NATURE LOVER. KNOWLEDGE SEEKER. SPIRITUAL GANGSTER. YOGI.
Name: Jonah Kest
Yoga Practice Style: Vinyasa Ashtanga
Where were you born? Detroit, MI
Where is home now? Venice Beach, California
What’s your story? I grew up in a yoga family. My dad was one of the first yoga studio owners and teacher training programs in the midwest. Ever since I was little we always did a gratitude and meditation circle with my brothers before bed. As I got older I really started to see the importance in a daily meditation and practice. My father was a great example. I started training with him to be a teacher at 17 years old in Ashtanga. After a few years of studying and training I began to teach as much as I could and share the practice with whoever would listen. I eventually went University of Colorado for college and taught classes at the recreational center twice a week. After my first year of school I dropped out and decided to move to LA to teach for my uncle Bryan (Kest) at his donation based studio in Santa Monica. Yoga is really all I know and I am just grateful it found me, and honored to be continuing the lineage.
What did you want to be growing up? I wanted to be an NBA basketball player.
How would you describe yourself? Real and honest as well as loving and compassionate.
How would others describe you? I believe others would describe me as giving because I love to share.
How would your mother describe you? A pain in the ass.
What do you most value in others? Why? I value integrity and honesty and vulnerability because these are qualities that contribute to long lasting healthy relationships.
When did you last cry? What was it over? Last time I cried was in ayoga class right before I moved to LA. The teacher was able to somehow take me to my edge and then as soon as we went into pigeon I just released. There were almost tears of joy and letting go. It felt really good to cry and be vulnerable in a safe space.
Is there anything you preach but don’t practice? No I don't preach anything I don't practice, because I teach from my own experiences. Everything I share has been something that has once resonated with me.
Favourite meal? Explain... Vegan sushi from whole foods.
Favourite drink? Explain... Kombucha because its the perfect replacement to soda pop. and it has lots of good probiotics.
Favourite book? Explain... ‘Siddhartha’ because it another example how materials and wealth don't bring happiness and how attachments and desires can be a huge barrier to seek liberation.
Ok, let’s talk about yoga, how’d you get into it? I didn't find yoga, yoga found me. I was born into it. My dad and uncle are yoga teachers. After years of rebellion I eventually found a passion for it.
What was the biggest challenge when you first started practicing? My biggest challenge in yoga which still is a challenge but it improves every time I practice is non reactivity. I grew up constantly blindly reacting and yoga challenges me to observe those blind reactions so I can become more aware and have a choice. Because when you react there is no choice. This is one of the biggest challenges I face.
Why do you keep coming back? I keep coming back to yoga become each practice gives me feedback. Its the one time throughout the day where I can really just be with myself with no distractions and receive honest feedback from each breath and posture.
What would make you skip practice? An Acro massage :)
Do you teach? Yes, its really an honor to share yoga. Teaching has taught me how to connect better with people and how to be more vulnerable.
Other than yoga, what keeps you busy? I spend most of my free time in nature. Whether its swimming in the ocean or going on a hike or adventuring to new places. I also have picked up photography and love shooting asana.
What advice would you give to someone stepping onto the mat for the first time? I would tell them to let breathing be the upmost priority and let everything else come.
Tell us about a time your yoga practice came into play off the mat? Yoga has come off the mat for me the most in my relationships. It has taught me to be present, sensitive make needed adjustments and also not to runaway from rigidity but rather soften. Yoga means relationship and these qualities allow you to be in relationship and come out successful.
What challenges or issues have you experienced being a guy who teaches/practices yoga? Growing up I actually used to be embarrassed because my dad would always teach my class yoga all the way throughout elementary school. I thought yoga was for girls. But being a guy who practices yoga has allowed me to actually embrace and strengthen my feminine qualities. This has made me softer, gentler and more sensitive.
What does the BOYS OF YOGA project mean to you? I think BOYS is great platform to continue to spread the awareness of yoga without gender getting in the way. BOYS is breaking stereotypes and encouraging men to practice yoga.
If you could spend some time hanging out with some of the other BOYS, who would it be, and why? I would really like to get to know all of them. Its rare I don't have to many male yogi friends so when I do I cherish them.
What’s your favourite pose? Favorite pose is hollow back handstand because balancing on the hands while opening the heart and shifting the gaze becomes such a tool for me to practice presence and balance. In order to do this posture it takes my complete undivided attention.
Yoga is...relationships. Every relationship just like a yoga posture is a series of continuous adjustments that need to be made in order to find balance.
Your quote or mantra: “If you only knew the power of generosity, you wouldn't go a single day without sharing.”- Bhudda
Interviewed: May, 2016
Photos by @michaeljameswong and property of BOYS OF YOGA LLC