hanging forward, bent at the waist, I can’t help but scan the rows of yoga enthusiasts from this unique viewpoint. Just as my eyes rest on a handsome young man whose incredible agility allows him to effortlessly press his forehead against his muscular, locked legs, I hear a voice in my ear which asks suspi¬ciously, “Just where are you looking?” Our teacher, Bryan Kest, has caught me com¬mitting a major Power Yoga no-no.
“Don’t look around at anyone else,” he coaches me. “You’re not here to com¬pete. Focus on yourself. If you can’t han¬dle this posture, stop, breathe, and release.” Immediately I shift my atten¬tion to my own legs, where my weary left
hamstring is now shaking from overexer¬tion. As Kest gently adjusts my leg, mak¬ing the stretch much more comfortable, I sigh with delicious relief. “Now that’s your sweet spot,” he says, smiling. (The sweet spot is the unique place in each posture where the stretch feels good rather than painful.)
Power Yoga, as developed by Bryan Kest, 32, is based on an ancient Indian form of yoga called Ashtanga. Like Ashtanga, Power Yoga utilizes deep nos¬tril breathing and a series of asanas, or postures, which clear the mind and body of stress while building flexibility, balance and strength. In Kest’s dynamic version, the poses are held longer than usual and are repeated, increasing stamina, improv¬ing blood circulation and augmenting power, making it the perfect complement to any weight training or aerobic activity.
Despite his system’s formidable name, Kest contends that his invigorating yet
calming form of yoga is about empower¬ing yourself in your daily life. “Don’t let the name intimidate you,” he asserts. “My philosophy is, if you’re doing the best you can, you’re doing just fine.”
Kest’s supportive attitude and ener¬getic instruction have attracted many participants to his studio in Santa Monica, California. The average class size runs from 75 to 100 people, 90 per¬cent of whom are single, with a median age of 34. The singles meeting status that health clubs once enjoyed in the ‘80s has found a new home in the yoga centers of the ‘90s. But the focus is more on inter¬nal beauty than on external appearance.
“Yoga centers have become a great way to meet healthy people who are more connected to themselves spiritually, and less connected to a superficial reali¬ty,” Kest says.
Anne Appleby, 35, CEO of Yoga ForceTM, a new line of yoga apparel, says, “I was attracted to Bryan’s class because
I’m a marathon run-
a new ner. I have acquired greater flexibility
and strength.” In addition, Anne has dated a few really great guys from her
singles to class. She adds, “Yoga class is a non-
threatening way for
converge a woman to ask a man out.”
Continuing to walk the rows of pupils and make adjustments, Kest reinforces his core message. “It~s more important to benefit in the moment, right here, right now, as opposed to achieving success one day down the road, when you can touch your head to your legs.” Good advice for me and my obstinate hamstring, which by now is completely relaxed as I revel in my own private sweet spot.
So whether you’re looking for align¬ment, flexibility, relaxation, or a major sweat, you’re apt to find all of them in a Power Yoga class. And who knows? You may even meet your soulmate, make a new friend, or at the very least, learn how to breathe.