Yoga: Pocket Teacher by Russell Atkinson, book of a lifetime
Thursday 03 April 2014
As a child I read, voraciously and indiscriminately, anything I could lay my eyes on. When I was about 10, a new book arrived in the house – probably via my mother – a pocket-sized paperback, with an orange square on the front. In the square sat a solemn lady with bouffant hair and a purple leotard. She sat cross-legged with her hands arranged in a roof effect over her head. The title of the book was: Yoga, the subtitle: Pocket Teacher.
Hard to believe now, but yoga was a new and exotic word back then – and I was greedy for new words. Inside the book there was no further sign of the lady but instead monochrome, fuzzy (Sebold style) photographs of a dark-haired man in minute trunks performing the most amazing contortions – and wearing a string of beads. He was striking his positions on a beach – in some pictures you could just make out the sea and a distant headland or island. There seemed something romantic and mysterious about this: Where was he? Where had the lady gone? Was she teaching him? Were they married? I was riveted. And I sort of fell in love with the contorting man, fascinated particularly by the different directions in which his necklace dangled, depending on the pose.
Or Asana. Oh, there were some lovely words, Savasana, Prana-yama, Pavamuktasana – this last posture is also called the Gas Ejector, terribly rude and thrilling when you're 10. Of course, I got down to it right away and being childishly pliable was able to bend myself into more or less any shape, though my arms weren't strong enough for the impressive Kavasana or Bird Pose, which the man did, with variations, a noble expression on his face.
The instructions in the book were stern: for instance, fast for 24 hours once a week; eat many apples well masticated, and perform regular nostril washes. I haven't lived up to the standards my Pocket Teacher demanded, and am very far from being the yogini I planned to grow up into – but that little book did set me off in a habit of practice that I have followed, to varying degrees, ever since. And while I have shed many other treasured books in my journey through life, somehow that little Pocket Teacher still finds a place on my bookshelf.
Lesley Glaister's latest novel, 'Little Egypt' is published by Salt
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Woman accidentally shoots herself in the head while posing for a selfie
- 2 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
- 3 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
- 4 Female Muay Thai champion hustles coaches to give them a beating
- 5 16-year-old girl beaten and burned alive by lynch mob in Rio Bravo, Guatemala
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Gay marriage 'Bert and Ernie' cake bakery found guilty of discrimination in Northern Ireland