Strong And Not So Silent: Bryan Kest

Known for his upfront, street-smart teaching style, sprinkling his explanations with four-

letter words, and teaching in cargo shorts, Bryan Kest is one of the original spiritual gangsters, and yet he comes from an elite lineage.

The Detroit kid was told by his father at age 14 that if he didn’t take up yoga, he’d be thrown out. Initially he studied under David Williams who famously introduced Pattabhi Jois to the West. Then Kest was off to Mysore at 19 and could do all the strength positions in series 1-6 within six months. Even though he learned a ton, he didn’t like the strictness of Ashtanga. "Not allowed? What do you mean I'm not allowed. But I feel like doing it,” he once said to Jois when he wanted to go into splits.

True to his nature, he developed his own version of hatha, Power Yoga, and took a lot of heat for “Westernizing” the practice from the Ashtanga community who tend to be a tad strict. Others really enjoyed his Detroit style. By his own admission, people have yelled at him and walked out of his class, while others leave love notes in his shoes.

These days, Kest is one of the unlikely and idiosyncratic Kings of LA yoga. People are drawn to his honesty, his ease, and probably his flouting of the ancient traditions. Kathleen Kraft caught up with Kest recently before he comes to New York in December to teach several workshops at Pure Yoga.

Kathleen Kraft: Why do you think Power Yoga resonates with so many people?

Bryan Kest: Because I make it accessible in philosophy and physicality; that means I speak English, not Sanskrit. I interpret the esoteric into the practical, and I use poses that are approachable, so everybody can do them. I encourage people to take these poses to their own level and make them as challenging as they like.

KK: An example of a pose you would not teach?