We are stoked to introduce you to one of our UK Brand Warriors, the awesome Ben Harrison. This 29 year-old London-based yogi has come from a background of mixed martial arts and ultra-marathons and has now landed on the mat, teaching different types of yoga, including yoga for weight lifters. Ben has an exciting story to tell:
You come from a professional martial arts background…tell us more about this? How did you start competing? What is your greatest fighting achievement? Do you still compete?
I started Kung fu when I was 14 which was a really positive influence in my life, it kept me out of (serious!) trouble because I was inspired by the discipline of the shaolin monks. I started doing weird stuff like just eating bowls of plain rice and only drinking water etc... I went on to complete in around 40 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu matches -around 30 in advanced category and took a bronze medal in the nationals of Olympic Freestyle Wrestling. I later combined BJJ, wrestling with kickboxing to compete in 4 amateur MMA fights -3 wins and 1 loss. It's not so much the medals and placing that meant anything to me. I mean you can turn up and have only one fight, lose and take a silver medal. It was more the moments, like winning by knock out, catching a vertical arm bar, winning submission of the night via rolling calf crush etc... Also the importance of self growth from the discomfort of the whole experience -the training and the fight itself. In response to still competing, I had a couple BJJ matches last year and have done some boxing and kickboxing this year but no real fights on the horizon.
You have run 2 ultra-marathons, what is it that draws you to them? Which was the most challenging one you competed in and why?
In the year between fighting and really seriously practicing yoga asana I completed the UKs most popular ultra marathon: Grim Reaper 40 mile ultra and placed 12th as well as completing the Equinox 24hr. To some extent I enjoyed the Grim Reaper but the sleep deprivation on Equinox was pretty brutal. I completed the Grim Reaper after a period of consistent meditation practice and this was really useful in completing the race. As soon as my mind started to wander toward a bad place I would bring it back to the form of running and the sensation of breath over and over again. Races, fights, tasks etc only become overwhelming when we are anticipating what's next and are not performing in the present moment. What drew me to ultra marathon is the same thing that drew me to fighting. The personal growth from the experience. I have no plans at all to compete in ultra again as a result of damaging the nerves in my feet in those two races and also given that I'm not at all naturally gifted at endurance sport -more fast twitch muscle fibre, shorter leg to torso ratio and a little bit too big.
You teach Yoga for weight lifters. Please can you explain a little bit more about what this is about? Is the class particularly popular with guys?
Yeah the yoga for lifting class is popular with guys and some really strong girls too who might not have practiced yoga otherwise. The class and flows involve use of a PVC pipe to mimic a barbell and to allow for wrist mobility drills and shoulder mobility work. We look at mimicking lifting positions but also doing some work in the opposite direction i.e.: stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system rather than sympathetic and lengthening the spine rather than compressing. It was created by my buddy Dyl Salamon who's a badass yogi and crossfitter.
You are a self-confessed introvert and have said that you like to spend time reading. Which book is the book that had the biggest impact on you? Can you give us a brief synopsis of the book and the main points that you learned from it?
Different books at different times of my life. I read ‘Hagakure - Way of the Samurai’ when I was about 12 which taught me to value discipline. ‘Born to Run’ inspired me to take up ultra marathon. Eckart Tolle's ‘A New Earth’ inspired me toward meditation and yoga instead of continuing fighting, but if I could only recommend one book that everyone should read to get more out of living it's got to be ‘The Happiness Advantage’. The happiness advantage teaches how to be happier succinctly but also teaches that we all perform better when we are happy.
Finally, please leave us with some Ben Harrison words of wisdom for our followers
Be brave enough to stop doing the things that don't make you happy. Today.
To listen to the full interview with Ben, click here