Ken is a dear friend – we trained together on the IYTA course and his yoga journey not only transformed his life, but he met his partner, moved overseas and changed careers.
He now runs a successful yoga centre in Boston, Massachussets. This is his yoga journey…
It was when Ken’s life was turning upside down that he stepped into his first Yoga class.
‘I’d read about Yoga and thought I’d give it a try,’ he recalls.
He was 40, working as an accountant and going through a divorce.
‘Yoga drew me in,’ he says. ‘And the kindness and compassion of my teacher, Leah Nichols, kept me going to classes.’
Under Leah’s guidance, Ken discovered not just asanas, but meditation, chanting and pranayama. ‘While I liked the physical side of Yoga, it was the inner practice of meditation that kept me anchored,’ he says.
After five years as a student, Leah asked if he’d considered becoming a Yoga teacher.
‘I hadn’t and my first thought was that I couldn’t do it,’ he says. ‘But Leah made me question myself.’
And so in 2000, Ken enrolled on the IYTA Teacher Training Course. One of his lecturers was Wendy Batchelor. After listening to her ideas and wisdom, he immediately joined her Heart’s Way course.
‘She was just someone I knew I had to have in my life,’ he says. Ken credits both Leah and Wendy as being stepping stones on his Yoga journey.
‘I was doing what I was meant to do, I just didn’t know it at the time!’ Ken says. ‘My teachers taught me to trust my instincts and to have faith in myself.’
After graduating, Ken was ready to take the plunge and quit his job to teach at Leah’s studio.
A few months later he came across the work of Michael Lee who established Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy.
Ken signed up to the Phoenix Yoga Teacher Training course in America, where he met another Yoga teacher and fashion designer, Anne Bernays Trevenen.
‘I felt a deep connection with Anne,’ Ken says. ‘And knew I could fall in love with her, but she was married with three children. So at the time, a relationship wasn’t an option.’
The pair stayed in touch when Ken returned to Sydney.
A few months later Ken learnt Anne had split up from her husband.
‘My father had recently passed away and as he lay dying, he told me there were so many things he’d wanted to do with his life, but he hadn’t done them.
‘I didn’t want to be the person who woke up one day and thought I wonder what would have happened if I’d given that a go.’
Ken was also nursing his mother who was terminally ill. Again Yoga kept him grounded through this difficult time. After his mother died, Ken considered moving to America.
‘Leah encouraged me to go,’ recalls Ken.
Sadly, just seven days before Ken left for America, Leah passed away.
Ken moved to Boston and rented an apartment. He applied for a Green Card and because he wasn’t able to work, he spent the next year “twiddling his thumbs”.
Then, when his work visa was granted, he and Anne opened a yoga studio in Topsfield – a suburb of Boston, Massachussets.
‘We called it ABT Yoga – after Anne’s initials,’ Ken says.
Doubt wasn’t an option. ‘I remember Leah had told me to put a sign outside the door and trust people would come.’ So that’s what he did.
But he adds it is also important to know deep in your heart that you are good at what you do. ‘Everyone has their limitations but you learn to work with them,’ he says.
At first he had just one student attending each class and gradually the numbers rose. ‘I just kept turning up. Something within me said this will work, but you have to believe in yourself. Put into practice all the things these wonderful people have taught you.’
In the past two years business at the studio has sky rocketed. The centre now has between 800-900 students attend classes each month
Ken’s teaching style is “off the mat”. He gives verbal cues and encourages students to tune into their bodies and work gently with awareness in the present.
Ken teaches a staggering twenty or so classes each week – and is often at the studio from 4am to 9pm.
Whereas many of us might burn out with this many classes, Ken says his teaching gives him energy.
‘I’ve been taught to make a commitment to my own personal practice. My time on the mat is for me and off my mat that energy goes to my student.’
He also schedules in at least ninety minutes of personal practice throughout his day – and regularly practices Savasana between classes.
‘The hardest place to practice yoga is at home,’ he says. ‘Anne and I often joke that we need to escape to work!’
Ken says working in a business environment before becoming a Yoga teacher certainly helps running the studio, but he also attributes his success to the practice of an Abundance Mantra.
‘For me to have abundance, I have to let go of the desire for abundance,’ he says. ‘Instead of wanting people to be clients at the studio, I simply focus on wanting them to be a person in my world.’
He also gives them space to find themselves – in their practice and their life. So he may have 25 students in a class – all of varying abilities and ages, but each person is secure and safe. There are no demands, just a sense of being able to “be” in the moment – without judgment.
If one person wishes to spend the entire class in Child’s Pose, then that is fine. ‘It is a case of working with the individual.’ He adds we are all leading different lives in different circumstances, but we all experience similar emotions, whether that is joy, sadness, frustration and sometimes we just need to sit with that.
Ken has been running the studio for the past six years and is happy to live day-by-day exploring Yoga.
‘I am doing what I was meant to do and I don’t think I would be having the same impact in Australia,’ he says.
But he does miss his close friends. ‘And the ocean, and swimming – and of course, the IYTA community!’
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* This article, written by Katie Brown, first appeared in the IYTA’s magazine, International Light