My body has a few miles on the clock now. It’s been lifting, walking, running, eating, dancing, snoring and playing for 69 years and remarkably, it seems good for another 69 (though that might be a tad optimistic!). I put a lot of this down to what happens in the first minutes of every day when I unroll a mat, turn on some quiet music and lose myself in a sequence of muscle-stretching, mind-relaxing positions. It wasn’t always so.
I was a mercurial child, one minute running, jumping and riding my bike and the next flat out on the sofa, my little lungs wheezing like leaky harmonium bellows. I was stuck in this cycle until a blue inhaler was put in my hand for the first time and I was no longer in thrall to the chest-clutching, throat-strangling grasp of asthma. But I knew from then on that my body needed looking after.
When I was a student in Durham a peculiar change took place over my generation. We somehow went from competitive drinking, heavy smoking, bacon butty munchers to whole food scoffing, earth befriending pseudo Buddhists. I suppose it was inevitable after the heroes of our teenage years, the holy Beatles, had embraced mysticism, that it would come our way in time.
And so yoga entered my life. As someone who always struggled with sitting cross legged as a child I didn’t see myself as a promising yogi but, as I came to see, that’s kinda the point. Despite the rise of various would-be gurus around me who claimed to be “more spiritual than thou” they couldn’t obscure the fact that yoga is for everyone.
So I picked up a few poses, absorbed the wisdom that “you’re as old as your spine”, creaked my body into mountains, warriors, planks and downward facing dogs and felt amazing.
You’d think I’d be hooked, wouldn’t you, but I was just human. A few years of drinking too much, the sleep-deprivation that comes with bringing up children and worrying about there never being enough money all got in the way but gradually I came back to the yoga mat.
Now I get up every morning, put on some lovely music and spend a happy twenty minutes trying to emulate the gracefulness of a swan, while more closely resembling an arthritic flamingo. My metal knee limits a few poses, but not many and I rise from my purple mat refreshed, awake and ready for the day.
I still ache, I still lose my balance but I still come back for more. As I hold poses my mind focuses on the moment, and the reality of the day ahead dissolves to the point where it’s just me and my body in a quiet niche of time.
A book recommendation:
If you’d like helpful guide I’m a big fan of B.K.S Iyengar’s “Light on Yoga”. Rather than a thin white woman with a perfectly sculpted body wrapped in a designer leotard he’s an old Indian man in black pants. He shows you a host of positions and explains what each one is good for.