October 4, 2020
The Story and Evolution of Power Yoga
Power yoga is one of the most popular styles of yoga right now throughout the whole entire world. Sometimes it might be called Vinyasa but any type of yoga that that flows and has an athletic component to it, typically falls underneath the umbrella of power yoga.
On a physical level, you get strength, balance, flexibility, stamina, and cardio. You go to a good power yoga class, and you don’t need anything else. It really covers it all.
You also get a good sweat which is an element of detoxification. It doesn’t require a lot of equipment. You don’t need to go get weights. You don’t need to go to the gym. You really just need your yoga mat, your body, your breath, and you’re taking care of a lot of different things all at once.
So who can we thank for this practice that so many of us love today? There are three pioneers of power yoga who are generally credited as the founders of power yoga and they are Bryan Kest, Baron Baptiste, and Beryl Bender Birch. Here at Inner Dimension TV, we are deeply honored and grateful that these founding teachers have paved the path for people like us to also go out and spread the influence of power yoga.
In this post, I want to focus on Bryan Kest. Bryan is somebody that I’ve known for many years and have the deepest amount of respect and gratitude towards. He started off as a teacher, and over the years became a mentor, and then a friend.
Bryan is the embodiment of somebody who exists in their authentic power. He’s the most passionate teacher that I’ve ever experienced. He’s also one of the funniest teachers that I’ve ever known. Although he’s never jamming spirituality down your throat, at the same time, he’s one of the most spiritual people that I’ve ever met.
He’s the kind of teacher that can make a class of hundreds die with laughter, then 10 minutes later, have the entire room crying. He has a gift of speaking and he does it in a way that pierces through all the BS and armor. He speaks universal truths that you know to be true from the depths of your heart.
One time I was in his office and we were chatting, and I told him how I was struggling to save up money to buy my family a home. Without hesitation, Bryan just looked at me and said, “I’ll give you some money. Let me help you out. Let me give you $20,000.” I was so struck by that gesture of generosity because it just spoke to how beautiful of a person Bryan is. He is the embodiment of his power yoga practice, with a big heart and full of generosity and life.
Over the years, I went on to become one of the senior teachers at his studio. I just want to say, without any shame or hesitation at all, that I’ve been heavily influenced by Bryan. His vocal delivery, sequences, phrases, language, vernacular, and even his jokes! I’ve borrowed all that stuff, and I’ve used it in my classes. Now I’ve come to a point where I’m training students and I always tell them, “take whatever you want. Take the jokes. Take the phrases. Take the stories. Take the clothes. Take whatever you want because that’s what I did from my teachers.” It’s continuing this important and beautiful legacy.
Bryan grew up in Detroit, Michigan. He was a rebellious teenager. Because of bad behavior, he ended up getting kicked out of school at the age of 14. By that point, his mom was so frustrated with Bryan she kicked him out of the house.
So Bryan called his dad who at that time was living in Hawaii and begged to come stay with him. His dad said okay, but under the condition that Bryan would start doing yoga. Without any real options, Bryan had to say yes.
He stuck to this agreement and started studying yoga. One of his teachers was David Williams, one of the main teachers of Ashtanga yoga. David Williams taught a form of Ashtanga yoga that was created by the Indian teacher Pattabhi Jois. After some time, Bryan decided he wanted to go study with the source directly and traveled to Mysore, India.
Bryan studied with Pattabhi Jois back before yoga was cool or mainstream, back before anybody knew about Ashtanga yoga. As you might already know, Pattabhi Jois later on became very famous and would have hundreds of people in his classes.
After India, he came back to the U.S. and enrolled in his very first 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat with the teacher Goenka. This was an opportunity for Bryan to combine his strong physical yoga with hardcore mental yoga and deep dive into meditation. He gained a tremendous amount from this experience and this laid the groundwork for his powerful teachings, which are both physical and mental.
Now around this time, Bryan one day had woken up and noticed his body was feeling different. As he was going through his Ashtanga yoga practice, he sensed his body wanted to do something else. However, his Ashtanga training was dictating he stick to the strict sequencing of the Ashtanga tradition. He had this inner battle, “Do I stick with the traditional sequences, or do I listen to the wisdom of my own body?”
Fortunately, he decided to follow his wisdom and spun away from the main sequence of Ashtanga yoga. He allowed his body to move in more of an improvisational way and this was the birth of power yoga.
It’s as if in that moment, we had gone from classical music all of a sudden to jazz. Power yoga opened up the possibilities for sequencing we’re familiar with today because it didn’t confine you to a set sequence. There was a big backlash from the Ashtanga community – some claimed Bryan was bastardizing yoga.
But despite all that, he stuck to his guns. Being the rebel that he always was, he went on and blazed his own path of teaching this new style of power yoga. He made yoga accessible to more people. With this experience, Bryan opened his Power Yoga studios and the rest is history. Hopefully that gives you a little bit of the backstory of power yoga.
Technically, the style of yoga I teach, I call it holistic yoga flow. I’ve adapted and evolved power yoga in a distinct way that resonates with me. That’s why all of Inner Dimension TV’s classes are structed to inspire your six human dimensions of body, energy, mind, heart, awareness, soul and your highest potential.
As always, below are some recommended practices to get you started on your power yoga journey!