TORONTO - Ida Herbert stands with her feet wide apart, takes a deep breath, and bends her body to one side to touch her left foot, settling into a triangle pose.
Herbert is 96, an age not many reach — and she now holds the Guinness World Record as the world's oldest yoga teacher.
She has been practising the ancient discipline since the late 1940s — long before Lululemon started making workout clothing, and well before it was a trend in Western society.
"Yoga's wonderful for your body, and it's also wonderful for the interior. You can be so quiet and peaceful as you exercise," Herbert says.
"I don't think I talked about it to anyone. If I did, I would just say 'I'm going to the health club.'"
The four-foot-ten instructor wears vintage cateye glasses, has tidy white hair and looks about 25 years younger than she is.
As she does a short routine in Toronto's St. James Park clad in a navy bodysuit and tights, people pause to watch her as they pass.
Herbert attributes her good health and generally happy attitude largely to her years of practising yoga.
"It's made me very physically very flexible, and inside, it's made me look at circumstances in a peaceful way," she says. "Things won't make me quite so angry as they used to."
Herbert rises at 5:30 a.m. to perform her poses and says her day isn't quite the same if she forgoes her routine.
"I wouldn't be without it. If I do my sun salutations, and I do two or three of those in the morning, I feel so much better. I go into the kitchen and get my breakfast and I don't give a hoot," she says with a laugh.
Herbert got started practising yoga when she was at a health club in Toronto. One of the women who worked there taught her the poses — and that got her hooked.
"That started me going on the physical part, and once I acquired the physical part, I learned what I could do inside." she says. "Keep my mind quiet, and my heart would slow down, my pulse would slow down, too, and there was a genuine quietness inside and peacefulness outside."
Now, Herbert helps other women find that same peacefulness. She retired last year from teaching at the YMCA in Orillia, Ont., after 25 years. She now teaches in the Bayshore Village area, near Orillia, with classes that range from five or six up to about 17 people per class. Her students tend to be women ranging in age from their 50s up to their 80s.
"And I'm the oldest one there, of course," she says, adding she doesn't plan to stop teaching after doing it for about 30 years.
"It's very complimentary to know that you can get into the book of records," she says. "It certainly is."
ALSO: The 7 health benefits of yoga:
The movements of yoga will carve out a long, lean, strong, and confident body.
All those deep breaths reset your mind back to its natural state: calm, focused, and sharp.
All the focusing inward illuminates our behaviors and tendencies. The same habits we have on our mat are the ones we have in our lives. We see this, and we gain the freedom of choice. Who do I want to be? We get to create or re- create ourselves each day. Regular practice gives you a clear mind and the inspiration and courage to be constantly expanding and improving your life.
When your brain is "on yoga" your neurological system is brought back into balance and is conditioned to steer you naturally toward a healthy lifestyle. Our bodies are constantly rewired to make whatever we practice get easier. When we practice healthy, balanced living we get more healthy, balanced living.
When there is tension in the body and mind, your intuition gets buried and your body switches to survival mode. Your yoga practice makes space in your body physically, releases tension, and calms your mind, making room for your intuition to float to the surface and guide you.
Creative juices start to flow when your body and mind begin to release mental blocks. Creativity doesn't like to come out when there are stressors, whether from physical tension or mental cloudiness. When the stress melts away, creativity can come out to play.
Yoga is the practice of getting connected. However you choose to view your spirituality, when you practice yoga, you remember that we all are connected, here to help each other, and that we have so much potential when we are kind to others