It sounded so easy - find a yoga class, spend five minutes a day at home doing the postures every evening, but the reality is more complex. What for 5,000 years has been a little changed series of exercises to limber up, to slow your mind, to enhance your mental world, has become a series of businesses, franchising classes to teachers trained under their specific take on yoga. Two hundred thousand generations of refinement and culture have, in one generation, become a way to make money.
In the Himalaya in 1971, under the generous shade of an ancient banyan tree, each evening an old yogi with a long beard taught me haha-yoga postures. It took some weeks for the simple stretches to become second nature and I walked from that gentle yet powerful old man with a gift. Returning to London, I taught Hatha-Yoga until I ran away from people who had turned me into a guru.
Real yoga, not speeded-up exercises, comfortable little stretches nor any of the altered positions and weird concoctions rife in The West, is something special. A good teacher leads you gradually in to the postures so you never hurt or strain any part of your body. Gradually, as you learn the various movements which make up specific postures, you learn to harmonise your breath with the moves. Holding each position at specific moments is essential and if done correctly you will notice a release of tension and by the end of the lesson will float out of the room.
Emerging from commercial yoga sessions, I’ve either felt dissatisfied or stressed. Hatha Yoga is akin to Tai Chi, a meditation in movement, but involving stretching. The blood forced to flow through your organs in specific ways by the various stretches, regenerates you. Hopefully the woman we go to tomorrow will be kosher, or ‘acha’, the Hindi word for that.