Ben Turshen has always led a very healthy, active life. He grew up playing lacrosse and ice hockey, studied athletic training and sports medicine in undergrad and exercise physiology in grad school and taught 2,000 classes as a SoulCycle instructor over the course of four years. But it wasn't until he started a daily meditation practice that he found relief for a lifelong struggle with insomnia, anxiety and depression.
This past spring, the former attorney opened Ben Turshen Meditation, a midtown studio that teaches clients the practice of Vedic meditation. Turshen, 34, studied under Thom Knoles, a pre-eminent teacher of Vedic knowledge, to become a qualified independent master teacher.
We spoke with Turshen, who lives in the Financial District, about Vedic meditation, its benefits and other ways he stays healthy.
You tried several practices. Why does Vedic meditation work for you?
This technique of meditation is probably one of the oldest forms of mediation around. It was designed specifically for householders. A householder is anyone who is not a monk. That person has a very busy, active mind, so this technique of meditation was specifically designed for them, and that's why it's accessible. It doesn't require any focus or concentration, it's an easy, effortless practice. And that's the difference that I found. Lots of other meditation techniques involve lots of thinking, focus or contemplation. This meditation technique takes the active thinking mind to its least excited state, to an inward, silent, consciousness experience through no effort at all.
How does it help with your anxiety, insomnia and depression?
We know that stress is a physiologic reaction to an overload of experience. And that can be pleasurable, but most of the time it's not. What happens when we mediate is the mind goes into that silent, conscious awareness. The mind settles down, and the body settles down with it. The body is going into deep, deep rest, which is the exact opposite physiological experience of stress. Vedic meditation is a daily practice. The general strategy is you practice 20 minutes in the morning before breakfast, and then you do another 20 minutes in the early evening or afternoon, before dinnertime. By having this twice daily practice of mediation, your body's going into that deep, deep rest, and it's adapting to that experience, and what that does is to help unwind the body of all the accumulated stress.
You no longer have insomnia?
This cured my insomnia literally within three days. And it takes four days to learn this. So before the course was even over was the first time in about 31/2 years that I slept without taking an Ambien. Over a period of about a year, I was able to come off all the other medications that I was taking for my anxiety and depression and ADD. I really started making big changes in my life once I started meditating.
Who generally are your clients?
My oldest student is 86, and my youngest student is 4, so I teach students from all walks of life. But I do get a lot of people who have very demanding jobs, people practicing law, in finance or the fashion industry. I teach a fair amount of professional actors and people from the creative field -- artists and photographers and videographers who are looking to expand their creative potential.
What's the course process like?
I give free introductory classes. If you're inspired to learn, then you take my course. The course is four sessions. Each session lasts about two hours and are held on four consecutive days. Once you go through that training, you have enough knowledge that you're self-sufficient in your practice. I also have weekly group meditations where people who have already learned drop in.
How could someone know if Vedic meditation is a good fit for them?
Come to an intro class, that's the best way to learn. But I always recommend to go out and try different types of meditation because they all have very different designs.
What do you do for fitness? Do you still do SoulCycle?
I haven't been on a stationary bike since I taught my last class. I might come back as a client one day, but my sport is Brazilian jiu jitsu. I started doing that 10 years ago. It's a grappling sport, and it's pretty intense. I do that two or three times a week at Clockwork Jiu Jitsu.
What are you healthy NYC go-to?
My wife has 25 food allergies -- she actually started a company called Bubble Girl Bakes, which manufactures a gluten-free, allergen-friendly baking flour -- so that has impacted the way I eat. My wife and I really love Bare Burger. They're right down by us. We eat Bare Burger a couple times a week. Hu Kitchen is our other kind of favorite place to eat. They have a paleo restaurant, so all of it's gluten-free, there's no dairy, so it's very low-allergen. All the meat is humanely raised.
What is your goal in starting your practice? Where do you want to see it go?
It's going. The courses are all filling up, and we've had a wonderful response with it. I just want to continue what I'm doing and try to bring this to as many people as I can while teaching at the highest level.