I discovered yoga in New York's Catskill Mountains. I was on spiritual retreat, and my room was stark and white. Like my roommate. The dorms were single-sex and the beds too hard for anyone but a holy man. I survived on upma (a porridge made with grain, shakti and a lot of grace) and a tea called Celestial Seasonings. I didn't achieve spiritual enlightenment - just a bloated, gassy feeling.
The food and drink was my abiding memory of yoga. Now that Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow have made the whole yoga business sexy again, I thought I should try and look a bit deeper. Triyoga, a new centre in north-west London, is the place to start. It offers 6,500sq ft of light open space - and 25 different forms of therapy.
You don't need to do yoga, though. Just plump up a cushion and relax in the small juice bar area. Then read the paper and listen to Earth Spirit, the new album by Nakai.
At Triyoga you can get "phoenix rising therapy", "zero balancing" and "manual lymph drainage". But not a decent cup of tea. I'm sure the Kukicha did me good. The Echinachea and Goldenseal is homeopathic in its benefits. And the Yogi Classic is positively Ayurvedic. Apparently, Deepak Chopra likes a cup of a morning. Probably washes away the taste of last night's urine. But unless you are a herbal-tea aficionado (there are, apparently, such people in Primrose Hill) stick with the water. Not too cold, mind - that takes energy to warm it up. Which is wasteful. Om...
Yogis like to think about food as they eat it. They listen to it, and picture its environment before it got to them. So pudding isn't really an option - the custard would be cold by the time they got round to it. The food at Triyoga - from brown-rice crackers to organic cookies no bigger than a button - is as virtuous as the drink. Even though the staff accept that the healthy, life-affirming path of veganism and raw foods is not for everyone, they haven't put meat on the menu. Which is well done. The Wallaby Fruit Bars, by the way, contain no wallaby.
I expected my fellows to be dysfunctional flower children, but Triyoga is popular with ordinary-looking people. "In America, everyone does yoga," says Tina Gaudoin, the tranquil being who opened Triyoga. "It doesn't have to be twentysomethings in thongs. And because Britain closely mirrors America, I knew it would catch on here. Plus, people are realising the endorphin high from the gym is short. The effects of yoga are cumulative and long-lasting."
But that still doesn't excuse the tea.
Triyoga, 6 Erskine Road, Primrose Hill, London NW3, 0171-483 3344.
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