgment.

He speaks to beginners — "For those of you new to yoga, this pose is called 'bending over and lifting your leg'" — and advanced practitioners alike: "If your leg is over your head, so what? It doesn't make you better than the person who can only lift it halfway."

Kest's emphasis is on practicalness. He wants us to be strong and limber so we can bend over and lift our children, not so we can twist ourselves into pretzel-like contortions and brag about it.

"Any idiot can jam themselves deeper into a pose."

He teaches only basics that everyone can handle, held for long periods of time and linked through movement and breath. Simple? Sure. Easy? Think again. Prepare to sweat. And laugh.

Your average Bryan Kest class brings in upward of 100 people at a time, and of those hundred, at least 99 are in love with him — even the straight guys. His merit as a yoga teacher extends far beyond his sex appeal, but it's there, for sure, and everyone knows it.

"Bryan walked on my mat today!" boasts my friend Ben after a sweaty afternoon class.

"Lucky you," I say, pretending not to be jealous.

Kest pioneered "suggested donation" yoga in L.A., effectively removing the class divide that previously rendered wealthy Angelenos toned and superior, and the poor ones soft and anxious. It's sweat-soaked wisdom in a room packed with Lycra and longing.

In the illustrious words of Kest himself:"It's like a dance class but without the bulimia."

—Dani Katz

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