x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Supple moves

This has been such a rushed trip to India that I didn't have time to do more than a couple of surya namaskars for exercise each day.

This has been such a rushed trip to India that I didn't have time to do more than a couple of surya namaskars for exercise each day. Surya namaskar - or salutation to the sun - is a grouping of 12 yoga poses that flow in dynamic succession. Each yogic tradition has its own way of doing the salutations, and I like to think of my personal sequence as a flow yoga creation. I lose count and bumble my way through but it's very earnest.

If you don't count schlepping around a 10 kilo baby on my hip and dragging a suitcase, I didn't get much exercise other than those morning nods to the sun. I stayed in Delhi with the most decorated mountain climber in India, Colonel "Bull" Kumar, who nowadays divides his time between organising the Indian ice hockey team and running an adventure company. He was deputy leader of the first Indian expedition to scale Mount Everest in 1965, and lost all the toes on one foot to frostbite in an ascent of Kanchenjunga in 1977. When asked what he would consider the most amazing adventure, he once said he'd like to parachute to the top of Mount Everest, ski down to the Ganges river, go whitewater rafting to the sea, scuba dive in the ocean, then sail out to the Andaman Islands and disappear in the jungle.

We did go to one of his adventure camps in the state of Haryana just outside of Delhi, and I clambered up the ropes course briefly. I even roped him and his wife into taking a walk with me to look at the migrating birds on Damdama Lake right next to their camp. As villagers passed us collecting firewood we were interrupted by Colonel Kumar's mobile phone and last minute instructions for the ice hockey team's imminent trip to Abu Dhabi.

Adventure is another word for exercise, just the fun version. They both produce similar physiological responses in the short term - accelerated pulse, breathing, and breaking a sweat. But in the modern era it is possible to go on an adventure without personal exertion, so you don't get the long term benefits of exercise. And in that case, it's a good thing to have an old standby: the surya namaskar. The internet is full of videos and pictures of the asanas that typically make up a sequence, and once you learn the pattern you can tailor it to your personal style. If you can't do 12 repetitions (I can't), do two. In my opinion, yoga is generally a group sport, but for this dynamic series, you don't need a partner, very much time, or a lot of space. By alternately stretching the spine backwards and forwards, it's gentle on the pulse and you'll barely break a sweat, but you'll be ready for all the day's adventures.