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Friday, December 08, 2006

the quest for kest

if you're a 9-5 worker bee like myself, the only way you can take one of bryan kest's power yoga classes at his santa monica studio is to show up for a monday/wednesday/friday evening class or either of his early morning or late afternoon sunday classes. problem is, there are so many yogis that want to take these donation-based classes that they're willing to wait in a line that snakes down the stairs and around the block (or so it seems) just to get a decent spot in the large room.

unbeknownst to many, there's another kest class option, but it's NOT held at the SMPY studio; it's held all the way out in calabasas, at inner power yoga on mulholland highway. and what makes it even harder to get to is the fact that bryan only teaches there once a month, on the first tuesday of every month. the reward for those who do manage to attend the class is that the format is slightly different from his SMPY classes. at inner power, bryan teaches a two-hour deep stretch class. so while the poses may be just as simple, they are held for longer periods of time. the trick is being able to stay in a pose for up to two minutes without fidgeting. sounds easy enough, doesn't it?

when i first took this deep stretch class last october, i thought it was fairly challenging. if nothing else, it was more demanding than his usual level 1-2 classes in santa monica, and i might even dare to say that it was more of a struggle than his level 3-4 classes. but i held in there that time and got through it in one piece.

but that was two months ago. since then, due to a lower back spasm, i had to ease up on the yoga. but after just a month, my bathroom scale announced that i had put on a couple of pounds, only because i wasn't burning as many calories as i used to :( with the holiday food fest fast approaching, this was unacceptable!

well, desperate times called for desperate changes. i needed to ramp up my yoga practice.

and it just so happened that this past tuesday was the first tuesday of the month. it was my chance to take bryan's deep stretch class and see if i had lost any of my strength and/or flexibility. but there was a slight problem: i had just run the city of angels half marathon two days prior, and my muscles were still stiff and sore from that hilly 13.1 mile race. throwing all sensibility out the window, i drove out to the calabasas studio by the gelson's market, paid my $15 to the person at the front desk (unlike SMPY, his class there has a fixed price), and found a spot in the room.

in typical kest fashion, we started out with a slow sun salutation sequence. which can seem harder if you have to move more slowly and more deliberately; you can't use momentum to get you from one pose to another.

crescent pose. bend your knee more. go lower. hold. go even lower.

plank pose. lower your body until only your chin touches the floor. hold. push back up. hold. lower again. push back up. repeat.

... by now, not only my legs but also my arms were tired. but we still had over an hour left to go...

downward dog. grab your left knee with your right hand. if you can, slide your hand down to your ankle. hold.

... normally, this pose would be a no-brainer. but my supporting arm wanted to collapse...

standing split. lift your raised leg higher. hold. now lift your arms off the floor and back like jet wings. warrior 3. hold. without touching your foot to the floor, bring the raised leg forward and hold your knee. hold. now point your toe forward. hold.

... the calf in my standing leg started to cramp and i started to fall over. this was not looking good...

sit sideways on your mat so that your feet touch the corners of your mat. now bend forward. hold. turn your torso to the right and reach for your toes. hold.

... at this point, my toes seemed miles away. what had happened to me? i used to be able to grab my foot and practically touch my chest to my thigh!

turn back towards the front. put your legs together. reach up. bend forward and reach for your toes. hold.

... my back was not liking this. it started to seize up...

we're going to hold this pose for ten minutes.


hold still. stop fidgeting.

at this point, all systems started to go haywire -- my back, my glutes, my hips. all of a sudden, i couldn't sit still and release into the pose. all i wanted to do was lie back, close my eyes, and wait out the rest of the class. but no, i persisted. or at least tried to.

so when we were "released" for savasana, i let out a big sigh, thankful that it was finally over.

after that fiasco, i desperately needed to take a breather. besides, i had my birthday celebrations to attend to (let's see... instead of yoga classes, i had a big dinner, watched a hockey game, and had a tooth extracted... so much fun!).

tomorrow night, though, i'm going to get back into the swing of things. i'll be attending the seva event at yoga works main street: a fundraiser for the casa de milagros in peru, taught by seane corn, hala khouri, and ted mcdonald. after having given my body four days to recover, it should be a pleasant experience. or so i hope!

... by the way, i do plan to take bryan's deep stretch class again next month. i don't give up that easily, you know :)