We are stoked to introduce our latest Brand Warrior, the awesome Ryan Nell, CEO of Levitate, one of London's fastest growing drop-in meditation centre's. Ryan bases his techniques on a pragmatic and mindful approach to meditation that you can use in everyday scenarios. Ryan trained to teach meditation at the world famous 'Unplug Meditation' in LA under the internationally recognised stress-management expert 'David G'. Surprisingly Ryan is fluent in both written and spoken Mandarin. To find out more, check out his interview with Caleb Packham below...
Ryan, tell us a little bit about your background and how did you become fluent in Mandarin?**
Sure, so I'm English - born outside London, but close to it. I had one of those slightly ‘Harry Potter’ style upbringing, boarding school and all of that. I fell in love with languages, so when it was time to go to Uni, I knew I didn't want to do French or Spanish or anything easy. I went and applied for Chinese course and ended up in Leeds and in Beijing for a year, then moved there for a few years afterwards. So yeah, so I had a whole China adventure. This is quite a long time ago now. This is 2000 to 2005, so I'm a little bit rusty.
Let's flash forward to 2019 and talk about your classes. Can you tell us what we can expect in one of your classes?
Yeah, absolutely. The people that come are anywhere from total beginners to meditation, to people who are on Headspace or the apps or have been on a retreat at some point. A lot of them just like the Savasana bit, corpse pose at the end of every yoga class you've ever been to. I think often they come expecting Savasana. If you've only ever done 5 or 10 minutes of solo meditation, then a 45 minute class is a bit scary. It's my job in the class just to break it down, to make meditation and mindfulness really, really accessible.
I'll do a little welcome, get people comfy, chat about the theme. It could be freedom, could be empowerment and stress. Then I'll guide them through meditation basics. You're on a cushion sitting up or lying down. I'm not dogmatic about that position you're in. I've got terrible posture, so I tend to sit there slumped over. The main thing is to be as comfortable as you can in your body, so allow that to settle so that you can spend a little bit of time gaining some insights into your mind and where your attention goes.
Can you tell us about the health benefits of regular mindfulness meditation?
Absolutely. Most of the benefits are linked to stress. If you're stressed out then you've got a lot of cortisol and adrenaline pumping around your body a bit too frequently. The classic fight or flight response causes your blood to thicken up. Imagine you're facing a Saber-toothed Tiger, then a whole chain reaction of things happen in your body, which are very, very helpful in the absolute immediate instant, but long-term, they are slightly ruinous. Stress has been linked to anything from cancer to heart disease to Alzheimer's, you name it. What we're aiming to do with meditation is just decrease the amount of stress in your system. Not by blocking it out, but by managing it and learning how to live with it.
What about mindset? What changes do you see in people's mindset who come to your classes regularly?
A lot of people who come to the class are struggling with one thing or another. They've lost someone or their relationship has broken down. They're really stressed at work, or between jobs. Some of them have now come to around 35 of my classes – they’ve listened to about 30 hours of me rambling away. Some just drop in for one or two classes. The ones who stick around, it's an absolute sea of change. For example, a lady was really, really nervous about giving birth and the changes to her body. We worked together during the three months leading up to her giving birth. After the birth she said "I don't think I could have done this without the amount of meditation and mindfulness that I did with you. I have a feeling that the kid's going to be calm because of it." It's one of many stories, but a nice one.
What are your future plans for Levitate? Can you see it becoming a global brand?
I would love it to become a global brand. I suppose, what I really want it to be though is sustainable. I see a lot of fitness brands blow up. You've got a lot of Silicon Valley, VC money in, and then they're not really around a few years later. I'm going for a slow burn. Initially it was just London. Now I'm expanding. I'm launching a podcast, and maybe an app. (I'll whisper that to you and the community. Tell no one.) Yes, I do have big plans. I mean the goal of Levitate is to help people, I suppose, get a better relationship with their mental health and their stress levels, perhaps become more open, balanced, and the rest of it. I think mindfulness is a really powerful tool for doing this. I don't want to keep it just within my community in London.
Are there any other brands doing this similar thing to you?
Yeah, I think there are. I look up to Headspace. I want to do something very different to them. I'm really not going to get 100 million users or customers, but there are a couple of great little studios in London. One called ‘Remind’, which is totally meditation, breath work, some gong stuff. It's beautiful. I think it's a sanctuary for people in that part of London and probably further afield. I would love to do something similar in due course.
Before we finish up, would you mind giving us some words of wisdom?
Okay, sure. Let me think. I thought I'd just go ad hoc on this one. Here's some ad hoc wisdom. If you think back to the last time you were really free, you might say to me, "Well, I'm free right now. I'm living my best life. I'm teaching yoga. I eat an avocado every morning for breakfast." I'm talking about the kind of freedom you had when you were three years. I want to help people get back to that. The thing that gets in the way is everything you've ever learned since you are an adult, your fears, your harsh inner critic. What we want to do is just start, get a slightly better sense of where we are, what's going on in our minds. I think of your mind like a field and you're a farmer. If you spend too much time in the field, then you're not really attending to the rest of your life equally. If you neglect it, the weeds are going to grow. You want some balance where you are generally happy, but also equipped for the stressful events that come along here and there. That's how you start to get towards freedom. It's not a perfect life. It's one way you adjust yourself as much as possible.
Ryan teaches at workplaces and studios across London. To find out where Ryan is teaching next, head to 'Levitate London', subscribe to his YouTube: @Levitate or check out his Instagram: @levitatelondon.
Ryan is offering a 20% discount to Warrior Addict readers, simply quote the code: ‘WARRIOR’, so why not drop in and give it a try?