ADAPT & LOVE: BEN CLARK INTERVIEW
Scrolling through IG last year, we came across Ben Clark’s Instagram account @adapttoperform where he was teaching a wheelchair adapted yoga, mobility and meditation class at the UK’s largest yoga event, OM Yoga Show. We wanted to learn more about his life, work and thoughts on LOVE.
How were you first introduced to yoga?
I did my first yoga class when I was 19 years old, before I was a wheelchair user. At the time, I was living in Australia and training as a professional swimmer. My uncle took me along as he had mentioned the benefits he had gained from it for his surfing, so I gave it a try.
This was 2009, so before Instagram and way before influencers were a thing, meaning I had little to no knowledge of what yoga was or meant. The teacher was great though, and really helped me understand the movements.
Yoga didn’t hook me straight away. I just did a handful of classes and I didn’t return to it for a number of years. When I did, however, it was a few years after becoming disabled. This time, I took a bigger interest in it. I think the challenge of adapting the movements to my new situation provided the spark of creativity and interest needed for me to take it up long term, which I have for the past 6 years now!
Last year you led a yoga class at the UK’s largest yoga show as the first person in a wheelchair. What was that experience like?
Firstly, it was fantastic to be able to be showcasing what I do to a larger audience. Often the phrase, “Yoga is for every body” is used, but with very few people actually knowing how to adapt it for people whose bodies work differently.
I love the challenge of adapting movements for various people, so I took the opportunity of being in front of an audience to explain my thought process and how we take the fundamentals of yoga and apply it to anyone in a safe, simple, and fun way.
You are the founder of an online platform, Adapt to Perform, and are a world-leading expert on adapted fitness. For someone who is not familiar with the term “adapted fitness,” how would you define it?
When it comes to adaptation, it’s all very individual. Much like water changes to the shape of its container, exercise must change to the abilities and goals of the individual. I have worked with over 100 different people with a very wide range of abilities and different desired outcomes. If I came with the same plan with no room for adjustment, I would fail them as a coach. Therefore, I would have a base plan for an individual that I can adjust and change easily on the go. At the end, the program might look completely different, but we are still achieving the goals we set out to do.
It can be easy to just focus on doing things the “right way,” but this way of thinking stops creativity and may not be suitable for the individual. When it comes to adapting a movement, I like to ask: “What is the purpose of this movement?” From there, I ask: “How can I achieve the same purpose but within the limitations of the individual?” Keep it simple, think of the fundamentals, and make it fun!
The theme of this issue is LOVE, can you share with us what you have learned about love?
Well, having recently got married, love is a big topic for myself, lately! I’ve found that the more pure the love, the easier it is. Loving my wife Alice is never a chore, and neither is eating a pizza! And with that, it’s important to recognise that some things/people we will love more than others, but that doesn’t make them less or more important. Although if Alice reads this, she’s definitely the most important 😉
Learn more: adapttoperform.co.uk