This past weekend I spent at the Yoga Center of Mpls attending a workshop held by Bryan Kest. I was amazed at the number of people who showed up - Friday night was over 60! Now for some people, that might not be a lot, but for Minneapolis, that's a very good turn out.
The workshop agenda was as follows:
Friday - 7-9
Saturday - 11:30-2; 3:30-5:30
Sunday - 11:30-2
Friday night was mostly lecture. Mr. Kest discussed his philsophy for an hour and forty-five minutes, then we did a small forty minute practice as a bit of a preview of what the rest of the weekend would bring. I veiwed Mr. Kests evening discussion similar to a 'Dharma talk' in the Buddhist tradition...but with some rough edges. If I hadn't know Mr. Kest was from LA, I would have pegged him for a New Yorker. Personality aside, Bryan's lecture could be summarized as follows (this is the extent of my note taking - seriously!):
> Yoga is quiet the mind and touch yourself everywhere with love and kindness. By being gently with yourself you will create wellness in the body and to be gentle PAY ATTENTION!
> Yoga isn't here to change you. It accepts you just the way you are. It is our need to change ourselves to fit some warped and twisted version of perfection.
> A reminder - yoga is the "cessation of the fluxuation of the mind" Pantanjali
> YOU are the teacher.
> How in the world will [insert pose here] make you a better person? Why not practice [compassion/loving kindness/gratitude,etc] instead?
> Yoga is quiet the mind and touch yourself everywhere with love and kindness.
Saturday we moved right into the physical practice. It was amazing! Intense? Oh yes, but only to the degree you allowed it to be. He continually stressed focusing on your breath and only on your breath, to move into the pose only as far as was appropriate for you - you are not your neighbor and this is not a contest and he doesn't give a crap which way your hand is facing in a given pose. My mind is still reeling with the simplicity of the postures and how well they were linked together to "touch yourself everywhere with love and kindness". There was nothing in the sequence a beginner couldn't do or long time practitioner couldn't challenge themselves with - as long as beginner and long practitioner know where they need to be working. Fantastic, absolutely fantastic.
Saturday's second session was the complete opposite of the above. It was a "Yin" session or in his terms "LSD" Long - slow - deep. Oh my god. It took us an hour to move through both sides of Supta Hasta Padangusthasana (Hand to Big Toe Pose). THEN! He was concerned he wouldn't get through the rest of the postures so he was only holding poses for a minute.
Now, I've done a Yin class and I've held poses up to 5 minutes and it was NOTHING like this. This was some serious stretching and we never left the floor. The whole session culminated in holding Pashimottanasa for 10 minutes WITHOUT MOVING. Yes. Once we moved into the pose were to "stick it" and ONLY breathe for the next 10 minutes. Do your feet fall asleep? Oh yes. Do your lower legs fall asleep? Oh yes. It was one of the most intense stretches I have ever done - and it felt wonderful (once I was out of it).
Sunday was very similar to the first session Saturday and it felt really good to move after the two Saturday practices.
All three sequences were followed with a half hour of mediation. I REALLY liked this part (and would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't started coughing. Most embarrassing.) We did a 10 minute Vipassana meditation, a 10 minute Bhakti mediation, and a 10 minute Karma meditation all right in a row. What a great way to end a two hour practice.
Would I recommend a Bryan Kest workshop? Yes - if you understand going in that you will be challenged mentally and physically at the same time. He has a great message if you are willing to accept the rough delivery (yes, the man knows how to swear). I hope the Yoga Center of Mpls is able to bring him back in the future.