James Crossley: From Gladiators to AUM – my journey with yoga

James Crossley: From Gladiators to AUM
– my journey with yoga

My name is James Crossley, better known as “Hunter”, from ITV’s Hit show Gladiators. I was crowned “The Ultimate Gladiator” in the final Gladiator Vs. Gladiator showdown in 2000.

Background in strength training

I started lifting weights at 12 years old, and by the time I was 19 I had won over 15 bodybuilding titles. As an ultimate goal setter and someone who is always looking for a challenge, my life after Gladiator success drove me to compete in marathons, triathlons and Strongman competitions, where I became England’s Strongest Master and broke 2 Master’s British Powerlifting records in 2017.

Wanting to push myself further, in 2018 I broke the World Record for the ancient Dinnie Stone lift in Scotland. It was during the training for this that I realised the importance of maintaining a functional, pain free body and discovered the long-lasting and profound effects of yoga on both the mind and the body.

Dipping my toes into yoga at Sadhana

Yoga has been something I have been interested in for many years. My first encounter was during the third year of filming Gladiators. I realised I needed to be more athletic and flexible to improve my performance on some of the games, and yoga seemed the obvious choice.

Initially I did power yoga twice a week and after a few months noticed a huge difference in both my climbing ability and general athleticism. I continued this for around 6 years as a supplement to my weights and specific game training. Several years later I gave Bikram hot yoga a try at Sadhana Yoga & Wellbeing, but found it difficult to maintain a regular practice.

I think this leads to the question people always ask…


What’s the best workout in the world? – The one you stick to

You need to find a form of yoga that suits you. Just to try one type and say, “I don’t like yoga” is a little narrow minded, so experiment! For some it maybe Bikram. For me it’s Yin and Vinyasa, and I particularly like Mindful Vinyasa, which is a little slower paced. I found the range of classes at Sadhana very useful in helping me find a style that was right for me.

Consistency is key

In recent months I have done a lot of yoga, moving from 5-10 minutes stretching after a weights session, to two hours of yoga twice per week. Initially it was really tough and because of various injuries I have and just simple tightness, there are some postures I just cannot do. However there is always a substitute or regression, the teachers at Sadhana are brilliant helping you with adjustments, and props, bands and blocks really do help!

The key is consistency. If you really want to feel the benefit, you need to commit to it 2/3 times per week for a few months.

What are the benefits of yoga?

I not only feel the benefit in general day to day life, like putting on a shoe, but my range of motion has really improved. I do get a floating feeling of calmness and achievement after a class! This is great as all the other exercise I do is very gung ho, so calming the mind has a variety of benefits.

I also love the challenge of poses like Pincha. Funky Pincha and am currently pushing hard for the Handstand. These moves are really good at challenging both strength focus and balance.

Yoga is a tremendous supplementary exercise for me. I will definitely continue to bend and bind (well maybe not bind) my body to keep the muscles stretched and body flexible.