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."
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