he lights dim to a
fuzzy glow. Men and
women, their bodies
silhouetted in shad-
ow, sit cross-legged on
the floor without mov-
"Begin to observe your respi-
ration," says Jonathan Kest,
yoga instructor. "Strive for a
natural, normal breath. Bare
breath. Pure breath. The breath
is strongly related to your
state of health. Your state of bal-
Mr. Kest, a 27-year-old Uni-
versity of Michigan graduate,
operates the Center for Yoga,
Relaxation and Health
in Southfield. His class-
es, held five days a week,
attract men and women
of different ages with
different goals. Some
come to supplement
their aerobics or weight-
lifting routines. Others
attend to rehabilitate a
bad back or injured
Members of his class
A yoga student "finds her
edge" without losing
Jonathan Kest and his wife
Milla train yoga instructors.
Yoga instructor Jonathan Kest
guides students through regimens
RUTH LITTMANN STAFF WRITER
say, whatever their motivation,
a uniform by-product is peace of
"Examine your lungs," Mr.
Kest instructs. "Take a couple of
deep breaths. Any resistance
there? Can you feel your lungs
expanding? Good. Awareness is
the first step here ... Whenever
you calm the mind down, reali-
ty begins to surface, pleasant or
Mr. Kest speaks rhythmical-
ly, in modulated, soothing sen-
tences. The hushed room, located
on the second floor of a quiet of-
fice building, is carpeted and
warm. Piano music plays softly
from a tape recorder.
Members of the yoga class
close their eyes. They stand feet
spread, shoulder-width apart.
They raise their arms slightly
and turn their wrists outward.
Their palms face blankly to the
"This is a very vulnerable po-
sition," Mr. Kest tells them. "But
for change for the better to take
place, you must be open. Vul-
nerability is a source of strength
"Find your edge," Mr. Kest
says. "The only yardstick of suc-
cess in this class is how long you
can remain calm and relaxed."
He tells his students that yoga
is not about twisting and con-
torting into a human pretzel. It's
not about gymnastics. The pur-
pose, he says, is to find balance
in difficult poses that might seem
easy at first. But when a yoga
"Your body is like a
pose is held over several minutes,
it can create tension and pain.
Relax into that pain, Mr. Kest
says. Let go of the tension. Along
with building strength, the ex-
ercises help people develop pa-
tience and calm that carries over
into their everyday lives.
Bloomfield Hills resident Car-
ol Rohtbart began attending
Mr. Kest's classes about four
months ago. The devoted jogger
wanted to supplement her rou-
tine with something that would
enhance coordination and reduce
Yoga has done both, she says.
Since starting Mr. Kest's class,
Ms. Rohtbart has taken classes
during a vacation at an out-of-
state resort. Nothing
measures up to Mr.
Kest, she says.
"Jonny has a way of
taking me through a dif-
ficult pose. I can relax
into the pain and stretch
through it so the pain
goes away. There's just
something about his
voice and energy level,"
she says. "He's inspir-
In some ways, yoga
rests on a principle sim-
ilar to the halachic (Jew-
ish law) mandate of
"Your body is like a
garden," Mr. Kest tells
people suffering from neurolog- his class. "If you don't take time
ical disorders, like multiple scle- to care for and cultivate it, all you
rosis. The belief is that a state of get is weeds." D
relaxation and balance will nur-
ture the healing process.
The men and women in Mr.
Kest's class lift their arms slow-
ly into the air above their heads.
No fast movements, Mr. Kest in-
kit 0:4. q•-.1, Ot4 '44
structs. They lift a leg, rurming
one foot up the inside of the calf
of the other leg.
Yoga dates back 6,000 years
to India, where Hindu mystics
preached that human beings
could connect with their person-
al deities through meditation, as-
ceticism and certain postures. In
the West, most yoga is taught as
a mental and physical exercise,
without reference to specific spir-
In the rush-hour decade of fax-
es and car phones, Mr. Kest be-
lieves yoga is gaining popularity.
In Los Angeles, where his broth-
er, Bryan, is an instructor, yoga
classes have become more wide-
spread than aerobics, he says.
Of late, physicians have pre-
scribed yoga for heart. disease
and cancer patients, as well as