Every once in a while, one of our alumni makes the news! Brother Ken Schweiger ‘70 was featured in this great health and wellness article. If you’re living in the Twin Cities area, you most likely saw this in the Star Tribune, if not, here it is. Here’s to a new year filled with great health for all our brothers.
The original article can be found at:
Article by: MARISA HELMS , Special to the Star Tribune
Photo by TOM WALLACE, Star Tribune
ACCIDENTAL YOGI DRAWS A CROWD
A former corporate executive turned yoga instructor finds inner peace — and a following at a Twin Cities fitness center.
“You are your own best teacher,” Ken Schweiger tells students in his hot yoga class at CorePower Studios in St. Paul. “Try not to judge, and do the best you can.”
The class is filled nearly to capacity. The dress code is the bare minimum. Schweiger follows suit, wearing nothing but big wire-framed glasses and spandex shorts. He adjusts the thermostat to make sure the room will reach 105 degrees, then glides to the back and, for the next hour, calmly talks the class through a series of breathing exercises and 26 yoga poses.
“Dandayamana bibhaktapada janushirasana,” Schweiger calls, without stumbling over the Sanskrit. His effortless pronunciation, along with his gray hair and folksy manner, lend him an air of credibility, even though he’s been teaching for just two years.
At the end of class, Schweiger bids the students all “namaste,” a salutation often used in yoga. It was a conventional class taught by an unconventional man.
Going ‘out there’
Schweiger, who describes himself as a Catholic conservative, is the first to admit he stands out in the hard-body CorePower crowd, where the demographic skews female and young.
“I’m an old goat who does yoga,” Schweiger said with a smile. “I’m not a stereotypical yoga teacher. I’m a typical 63-year-old with a little gut.”
Well, maybe not so typical.
Until he retired in 2003, Schweiger was a high-flying corporate executive who dedicated his life to his work in banking and insurance products. He worked long hours, cramming in meals between business meetings. His only exercise was an occasional round of golf.
“At one point I was probably 30, 35 pounds heavier than I am now,” said Schweiger. “My cholesterol was a little high, in the 220 range. What got me going is my doctor wanted to put me on Lipitor. I asked him what the alternatives were, and he said I could try diet and exercise. That’s when I started to work on my health.”
Schweiger’s adult daughter, Chris, invited him to take a hot yoga class with her.
“It was a long shot,” said Chris. “Not every guy in their 60s wants to try something as ‘out there’ as yoga.”
While he was eager to try it, Schweiger admits that he hated his first yoga class.
“I thought it was absolute insanity!” said Schweiger. “Halfway through the class I was pooped out. I was sitting on my mat; I needed a break.”
Still, he came back the next day, and the next. After two weeks of classes, he was hooked. Soon, he noticed improvements to his balance and flexibility.
“One day when I was getting dressed, I was able to put my pants on without sitting on the bed,” said Schweiger. “I hadn’t been able to do that in years.”
Plus, the yoga was helping his golf game.
So, in 2009, at age 61, Schweiger enrolled in teacher training at CorePower. These days, he teaches 15 to 20 classes a week — sometimes as many as five a day — at various Twin Cities CorePower locations.
All in the family
Schweiger’s wife, Barb (yes, they’ve been Ken and Barbie their entire 40 years of marriage), daughters Chris, 38, and Stephanie, 37, and son Kenny, 28, all take his classes. On any given day, any one — or all — of the Schweiger clan is attending one of Ken’s classes.
“Our family is close,” said Chris. “We like doing stuff together and this is just another thing we can do, and it happens to be Dad’s yoga class.”
Chris said taking a yoga class from her dad was “surreal” at first. Now she loves “listening to his voice, his perspective on the postures.
“You don’t hear of people making that extreme of a career change at that age,” she added. “There are people in their 40s who think it’s too late to start something new. That never stopped him.”
Schweiger’s fan base extends beyond his family. He’s developed a following among students at CorePower. St. Paul student Cecilia Scully, 49, has been coming to Schweiger’s Highland Park class regularly for about a year.
“I think he’s great,” said Scully. “He’s consistent and good to learn from. He’s patient and calm.”
CorePower instructor Kathy Bertram considers Schweiger “a cheerleader. “I love Ken. I’m a big fan,” she said.
While Schweiger admits he’s still “Type A,” he says his yoga practice has changed him in many ways.
“I started out for the physical benefits,” Schweiger said, “but what’s been probably the biggest change in my life is that I’ve become very nonjudgmental. In my corporate career I was great at putting people in a box based on race, gender and age, or anything else. But one of the advantages of doing yoga is I’ve gotten a lot more open-minded. I have a much better understanding that we’re all in this together.”
Marisa Helms is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer.