Almost all of his time now is spent on fitness but it wasn’t always like that for Nattaphon Jengsuwan. He can still remember 10 years ago, when he weighed 85kg and was overweight with gastritis and knee pain. Days before he started fitness training.
“I won’t stay like this, it’s just not the life I want,” recalled the 39-year-old, who goes by the name Kenneth and is based in Bangkok.
But he turned his life around and became a contemporary dancer, and spent five years training in dance schools and companies both in Bangkok, Thailand, and London, England.
“I was sitting on the desk, working a 9 to 5 job and it was so stressful. Stopped caring about what I ate or exercising. I basically stopped taking care of myself and became overweight. When I realised this wasn’t the life I wanted growing old, I decided to do something about it!”
From there Kenneth began to delve more deeply into fitness, racking up certifications and training in (RYT200 in yoga instruction, CrossFit athlete, and Barre Exercise Master Trainer ) – but most recently, the Thai national sort of became obsessed with handstands.
We spoke to Kenneth to learn more about his fitness journey and current obsession with getting upside down.
Thanks for joining us today Kenneth! Tell us about your handstand journey. How did it begin?
While spending two months in the summer in Los Angeles, California, visiting my dad and taking dance classes, I passed by Cirque School of LA and thought I would give it a try as they had so many classes you could train. I ended up choosing the handstand class. In the other classes, you were trained to understand the tricks and the equipment you worked with. For handstand, the only equipment you work with is your own body. For me to understand how the human body works is fascinating! On the plus side, the handstand doesn’t require any equipment. You pretty much can train yourself everywhere.
In 2018, I joined a handstand workshop in Koh Pha-ngan, Thailand. I met and made friends with so many people who would like to be able to balance on their hands just like me. The hand balancer who held the workshop said, “Your work starts after you leave the course,” and that really resonated with me!
Six days of the handstand workshop – I came home in Bangkok with lots of tools, drills, and knowledge on how to balance on my hands. But I didn’t have a solid handstand yet. I had to start work. I started training my handstands 365 days since and that was my goal to reach that year!
That is pretty remarkable! How does handstanding fit into your normal fitness program? What are the benefits to handstanding?
Handstand requires so much control, and to be able to control you have to have certain upper body strength. To have upper body strength, you have to understand your body well and how you can train it. So I use so many types of exercise in my fitness program to gain such strength, combined with the handstand technique I learnt.
The great benefits of a handstand for me are not only the strength I gained, especially in my upper body, but also body awareness that I am so aware of mindfully. I can apply such awareness with anything, my life included! And of course, being upside down is fun! Being able to handstand is awesome, especially for your Instagram photo, right?
I know the feeling! Tell us about @handstandthailand. What motivated you to start this IG account?
I suck at taking photos standing still, for me that’s awkward! When I take photos, it has to be either dancing poses, yoga poses, or a handstand pose. And since I have so many handstand photos, I wanted to have a platform for storage so I could remember where I have taken them.
So I started the account to gather all my handstand photos in one gallery. And due to Covid-19, with border lockdowns, you can’t travel to places outside of Thailand, so I decided to travel within my own country and witnessed such amazing places my country could offer. The name @handstandthailand was perfect and it rhymes, too. I can’t believe no one took that name when I started the account!
Tell us about how you were able to go from being super inactive to super active. What changed?
Being overweight, with knee pain and it was an unpleasant condition that I wasn’t happy about. But I’m going to be absolutely honest here. Being an overweight gay man is so hard. I could hardly find a date. You are also being judged by other fit gay men. As a gay man I am probably more sensitive about other guys judgement.
When I first put on my dance shoes and went to dancing class, I enjoyed every moment in that class and came home with a good feeling. I went to bed and said “Right, I’m going to quit my desk job, and pursue dancing – and if I could make dancing my career, I would never have to feel like working ever again in my life.”
I have been physically so active, trying to make a smooth transition in my career path and it has led me actively to earn titles like being a fitness and yoga instructor and handstand coach.
That’s really inspiring. So… change of subject. What type of guys are you into? Haha!
Hmmm, I live in my own little world and I love my independent lifestyle. I do love my routine and would freak out a bit if the pattern breaks so I’m into the gay guy who is willing to understand that aspect of me and be cool with it. I consider myself an understanding and supportive person and so I am looking for the same.
And of course, he may not need to handstand, but he has to have a certain way of an active lifestyle and taking good care of himself physically because to me guys who take care of themselves are attractive.
Oh, and yes!! He has to love hugs, cuddling, and kissing. A good kisser is a plus!