Today, the Charleston Yoga "Spotlight" is on Ken Immer. Ken leads an eclectic group of male Yogi's aptly titled “Yoga 4 Men”. Ken’s class size averages 10 male participants ranging in age from 20 to 60.
Upon first meeting Ken and discussing Yoga with him you will, not surprisingly, find a mindful Yogi. You will also see another fine example of the manner in which Yoga can literally transform a person’s way of thinking and experiencing the world.
Ken has been practicing Yoga for the last twelve years. Ken’s (current) favorite style is the Ashtanga Primary Series. Ken readily agrees that there are a plethora of Yoga styles to choose from in Charleston.
Ken took a few moments to speak with Charleston Yoga Examiner. Here is what he had to say:
William Hunnell: Ken, you lead a group of Yogi’s titled “Yoga 4 Men”. What is your mission statement, if any?
Ken Immer: Simply put, “To expose men to a new way of thinking and being through the practice of yoga.” Yoga changes lives through physical exercise and mindfulness. Men deserve their own space to explore yoga as it relates to their own expression of masculinity, and help define new ways of relating to one another through this shared experience.
WH: In your own words, what brought you to practicing Yoga? In other words, what is your backstory?
KI: As a former butcher/charcutière turned "ecstatic living activist", I dropped traditional French cuisine for a yoga mat, and everything in my life changed. It (Yoga) is where I found my purpose.
Working in restaurants for many years produced a toxic body and mind. Hearing that Yoga could deliver both fitness and stress reduction, in an hour and a half, seemed like something that could keep me alive and cooking; so I gave it a try.
I couldn't have known that after my first class my life would start moving in a brand new direction: but it did. I was hooked immediately because there was something that Yoga gave me from my very first class that it still delivers to this day: a sense of personal peace and joy.
I had been seeking this very thing through things outside myself, and Yoga helped me look inward, and I never looked back.
WH: Where did you receive your Teacher Training and under whose guidance?
KI: I got my first 200 Hour Teacher Training from Holy Cow and Trace Bonner. Since then, I have studied with Mukunda Stiles in Structural Yoga Therapy. I have been teaching for 10 years.
WH: Who has had the most influence in your Yoga practice?
KI: Mukunda Stiles, who I call my "guru IN the body" (Swami Satchidananda is my true guru, but I never met him in the flesh). Mukunda taught me how to approach yoga for the individual. He also showed me how yoga and it's sister science, Ayurveda, work together in the holistic system of the body. His translation of Yoga asana from the Sutras is unmatched, and he has helped keep my focus on both the physical and subtle facets of Yoga equal so that it can be communicated to others effectively and efficiently.
WH: How would you describe your teaching style/methodology?
KI: My teaching style is welcoming to all skill levels. I use my training in structural yoga therapy to help connect the poses to your core center allowing for very functional strength and mobility designed for the male form.
I invite the men in my classes to show up "as they are" and check their egos at the door: discouraging competition while maintaining a masculine edge.
WH: You guys meet at The (old) Armory in Park Circle: for how long, and why an (old) armory building?
KI: I started teaching class at my shop four years ago. We soon outgrew that space. So, about three years ago we needed more space: The Armory was nearby and is a perfect location for "Men’s" Yoga. It doesn’t have a feminine feel to it, as most Yoga studio’s do.
(The masculine feel) removes one of the barriers to Yoga that some men face: they can feel uncomfortable at more traditional-type Yoga studios.
WH: If you could give someone new to Yoga one piece of advice...in just one sentence....what would that be?
KI: Let go of your expectations, and keep coming back.
WH: Is there anything you would like anyone to know about your program or the group that you lead?
KI: Yoga was designed by and for men thousands of years ago. I feel it is the single most important thing a man can do to develop himself as a productive, useful member of society.
Each of us has something to work on, and Yoga can be a vehicle for transformation. Yoga has been marketed to women in this country for many years, and that has led to a “feminization” of the perception of yoga. My goal is to introduce men to Yoga in a way that is accessible, fun, challenging, effective, and not what they think it is.
My classes will challenge you in ways that will produce breakthrough results delivering both physical and mental fitness.
WH: Lastly, is there anything you would like folks to know about you or your practice?
KI: Everything I do in life is all based in Yoga. Yoga has the idea that there is a 'center' to everything that we are working towards understanding and uniting with. Our bodies, minds, and spirits are yearning for communion with this joy, but it is our physical experience that limits us from experiencing it 24/7. However, there is a path that each one of us can discover that will bring us as close to it as we can in our human form. Nutrition, exercise, meditation, communication, study, and devotion are ways of getting there.
My first love in life was cooking and nourishing others, so it makes sense that my main occupation is that of the nutrition part. I started a company, now called graw foods in 2006 with the goal of producing nutrient dense, delicious foods made from whole ingredients that could reach as many people as possible.
We now make four different lines of products available nationwide, and are innovating every day. We produce raw, whole food snacks that use healthy ingredients and techniques to create delicious and new foods that are familiar and comforting rather than confronting as many healthy foods can be. At graw Foods, we are a company devoted to education about the delicious side of healthy eating, and work at being an example of a business that can operate in a new paradigm of conscious capitalism that will eventually change the world into a place where each person can reach their ultimate potential. As we like to say "Happy Munching!"
Ken’s “Yoga 4 Men” meets at 6:30 p.m. every Thursday at The Armory in Park Circle. Mats are available for use though it is suggested that you bring your own.