Justin comes from an island off the west coast where he saw some awesome moss. He took this moss and explored the world while practicing yoga of all types for 15 short years. This moss then nourished itself with a Forest style yoga teacher training led by Les Leventhal at yoga tree in San Francisco. Now he is eager to share some of this awesome moss sauce with fellow yogis through a restorative vinyasa flow.
His favorite asanas are awesomeasana kickassana and of course tree pose.
Follow Justin’s quest to be a historian of the futures as he documents the present while writing on technology, digitalia, yoga, and anything else that he pauses to ponder at Incidentally Zine.
Ken’s Naked Men’s Yoga Class
Tuesday Oct. 10th, 730pm at Sun Room Yoga
Thanks so much to Ken for allowing me to observe his wonderful class on Tuesday. I have taken the class a few times and it felt so good, but some of the things that I realized after being given the opportunity to observe his teaching is what a gifted and aware teacher he is, how much he cares for his students of naked yoga, and how brilliant he is at sequencing this 1 and 1/2 hour class. You’ll see what I mean after we go through my observations from his class in more detail.
Ken was in the lobby (with clothes on) to greet regular returning students and new students alike with a warm, friendly, and genuinely open presence for at least 15 minutes before class. As students filtered in and took their places in the comfortably warm room he created a safe and supportive environment. Here, I was very impressed with his ability to be upbeat and chipper and yet calming at the same time. Once most of the students were comfortably disrobed and waiting for the class to begin he cleverly invited them to relax in the first pose, supta badda konasana lying on the mat supported with a bolster vertically along the back some also with sandbags on the knees, while the rest of the students prepared to begin.
He then opened the class with a reading on the value and comfort that can be found in silence and I took this to be a theme for the class. Ken’s cheerful and uplifting voice continued to lead students to find their breath and settle their mind by noticing and acknowledging any recurring thoughts and finally opening the heart. While the students concentrated internally, Ken maintained his own still seated position at the front of the room. He then helped students up to a seated position while keeping the eyes closed. From here went on to ask them to set an intention for the class and opened the practice with three ‘om’s. This was followed by some gentle seated twists. Here, he used a number of helpful phrases like ‘palms connect to the floor’ and ‘engage the core come up’ to come up from a seated forward fold to tabletop position. Here he introduced the students to more movement by inviting the some freedom to sway and rotate the hips according to their own desire and flexibility on that day. It was nice to here a little bit more dharma here as Ken mentioned that this kind of freedom was good because it breaks us of patterns and yoga is about recognizing the patterns in our life. He also mentioned the chakras and the third eye as tools. Then he gently led everyone back to child’s pose.
From here he began to warm students up by brining them to downward dog with similar freedom of movement. It really made the downward dog pass by quickly for the students as he told a personal anecdote of a recent visit to Sedona and connected it to the energy that the students were creating by swirling their hips like a vortex. After holding the downward dog, the students looked ready for a release and Ken led them to lion’s breath, also reminding them to breathe deeply throughout the practice.
The vinyasa that followed was roughly based on sun salutations with many interesting variations and extended sequences on each side. It was very freeform but also didn’t miss anything on either side, quite a skill! And it followed a variation on a mandala pattern rotating to all sides of the mat. It included low chair pose, high and low lunges, an interesting variation to vertical split from high lunge, and three legged vinyasas once the students were sufficiently warm. While Ken continued to lead the class through his Vinyasas he also demo’d the poses from wherever he found space in the middle of the room as he walked around assisting students in many different ways. He did a great partner assist that involved balancing his legs on the sacrum of a student in downward dog and almost supporting his entire body weight! He also connected this vinyasa practice to earlier poses by saying things like “use the thighs we warmed up in chair.” He included many variations of twists during these vinyasas, in high lunge twisting with hands to prayer as well as twisting half moons etc. Despite the increasingly challenging poses he was offering, he kept the mood light by making jokes and using his clear and positive teaching voice. He said things that were clever and self-deprecating like during tree pose, “stay with the focal point (drisdi) not a wobbly teacher.” He also offered many variations up front for this all-levels class and told students there are “a couple of paths you might consider”
When students were warm and sweaty he moved into what might be considered a peak pose through some partner work. He asked people to partner up approximately according to body size/proportions. He first demonstrated with a partner a 2 person plank with pushups. And guided the students to do the same along with an assisted back extension in child’s pose for the person providing the base each time.
After the partner work was finished he guided the students back to the front of their mats for some vinyasas including bow and dhanyarasana or half locust. Here some helpful cues that he used during some of these poses were to keep the neck and the jaw relaxed. I especially find relaxing the jaw to be an unexpected but common source of unnoticed tension. Some more vinyasas led students to malasana and some of them to crow. And to reverse tabletop where he reminded the students to have “easy breaths like “shavasana.” Next the class was on to boat and then to shoulderstand. To balance out the shoulderstand a fish variation was offered. Even though Ken is a pro at keeping the class moving he mixed up the rights and lefts briefly but caught himself and just keep on going without missing a bit managing to make it fun in the process. Some seated poses, twists and folds started a slower pace for the class.
Finally Ken allowed students a whole range of backbones from the supported bolster to wheel, adjusting many of the students and helping them to reach their most comfortable backbend. A few side twists on the mat and the lights began to dim for shavasana. He still allowed a few minutes for students to take any poses they felt they needed before guiding them to shavasana. His voice slowed down as the lights dim further and the music softened. A few moments of rest and he brought students back to seated. He read once more a short inspirational passage and asked students to make an intention for beyond their practice, to be taken off the mat before bringing them back to full awareness and closing the class with ‘om.’
Overall, this class was as wonderful to observe as it is to take. I am truly amazed at how Ken keeps so many things going and keeps the pace of his classes as he does while allowing for a wide range of levels from beginners to advanced practitioners. Furthermore, he is so engaging welcoming and supportive that students don’t even notice the fact that they are naked most of the time (I bet you already forgot!). With the fast pace there is not very much time to make many adjustments and just like so many classes, Ken would benefit from some assistants so he could concentrate even more on his teaching. His own practice is so beautiful to watch I think that sometimes it might push some students to go beyond their edge, especially the newer students or those working with injuries so I personally would remind students to keep listening to where their body would like to take them today. Also, the theme of the class or at least the first dharma was about silence but the class itself was very active and didn’t involve much of a return to silence (except for once briefly in the middle and again at the end in shavasana). These few observations however certainly didn’t detract at all from the experience for the students. The energy of all the students was visibly brighter, lighter, and happier as well as relaxed after taking the class. Everyone was pleased to have been there, and the class was just as beautiful to observe as it is to take, and its not just because of the gorgeous naked men, I promise!