I am Bryan Kest, owner of Santa Monica Power Yoga & Meditation and poweryoga.com, located in Santa Monica, CA. Check out Bryan Kest's Power Yoga at home or on the go and take our yoga practice with you
Hey! Those of you new to yoga or anybody looking for a little clarity pertaining to yoga terminology, let’s start with one of the most common Sanskrit (which is one of yoga’s original languages) terms, as most terms are in this language. Please be aware that Sanskrit was India’s original language, or at least one of them, and this language covered a large region and many, many people. Because of this, there is some discrepancy in terminology, partly due to the fact that disconnected people in different places came up with different terms for a certain pose or practice. Yet there are some definitions more common than others, and I will stick to commonly accepted terms. One last note on this topic: The most popular Western yoga book ever written, BKS Iyengar’s “Light on Yoga“, has a Sanskrit glossary, and this is my default Sanskrit resource.
What is Vinyasa yoga? Define Vinyasa yoga. What does Vinyasa yoga mean What should I expect from a Vinyasa yoga class? Can I practice Vinyasa yoga via video? Is a Vinyasa yoga video equal to a class? What is the difference between Vinyasa and Hatha? What is Vinyasa flow yoga? What are the Vinyasa yoga benefits?
Vinyasa yoga connotes an active or flowing class. A Vinyasa yoga class is movements, poses or asanas linked together, the same as you would link steps of a dance together to create a dance. Although Vinyasa alone is like a mini-dance of 3 or 4 movements – usually plank, cobra and down dog – its purpose is to link or tie other poses together, creating a longer and more dynamic flow or dance. Many times, two very different poses do not transition smoothly from one to the other, so in between these poses you would put a Vinyasa which would help you flow from one pose to the next. This is just like the chorus of a song ties together two verses. Again, this gives the yoga sequence a flowing effect, as there is no stopping in between poses. The original reason for this, I’m not sure. Maybe that reason is the obvious, which is a flowing sequence creates a more dynamic effect. One effect is cultivating body heat, which many in the yoga world value as having a detoxifying effect. I guess many in the health world value sweating as detoxifying. It would be hard to imagine too many greater physical toxins than muscular skeletal tension, and heat certainly helps dissolve tension. This Vinyasa flow will also have a cardio or aerobic effect, as the incessant movement stimulates the heart and lungs, as needed for oxygen increase. There is also a stamina effect, as one increases their ability to be very active for longer periods of time. One last thing here as I define Vinyasa. These 3 to 6 movements are usually linked together with corresponding breath, usually inhaling on expanding movements and exhaling on contracting movements.
It does not matter whether you practice Vinyasa via video or in an in-person class, the effects are the same. In one sense, there is no difference between Vinyasa yoga and Hatha yoga. You could say Vinyasa yoga is a flowing Hatha yoga class. You could do a Hatha class without the Vinyasa, and then the class would simply have less of a chance to flow smoothly. That is unless you are very creative and cluster similar poses together in groups, and then you can use a Vinyasa to link together the groups. This is what I do in my classes. Hatha yoga is basically just physical yoga. If you’d like to experience Vinyasa by expert, hand-picked instructors, visit poweryoga.com/yoga-videos and try a class for free.
When I was around 14, while I was living with my mother in suburban Detroit, my father approached me and asked me at my mother’s request if I’d like to live with him in Hawaii. I said “sure, Dad,” even though I hadn’t talked to him in about three years due to me finally standing up to him in a disagreement. I picked an interesting way of breaking the ice with him. I went to my middle school late one evening and, using bricks from a nearby construction site, I broke three quarters of all the windows in my middle school. It was a piece of work, alright; they had to close the school for a week for the cleanup. I guess my unconscious mind knew that would be a way to get my Dad’s attention. While sitting in Mr. Staron’s (the coolest Vice Principal ever) office, surrounded by police, guess who shows up? Yeah, my father. He had shown up at my Mom’s request who couldn’t control a teenage son who was only willing to listen to the one who could beat him with a belt. My mom’s thick black rubber hose just didn’t do the trick. Hawaii sounded amazing, so I agreed. Once pops got me on a rock 2,000 miles out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, he hit me, not with a belt but with the ultimatum of ‘do yoga or get out of his house!’ So, a yogi was born.
Here I am, with 40 years of yoga under my belt, thanks to pops (so much gratitude). And a one-dimensional skill set of teaching yoga. Lucky for me, it’s the perfect skill set and antidote for what ails most people in the world these days: “STRESS.” With 70% of the population on prescription medication, which pretty much only treats symptoms, not the cause, which is the weakening of the body’s defenses and immunity, which is the direct by-product of stress. Yoga and in specific meditation (all physical yoga should be a moving meditation, otherwise it’s not yoga) is pretty much the only answer! Being in nature is also an antidote, yet most don’t have access to nature, as it’s disappearing fast, as we exchange the birds and the bees for materialism. Another antidote would be simply slowing down. This doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen, as the influencers, who are the drug companies and corporations who profit from our sickness and materialism, control the population, doctors and politicians through money and the media. They don’t really want us to slow down. They do not want to give up their tremendous wealth. So, they keep pushing products and a lifestyle that we don’t need. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, yet as my dad used to say, people can rationalize anything. I’m sure the influencers have rationalized why they are doing good peddling their drugs and products, even as the population gets sicker, childhood depression and suicide explode, the environment becomes toxic, and people are busier than ever. Even though all the technology was supposed to help us accomplish things more easily, and even though you could say in some ways it does the fact is, people are busier than ever.
In the days of old, we had the teachings and lessons of our ancestors to fall back on. Yet there is no precedent for what we are experiencing. There is nothing the past can teach us about what’s happening, as there never has been a smart phone prior to now!
There is an antidote, an opportunity to counterbalance this mega rat race…at least something that is of tremendous help. This something has always been a healing balm to humanity, kind of like aloe vera – soothing, nourishing, protective and completely organic, with no negative side effects (take that, drug company). This antidote is for all humans with no exception and gives out the exact amount as the effort that is put into it.
This antidote is sweeping the world, as some people recognize its healing value. This antidote is yoga asana. It is the perfect counterbalance, as it performs three specific functions. First, it releases existing tension and reverses the effects of a sedentary lifestyle through stretching, toning, and all out activation. Next, it trains the mind to be less reactive (calmness), eradicating stressors. Finally, it immerses the mind in the splendors of silence, which minimally gives our brain some time for recovery. But what it really gives is a whole other blog post, as it’s that vast! Not only should you give yoga a try, but it should be introduced to our children ASAP!
Now, making time for yoga may be difficult. The drive alone can be stressful and time-consuming, and with yoga’s popularity comes corporate interest, where you are constantly being marketed to at your yoga studio. So, choose your studio wisely and consider online yoga. The teaching is the same, the drive time is non-existent, the cost is pennies per class (as opposed to $20), and you end up with more time for yoga, family, friends and for you. If you think this is a sales pitch, you’re right, but if you think I would put money ahead of your wellness, you’re sorely wrong. Don’t believe me? Why else would I have created donation yoga? Wellness first! Poweryoga.com
Wow, where to begin. You know, you can easily google “yoga for health,“ or “what does yoga help with,“ or “physical benefits of yoga,“ and I think you would be blown away at all yoga can accomplish and yoga’s health benefits. What I want to express here is my 38 years of experience, and how I see and feel yoga benefiting me. Specifically, physical benefits of yoga, even though a lot of the physical benefits are a direct by-product of the mental benefits.
So, maybe a nice way to dive into this subject is to consider physical yoga’s objective. I like to describe yoga’s goal as ”wellness.“ It’s not meant to achieve peak performance or aesthetic beauty, which can actually be opposed to health and wellness. When you think about wellness, you have to consider the “whole“ body, considering the integrity of the web is dependent on the resiliency of each strand. As we could never feel our best with a bunch of dead, atrophied, stagnant areas in our bodies. Just like each morning and night, we brush all our teeth, not just the front one’s that affect us aesthetically. This is why in yoga, you see all these different poses. All these poses are, is a creative way to access body parts so you can care for them the only way you can care for anything, which is to touch it gently. These poses also help maintain range of motion, helping us stay comfortable doing the activities we love to do deeper into old age. The body regenerates itself through circulation, which is facilitated by stimulation. So, these movements stimulating all these different places in the body increase circulation to the body parts, flushing in nutrient-rich blood and flushing out toxins, which is the job of our blood. Sometimes I wonder why we had to go all the way to India for this? Why could we not have figured this out ourselves?
Some of the benefits are: Elasticity, not just in the muscles but all the body’s tissues. Believe it or not, connective tissue might have a bigger effect on how you walk around feeling in your body than the muscles themselves. This not only helps us age more comfortably and gracefully, but also adds a freedom and ease of movement in the here and now, adding to a feeling of comfort within the body and aiding in energy levels, as now you are not expending excess energy in one’s movements fighting against the tension within the body’s tissue. Elasticity is a major factor in injury prevention, as well. Depending on the type or style of yoga one practices, we can develop tone, stamina, balance and even achieve cardio. Add elasticity to this, and you have the most complete exercise I have ever seen. A well-rounded yoga practice is the ultimate cross-training.
Add to all that any benefits from sweating, deep breathing, dissolving tension (relaxation) and quieting the mind (a by-product of deep breathing), and we really have something very special here. Lastly, we need no equipment, no props. It’s so simple, we can take it anywhere and do it almost everywhere. Especially with poweryoga.com streaming online classes from 10 minutes to 2 hours. The only thing you need is internet.
We certainly are not an advanced culture, and any thought that we are will only hinder us in ever achieving it. Truth is, I’m not sure there is one. Maybe Bhutan, as I once heard they were more interested in GNH, gross national happiness, as opposed to GNP, gross national product. Most cultures are still dealing with Stone Age problems like hunger, racism, crime, disease, poverty and war. There are still territorial issues and spies and hit squads. We can add two more issues that previous fear-based cultures did not have to deal with, total annihilation and mass-scale pollution and its multitude of effects. An advanced culture should not be defined by technology, it should be defined by benevolence. Benevolent qualities. How can you consider yourself advanced, even with space travel and a colony living on another planet, if there’s so much suffering within our species and within our selves? Our attention and energy is put on technology and accomplishing outer achievements, because dealing with our inner weaknesses and our mental habits, which is the substance of all great beings’ message and teachings, would be too confrontational. Yet the mecca of human achievement is not spreading our disease beyond our own planet, it’s curing our disease! Then we will not need to achieve anything, because we will have already achieved wellness in its equal parts of health, contentment and freedom. Then technology can be an aid instead of a distraction, and it can be used to facilitate benevolent action! Curing our disease is putting our mind to it, as we have accomplished everything us humans collectively put our mind on. So put your mind in a benevolent place today! If us yogis don’t lead the way, who will? When you awake each morning read a passage from an uplifting book, which resides next your bed. Then sit in gratitude for ten minutes. No, this isn’t all, but it’s a beginning. Remember, all real health comes from a benevolent mind state, which is the opposite of a stressful mind state.
So many of us complain about the rat race, about greed, racism, crime, war, pollution, etc. We need to see, all of that is a reflection of us. Look at the causes of our societal and cultural problems, and you will find fear, anger and ignorance at their root. Which one of us does not have these qualities? When we watch the news, we are actually watching a projection of ourselves. This is Yoga 101. This is why Gandhi’s most famous quote was “be the change you want to see’ (I bet you he wasn’t taking about your hamstrings). That’s why all great beings asked us to develop benevolent qualities, not tie your legs around your head.
Don’t make your yoga practice about these stupid poses! Yes, all yoga poses are completely stupid! After all, stupid means unintelligent. These poses have no innate intelligence. They need to be infused with intelligence. You can hurt yourself in a pose or you can heal yourself, because it’s not the pose, it’s the mind performing the pose. It’s kind of like a knife. You can hurt someone with a knife, or you can help someone with a knife. The knife is just a tool. What truly matters is the mind that’s wielding the knife. These poses are like a knife, simply a tool. To do a pose intelligently, there needs to be awareness, as we need to be able to discern what is needed within the pose, by being fully aware of our experience. After all, it can’t be healing if we are not honoring what we are feeling, which is why we have feelings; they guide us. I see so much ego and vanity, attachment, competitiveness, reactiveness, judgment, criticism, forcefulness, distraction within these poses. Its like we have brought our shit into yoga and turned yoga into shit. The yoga is the awareness, it’s not the pose. When these poses are performed with awareness, they become yoga asana! We start to become aware of these sick, stress-inducing qualities, and we have a choice to stop feeding them mental energy and unconscious loyalty. As you know, whenever you stop feeding something, it starves and dies. It’s kind of like we are killing the enemy. Now you are bringing yoga into the pose instead of assuming the pose is yoga! As we get good at this (yoga practice), we notice we bring yoga into other activities. We start washing dishes with awareness, this is called dishwashingasana, and we are making love with awareness, this is called fuckasana, after all, who wants to make love with someone who is not fully present with them? Now we are bringing yoga into everything! There is not a more benevolent quality than awareness, it is the tool to steer us toward all else we desire.
As most of you know, our physical location at 1410 2nd Street, Santa Monica, CA, USA is closing May 31st, and there have been questions that I’d like to address, and a message I’d like to deliver to you.
1) Does this affect poweryoga.com and our online power yoga studio? The answer is a resounding “NO” — actually, this will be my primary focus now, so expect your user experience to improve, and more and more new classes will be added as always on a monthly basis. There are still hundreds of recorded classes that are waiting patiently to be uploaded, and I will begin recording new classes once I am back from my summer tours, and I will bring in new instructors that I feel make the grade.
2) Will I be leading classes elsewhere in L.A. and beyond? I do not believe I will be teaching on a regular basis in L.A., although I am open to coming down on Sunday mornings and leading a Sunday morning class, yet the right fit has not presented itself yet. I will be leading a full schedule of classes in Ojai and Ventura, CA. This will begin upon my return from my summer tours in early Sept., and all this will be on a new updated studio page at poweryoga.com.
3) What about the other instructors? Where will they be teaching? I will keep all their contact info on my website until May 31st, so please go to my website and click on Teachers and scroll to the teacher you’re interested in and send them an email, as most all of them are leading classes elsewhere.
4) Where should I practice now (if not online with you?) We are in L.A., baby, the yoga mecca of Earth — go out and experiment. My first studio I opened at 522 Santa Monica Blvd in Santa Monica is still open and is still donation, and I believe they call it Power Yoga East; they have some of our instructors over there like Rudy Mettia, Tracey Goldman and Dan Ward. There is also one of our original teachers, Govind Das, who opened a donation studio called Bhakti Yoga Shala in Santa Monica, and he is certainly worth checking out. Yet I really do recommend checking out our online studio; if you have not tried it, you may be pleasantly surprised that you can get such a sweet practice without leaving your house. I use it myself.
Lastly but most importantly: I want to thank you all for supporting me and my amazing instructors and our families. In my last class this past Sunday, there were two people who had been attending my class for over 30 years (Gene and Carissa) and more than a few who have been there for over 20 years. You all have added so much to my life in such a rich and positive way! Seeing your shining faces daily was a pleasure that words can’t describe. Although most of you I only saw in class, I felt deeply connected to many of you and will miss our weekly connections! I want to share with you all why I left Los Angeles, the greatest big city on Earth, and say so much more, yet words are not coming at this time. Maybe I will have a follow-up email.
How body types look different and how exercise affects different bodies differently
I have a six-pack – you just can’t see it.
Some people naturally, without any exercise or special diet, have a very lean and cut body. It’s not common, but it exists. Some people have very fleshy bodies, and with exercise and a moderate and healthy diet, their bodies still would not be considered lean and cut.
Growing up in the Midwestern United States, we had a saying that “the beauty of the human race was all the differences between us,” yet you don’t see the differences between us being plastered on the magazine covers and advertisements etc. What you see is chiseled looks, very developed muscles and very apparent and abundant sexual body parts. More often than not, people mistake this look which we have been taught is “attractive” as healthy. The yogis called this “Maya.” Maya is illusion. Which is not only the wrong assumptions about what you see due to our cultural imprint on our mind, but also what you don’t see, as you are not looking for those things, or even conditioned to overlook those things.
My friend Marc and me both partook in the same abdominal exercises for 8 weeks. Both of our abdominal regions have strengthened greatly, and I have developed an impressive six-pack and yet Marc midsection appears unchanged.
Marc has definitely become stronger, as his ability to do bicycle exercises for one minute has now increased to 3 minutes. This is a 200% change but you cannot tell by looking at him. I was able to go from one minute bicycles to two minutes of bicycles, only a 100% percent change. Marc’s body strengthened faster than my body, yet my body appeared more fit as my six-pack was more prominent. So, looks can be deceiving.
People with Marc’s body type can become frustrated that their body is not responding to exercise the way they have been conditioned to want it to respond, and they may feel like they are lacking progress, due to what they have been conditioned to not see. At this point, these people might become vulnerable to the marketing gurus out there, preying on people’s fears, vanity, and insecurities, selling us expensive, unnecessary and many time unhealthy diets and products which shock a response out of the body in an effort to make it conform to a cultural ideal of what’s attractive. I call this “making oneself sick trying to look pretty.”
Try to understand, “the beauty of the human race is in the differences between all of us,“ just like the beauty of a mountain range is within all its features. Beauty and health manifest seven billion different ways, as there are seven billion of us on the planet right now. The only thing stopping us from seeing our beauty is our conditioning, and the only thing stopping them from seeing our beauty is their conditioning. The more we buy into these cultural imprints, the more they are propagated and strengthened. As we seek real health and wellness, we need to recognize our conditioning and stop feeding it mental energy and unconscious loyalty. Societal sickness shifts when its people shift. That’s you! This is not easy. You will not be supported by your culture and maybe not even be supported at your own dinner table by family and or friends. Poweryoga.com is here to support you. My class theme is always supportive and self-affirming. We are here to make sure you are physically cared for and mentally supported. We try our best to help you see the unhealthy perspectives and tendencies that produce negative feelings. Our classes, blogs, challenges, workshops, trainings and discourses all have the same theme and there is a whole community of peeps walking this same path with you!
First exercise: Now, I said this would not be easy. Yes, we are here to support you BUT nobody can do the work for you! Stop partaking in any media (pretty much ALL media) that supports images and messages of beauty, vanity, sexuality etc. ]Don’t be scared of the resulting boredom. Remember, you have to go through boredom before you find peace! Can I recommend a book to replace your media? “The Wisdom of James Allen” by James Allen.
Emotional Eating: When I was in graduate school, writing my dissertation, I would sit at my computer for long periods of time in the “writing zone.” During this time, I often had within arm’s reach a six-pack container of gluten-free peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. I would inhale these cookies within an hour (usually 30 minutes!), and I was totally unaware – I would recall thinking, “how did all these cookies disappear so fast?!” I would rationalize eating these cookies by telling myself, “the cookies are gluten-free and have great protein with the peanut butter, so this is okay.” Looking back, I can now see that I was being driven by stress and the overwhelming feeling of having to submit many drafts of my dissertation to committee members. That reaching for the cookie while writing became habitual. And, the emotional eating becomes reinforced every time we practice the behavior. We as a society may be afraid or sometimes do not have the tools to help us learn how to be with discomfort associated with a painful thought, feeling, or emotion. So, instead, we eat. This works in the short term but has the potential to become extremely unhealthy in the long term, especially when done in excess.
What is “emotional eating”? The traditional perspective on emotional eating contends that we eat out of habit, or to mask emotional distress. Basically, we eat to comfort, console or avoid feeling and experiencing discomfort. Emotional eating can span various life domains, including relationship conflict, work stress, and financial strain. The key is that the emotion is intertwined with eating, and usually entails overeating (or “bingeing”), eating foods you typically would not eat, or eating when you’re actually not hungry (e.g., done out of boredom). We learn at an early age that food provides the temporary comfort we seek when a negative experience presents itself. And, when eating to fill a void that isn’t the result of an empty stomach, we typically crave a specific food, such as pizza or ice cream, and only that specific food will meet our need. When done habitually, we don’t realize the extent to which our feelings are influencing our eating habits. The occasional binge could be harmless, but emotional eating can escalate into something more pervasive and difficult to control.
An important distinction to make is the not so obvious difference between emotional and physical hunger. I am sitting at my computer feeling overwhelmed by a looming work deadline. I start to crave a sprinkled donut, a food outside of my paleo diet, and I have to have it right now! This is an emotional rather than a physical hunger – the latter can wait and does not need to be satisfied instantaneously by a donut! I eat the donut, but still want another one, so I eat another donut. I’m still eating, even though I am no longer physically hungry. Now, I am trying to curb an emotional discomfort – the stress of a work deadline. Research concurs that emotional eating is often associated with an increased intake of sweet foods, such as cake and ice cream, and salty foods such as chips, and soda.
How can we work with emotional eating? Yoga for weight loss, and more specifically meditation for weight loss, is a natural fit as we become mindful and are empowered to make healthy choices. The healthy choices that are a by-product of mindfulness do not occur in the quick fix of calorie burning or intense exercise, which is why the success rate for weight loss is so low for those modalities. The first step in addressing emotional eating is awareness or “mindfulness” of the behavior. Mindfulness-based approaches such as yoga and meditation are often touted for their role in improving various psychological and physical issues including depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. The mindfulness aspect of yoga, especially with the attention to breath during moments of uncertainty and discomfort that can come with intense or long held poses, can set the stage for us to bring awareness to habits surrounding emotional eating, and to determine how to dissuade ourselves from the temptation to engage in the behavior. In fact, the optimal approach to disengaging from emotional eating would involve learning how to “sit with” the discomfort, painful feeling/thought, etc., and to use healthy coping tools to traverse the turbulent waves of life that are a natural part of being human. In fact, there are research studies to support meditation and other mindfulness-based approaches (e.g., yoga) in helping to bring awareness to emotional eating (Katterman et al., 2014). In the end, emotional eating is not unhealthy in small doses or moderation. It becomes problematic when lack of awareness is no longer present and we give over to the negative experience.
Some practical tips to address emotional eating:
– Practice mindfulness!! Start to become aware of the habit pattern of reaching for a “comfort food” when life becomes overwhelming. – When you have the urge to eat when you’re not physically hungry, identify a comfort food that’s healthy, instead of one that has little to no nutritious value. – And, if it has to be a “comfort” food, think moderation, not elimination – Eating is best done in silence—tune into the flavors, textures, colors, and the effects of the foods on your body when eating. – Identify an alternative behavior to engage in when feeling emotionally uncomfortable, such as yoga, walking, talking to a friend.
So… the next time you are feeling sad, bored, or overwhelmed and you reach for that bag of cookies or pint of ice cream, ask yourself if this is your emotional or physical hunger speaking to you.
The new yoga studio is the yoga studio owned by a corporation. Now I get it, even a mom-and-pop yoga studio might be an LLC for tax and or liability purposes, so when I say corporation, I’m talking about a corporate studio or chain of studios whose owner is most likely not running the show, but the President or CEO is, or maybe there is no owner anymore, just investors. A President or CEO is beholden to a board of directors, investors and possibly even stockholders, not integrity. This is when the bottom line becomes more important than wellness. It’s pretty obvious that in a general sense, what sells is not usually what is good for us. That’s why they add sugar to most everything, it isn’t good for us, but it tastes good! If it tastes good, most will buy it, and the corporations enrich themselves. That’s why you have skinny and/or ripped generic-looking models selling us everything from cars to insurance to yoga, even though those images may have nothing to do with the product being sold and those models are not necessarily healthy, and their image can make people feel inadequate about themselves. As we know, sex sells! If you feel I am being cynical or critical, I’m not. I just want to be honest and in a straightforward manner address this topic. I am also not criticizing this fear-based mentality, I am just shining a light on it. Its probably obvious I do not like it, but I do trust it. Now explaining that might need to be a whole other blog. The evolution of yoga is unstoppable, and certainly, I have been a part of that, and the fact is, yoga has always been evolving since its inception. So, you could say corporations taking over yoga is just part of its natural evolution, and that could be a solid discussion. Yet I do not feel corporate yoga is part of yoga’s evolution; I feel corporate yoga is changing the definition of yoga (from wellness to fitness etc.). Remember, the corporate goal is financial viability (growth) and the yogic goal is wellness, two incredibly different goals and, much of the time, diametrically opposed to one another. So, to achieve the corporate goal, you need to keep selling more, even if it’s not yoga or needed, and to achieve the yogic goal, you need to uncover the truth (create awareness). The truth is not always so pretty, as celery does not taste as good as a candy bar, and the celery farmer’s family is not as financially rich as the Mars (Snickers and Twix) family. Yoga is like celery (nutrient-dense and cleansing), and corporate yoga is like a candy bar, its has a beautiful package (million-dollar facilities), and it has lots of sugar (hip music and beautiful, sleek advertising images and sexy products), it’s sensually appeasing. Yes, you still have to work hard and sweat, but the objective is fitness (strong, lean muscles, beauty and shapeliness — very sensorily gratifying), which is the sweet taste of a candy bar and has very little to do with wellness, which is the nutrient-dense, fiber-rich (cleansing) of celery. Ok you might say, your corporate yoga studio offers Yin yoga, which is very nourishing and not vanity-based etc… and I would say, ok you got me there. Not only that, there are many amazing yoga instructors that lead classes at these corporate studios (where else can they teach these days?), but I think you get the gist of this blog and that your studio still engages in corporate tactics to get people in the door, and they just opened a new studio right next to the mom-and-pop studio, which then “coincidently” went out of business!
What to do about all this? As Gandhi said, “be the change you want to see.” Educate yourself about what yoga is. Be aware, be awake, and see all that is happening and make conscious decisions. How much are you willing to sacrifice for wellness? Can you imagine yoga is more about giving up than acquiring more? Can you imagine yoga is more about appreciation than accumulation? Can you imagine yoga is more about maintenance than growth? I’ll end with this: I was talking to a model for one of these yoga brands about the harmful effects of their brand’s marketing practices on people’s psyche, of which they’re contributing by modeling for them. This model could see my point and agreed, and then replied to me with a coy smile: “Yeah, but they pay me really good!”
Fear obviously can be rational and is at times necessary and important, and yet it can be totally and completely irrational, and these days, most of the time it is unnecessary and harmful. Differentiating between the two is about as helpful and important to our health and the health of all of our relationships, including the relationship we have with Mother Earth, as anything could be. Fear most likely exists as a survival response to danger, as our most basic need is survival. Without surviving, there is nothing else. So, it may be our most important emotion (if that’s what it actually is). Yet survival and physical danger are pretty much a non-issue for most of us in our daily lives, yet fear in its pure form (of being scared shitless) or in the form of worry and anxiety is all to common in our daily lives. Unwittingly, fear is the driving factor guiding our lives in so many of our desires, choices and decisions. Fear affects body image and can poison the relationship we have with ourselves. Fear can prevent us from seeing our own beauty and looking positively on our life and the challenges that are shaping us and strengthening us! Fear can dictate the way we dress or the job you want or have, fear steers decisions like the friendships you choose. In the form of jealousy, fear can affect your relationships, and in the form of anxiety, it can affect your health and making clear decisions, and your parenting which obviously affects our children. In other words, fear is a real Motherfucker! I hope you’re not scared of that word. My guess is, fear is responsible for at least 80% of the negative news stories, and fear is why the media focuses on the negative (they’re scared of not getting good ratings). Government parties acting out of fear dictate policy decisions, corporations (and CEOs) acting out of fear (of the bottom line and job security) dictate quality decisions, and businesses acting out of fear dictate marketing decisions, location decisions and employee pay and policy decisions. This is the biggest problem with capitalism. Its ideas and benevolent intentions are tainted by the fearful folks who are so scared that they don’t have enough, rationalizing toxic behavior and harmful shortcuts, because as my dad used to say, you can rationalize anything.
Most fears (not all) are learned behaviors passed to us by our parents and culture. Fears inhibit the actualization of our deepest desires of contentment and our Judeo-Christian values “do not judge” and “Ten Commandments,“ as well as actualizing our American Declaration of Independence ideals of equality. To live Jesus’s teachings, I need to transcend my fears; to adhere to the Ten Commandments, I need to face my fears. Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi risked their life (faced fear), as well as Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela all demonstrated and propagated not a fearless existence, but an existence that was dominated by benevolence instead of malevolence (fear). Mohammad Ali was the greatest boxer of all time (sorry Floyd), yet his greatest act was outside the ring, his willingness to sacrifice all and go to prison for his beliefs. What we see in the news and what we disdain and detest most, is simply a reflection of the fear within us. Remember, “let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”
Incessant fear was a necessity for the Neanderthal. The problem for the Neanderthal was they didn’t have enough. They didn’t have enough food, warmth and safety. Cold, hunger and lack of safety were a constant threat! Now it’s the opposite, now we have too much. Our houses are too big and we eat too much etc.! Global warming due to energy consumption, and obesity and its by-products diabetes and heart disease, are some of our greatest environmental and physical concerns. Fear was the absolutely most necessary mind state for the survival of our species. Now it’s our most unnecessary; our intellect has evolved, yet our emotions have not. The scariest thing to the Neanderthal was to be kicked out of the tribe. The tribe was necessary for survival, as each tribe member had a job, and not one person could do it all. So, our genetic memory makes standing out and possibly being criticized and ostracized really fucking scary for us. Risking monetary and social status (neither of which brings happiness or health), those things our culture values most of all, is super scary. Each great being listed above was either ostracized or murdered. Just as fear was once a necessity for survival, now it is our greatest detriment to survival. The bombs and global warming have their roots in fear and greed (fear). Fear and greed have their roots in ignorance. Ignorance, because our safety is not an issue as it once was. The goal of yoga is enlightenment; this means “to see,” to “be aware,” which is the opposite of ignorance. The reason for this is that you cannot steer yourself away from fear, if you are not aware that it’s got a hold of you! Awareness creates choice, and choice allows us to become the captain of our own ship!
What to do about all this? For this, I will quote Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see,” because it will not shift in the world if it does not shift within me! It’s hard to make this shift alone, but don’t worry, we got your back. You could interpret the great law of attraction that states “like attracts like” to mean that you draw to you that of which you are. This means you are responsible for all that you see and experience. It is all a reflection of our mind state, and we will not see a shift on this planet until we shift our minds. This is most likely why every great person to ever walk on Planet Earth said, strengthen the benevolent qualities of your mind. Jesus said “non-judgment,” Buddha “moderation,” Gandhi “non-violence,” Mother Teresa demonstrated “compassion.” They never said stretch your hamstrings, analyze your alignment and cultivate a six pack (none of that has anything to do with health). This is why when you travel to India, the mother land of yoga, 99.9% of all of yoga does not include physicality; it’s all about devotional practices and meditation. In other words, practices that affect your mentality! Now we live in a culture where most everyone is running around like a chicken with its head chopped off, trying to accumulate more (money, materialism and social status), trying to fill a hole that’s not even there, yet we have been convinced it is there by the marketing gurus that care more about us buying their products than actually being healthy and well. Psychological law states “the more you see something, the more you believe it.“ We call it the rat race and do not like it, but no one knows how to get out of it. The yogi sees through this “Maya” (illusion) and will not partake. Yet in not partaking, you will stand out, and that can be scary. But fear not, you do have a culture that will support you! Just visit poweryoga.com; our classes, events, trainings, blogs and community are here to support you. Why else would we have founded donation yoga here in the Western world? Now you can develop a yoga practice that was created for wellness. Created to nourish benevolence and health. A practice based on feeling good. The tone and shapeliness you get from these exercises is a by-product; the goal here is balance and healing. It isn’t easy, but it’s very sweet! It is not easy standing out and being alone, but remember, like attracts like, and it will not be too long before your new community finds you.
Much Love and hope sincerely,
P.S. Here’s an initial exercise to get things rolling in a benevolent direction:
Next time you feel scared, in any form (jealousy, anxiety, fear etc…), maybe your boyfriend is talking to another girl or your child might not get selected for something they want, or an employee may want to leave you and take their/your clients with them to another employer or maybe you cannot pay your bills etc. Stop for a few moments and take 10 deep breaths. This can be calming and the time that those breaths take may lend some perspective. Maintain your integrity. Be honest with yourself that you are scared, and be honest with those involved. Without truth, there is no chance to transcend the situation. You may feel vulnerable, but that’s because you are. You are simply being honest. Do not allow your fear to rationalize why it is okay to sacrifice your integrity. Remind yourself that challenges exist to facilitate growth and are unavoidable. Remind yourself that no situation can hurt you, only strengthen you. Remind yourself that if you sacrifice your integrity by lying, cheating, stealing, being manipulative or controlling to protect yourself from feeling afraid, than you can never expect to conquer your fear or shift towards healing. You may also start to understand and see why others sacrifice their integrity (empathy), because they too are scared (this could lead towards compassion), and they are acting to protect themselves from what is scaring them instead of facing their fear. When all is said and done, you will notice your fears are gone, and all is well.
I will end this blog with a little story:
One day after a really deep yoga class, I was mopping the yoga studio floor, and I heard a terrifying scream. I ran outside to find one of my students who must have left my class so stoned on oxygen that they did not see the open manhole on the sidewalk, and they actually fell into it. Somehow this guy had managed to pull himself out and he was lying on the sidewalk next to the manhole, and when I got to him, I had noticed his lower leg was broken so bad, the shinbone was cracked in half and had busted out of the skin and was sticking up in the air. I ran up to him as he was screaming and I cradled his head in my arms, and I told him to breath; I reminded him that this is a difficult situation but it’s perfect, and this situation is an opportunity for him to be less reactive and more accepting. He looked at me like I was crazy; he said, what do you mean this is fucking perfect do you not see my leg? I said to him that this situation is what we have been practicing for in our yoga class (yoga practice), to face the difficult moments in our life less reactively, this is the real-life situation we have been practicing for. Again, he looked at me like I was crazy, as if it would be wrong for him to be less reactive and dramatic and it would be wrong for him to try to stay calm in this incredibly difficult situation and actually trust that this incident is a perfect part of his human experience. This mind state could reduce the intensity of the situation and put a positive spin on things. Well the ambulance arrived and I climbed into it with him and we drove to the hospital. He was removed from the ambulance and wheeled away. To make a long story short, the doctor who treated him became his wife, and ultimately, he became incredibly thankful for this injury, as something incredibly beautiful had blossomed from this incredible challenge. Yet this man was a very jealous person and eventually, his wife left him, and when I saw him in class, he was so very sad. I asked him what was wrong, and he told me his wife had left him, and I gave him a hug and told him to breath and this too is perfect. Again, he looked at me like I was crazy, he said to me, she is the love of my life and she is leaving, how can this be perfect? I said, I do not know how it is perfect, but I know that challenges are necessary and important and are given to us for our growth. Again, he did not seem to understand. But he was a smart man and he knew that his wife left him because of his jealousy, and he worked on himself to free himself from his fear and jealousy, and eventually he met another woman and they married, they had children, and they have been together happily since, and now every day he is thankful for his first wife and that divorce, as it has brought him into the situation he has now.