I HAVE BEEN DOING YOGA for ten years
now and the sad fact of the matter is that, even
if I live to be 100, and can still lower myself
onto a mat without the aid of a crane and ten
gallons of WD- 40, I will never, ever, be as
good at downward facing dog as my dog.
He knows it, too, the show-off. He likes to
sidle alongside when I’m bent over like maca-
roni, trying to remember all the things I’m
meant to do—“Press your palms into the floor
and twist like you’re opening a jam jar!” “Push
your heels down!” “Breathe!”— give me a bit
of side-eye and then sink his big chest effort-
lessly to the floor, tail wagging like a fringed
banner, as if to say: “What’s the big deal?”
On the other hand, I take comfort from
the fact that he’s completely rubbish at pigeon
pose. (For the uninitiated, that’s the one where
you’ve got one leg stuck straight out behind
you, the other bent in front, and the rest of
you slumped over the top, like Meryl Streep
after she fell down six flights of stairs in Death
Yoga is funny that way. Everybody is good at
something. And terrible at something else. If
you can’t do one position, there’s an alternative
you will be able to manage.
Which is why every other woman I know
is a fan. And why I, the original dabbler , have
persevered with it for so long.
“Remember your aerobics phase?” my husband asked, when I stupidly raised the subject
of fitness regimes with him the other night.
“Jane Fonda has a lot to answer for,” he added,
with a snigger.
Indeed she does. I had
almost forgotten about
my brief flirtation with
aerobics, which I see now,
may have been the
beginning of the end
for my knees, not to
mention my dignity.
strolling through the
Botanical Gardens in
search of the hibiscus
collection in the summer of ‘ 82 would have
had a nasty shock if they chanced to glance
through the open windows of the big green
house next to the banyan trees.
Inside, they might have seen my sister
and me hopping up and down, arms waving
overhead as though shooing away a swarm of
midges, sweat pouring down our faces despite
our Olivia Newton John (“Let’s Get Physical!”) headbands.
A selection of the worst electro-synth
of the day—A Flock of Seagulls, Ultravox,
Yazoo!—would have been blaring out of the
stereo, needle skidding whenever there was a
particularly hard landing.
Then, after the inevitable knee blowout,
came my brief encounter with the exercise
bike (an affair rekindled when my children
were very small and I had roughly 90 seconds
between feeds in which to keep fit).
I have a photograph of myself, taken soon
after I was married, in our first apartment. I
am perched on the saddle of a stationary cycle,
laughing and gassing away on a phone the size
of a breeze block.
This picture tells you pretty much everything you need to know about me and exercise. Guilt drives me to embrace it. But it’s so
unbelievably boring that I must also embrace
something else, simultaneously. A book. A
phone. A triple-shot latte.
At work, where for about ten minutes I
belonged to a jogging club, I would listen to
my more dedicated friends talk about “endor-
phins” and “runners’ high” and nod sagely,
while thinking: “What the hell?”
I daresay I wasn’t running far enough. Or
fast enough. But the only high I ever experi-
enced was the one that came after I’d finished;
and I could (or so I thought) indulge with a
clear conscience. Second helping of coconut
cream pie? Bring it on!
It was a sad day when I discovered that a
half-hour workout burnt the equivalent of a
muffin top. Not my muffin top. Just one half
of a small blueberry muffin.
So now, having discarded—or outgrown—
pretty much all my other fads, I have settled
on a regime of dog-walking alternated with
yoga. One is good for my lungs and heart (not
to mention the dog); the other great for my
joints and soul.
And provided you have enough room to
roll out your mat, and windmill your arms,
you can do your yoga anywhere, in any season.
Soggy English winter. Sweltering Bermuda
summer. In a box. With a fox.
OK, the mindfulness bits are a bit…er, mad.
Not to mention that spooky third eye.
But then I remember a wet afternoon, me
stuck on the slow train from hell, late for
everything and with spontaneous combustion
ten seconds away (and counting), and how my
old yoga teacher chose that moment to get in
touch. “Try mindfulness breathing! In for five
seconds; hold for five seconds; out for five sec-onds...you’ll either faint or feel much better.”
And, incredibly, it worked.
And I remember a spring
morning at the gym, with
my sister on one side of
me and my daughter on
the other. I’m doing pi-
geon pose, and nailing
it (take that, dog!). And
Joni Mitchell’s “Little
Green” comes up on
the playlist. And I think
maybe, just maybe, I felt
Namaste with Me, Baby
That’s Life! A Letter from London | WRITTEN BY WINIFRED BLACKMORE