I had a teacher at junior school who led us in yoga classes rather than the usual PE activities and this practice stirred my interest.
At such a young age I didn't have the opportunity to follow things through, and as I got older football and partying became a more readily available outlet for spending my time.
A couple of years ago though, after a period of working in a job that I didn't enjoy and constantly wanting to find more meaning in life, I decided to take a trip to India. It was with a mind to discovering more about a mysterious and fascinating country but there was a part of me that wanted to make this into a spiritual quest.
I started off in Dharamsala, home of the Dalai Lama, studying Buddhism and volunteering for a local charity. Buddhism appealed to me greatly but I wanted to explore the science of Yoga and to learn more about a practice that could align mind and body while also being physically beneficial. I found meditation helpful but yoga was initially more intense in the change that it inspired in me.
It was in Rishikesh, where the Beatles famously met the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and where there are more ashrams than you can count lining the holy Ganga river, that I deepened my practice.
There are many different types of yoga available in the town, from Ashtanga "Mysore Style", cultivated from the athletic style popularised in the southern town to more sedate and energy focused "tantra yoga" taught in schools like Trika.
There is also everything else in between -Shivananda style, laughter yoga, Kundalini yoga, classes with a 101 year old master, and a multitude of teachers to meet your requirements.
The history of these styles and where yoga came from is an article in itself but I wanted to focus on a brief outline of the key tenets of the philosophy, disabuse the notion that yoga is purely about stretching and sweating and inspire people to visit this holy place and connect with the same beautiful energy.
The physical part of yoga, the poses or asana are a build up to an internalisation of conciousness. They allow the body to more easily sit in meditation for long periods and also, if you follow a tantric methodology, can energise different energy centres in themselves. They have the side effect of toning the physical body but this is not the primary function.
To really practice yoga you also have to "live right" following certain principles as described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. In relation to others these are non-harming, truth, non-stealing, continence and non-possesiveness. More deeply with regard to the individual practising it is important to observe purity, contentment, austerity, study of spiritual works and surrender to the divine. Whether you want to take a religious approach is obviously down to the individual but the principles outlined can provide useful indicators to progression.
You can also become a yogi by mastering just one of these to an extreme. Gandhi for example lived a simple life but sticking to the principle of ahimsa or non-violence. This was one of the things that made him great, allowed him to achieve so much and gave him a spiritual dimension not seen by the majority of political leaders.
This is a simplistic rendering of the teachings but simplifying your life in general is a good principle!