Years ago, I met a man who spent 20 years of his life studying just one small aspect of yoga – pranayama. Pranayama is what that is commonly known as breathing exercises, something you would spend 5-10 minutes doing in a typical yoga class.

But this guy has spent 20 years of his life learning just that. I have never met someone who spent 20 years just learning about breathing, so I observed him curiously. He was, as you would expect, very calm and grounded, and was not perturbed by much in life. He told me that he could tell a lot from the breath, like the state of someone’s physical and mental health.

And when he got on the mat for a physical yoga class, his practice was smooth and effortless.

Of course my practice is not like that, though I am strong and supple. I still chase my breath sometimes in a yoga class, and off the mat, I am not as calm and grounded as I would like to be. I am prone to the odd flashes of anger and irrational actions.

And why should I expect to be like this guy? He has spent 20 years of his life mastering his breath. I have spent 5-10 minutes doing that in class. See the discrepancy in our respective commitments?

You can’t put in 1p a day into your piggy bank and expect to buy a gleaming new car after a year. Similarly, you can’t work out 1 hour a week and expect a Ferrari body. This is what is is with almost everything in life…you get what you pay for. Don’t expect a free ride.

In the past couple of months, several people expressed surprise that I will be celebrating my 52nd birthday next. They asked what I do to maintain my youthful body.

And then they are genuinely surprised that for 5 days a week every week, whilst they are still tucked up in their warm beds, I get up at 5am to go running outdoors or to a yoga class, irrespective of the weather. Would you get out of bed when it is still dark outside, the temperature registering 3 degrees and it is wet outside? THAT’S the price I pay. But I love running along the river, so it is a joy for me to be out there. Not so yoga, but I make myself do it anyway to maintain the flexibility of my runner’s hamstrings.

“What if I only do 1 hour of yoga a week?” Someone asked. W-e-l-l, you get what you pay for, lor.

But to me, it is not what a woman’s body looks like. It is what she feels about herself. You could run 50kms a week and do 10 classes of yoga a week and end up with the best body, but if you don’t feel good about yourself, you would still not be happy with your body.

As it is International Women’s Week, I want to share this photograph of 59-year-old Nicola Griffiths for a JD Williams modelling campaign. Unlike many of the older models such as Christie Brinkley, Nicola does not have the ‘perfect’ body. You can see her lumps and bumps.

But doesn’t she look beautiful? For me, that is real beauty – the softness, the confidence and the pride in the body that she lives in …. so yes, having a beautiful body IS achievable, you have to commit to loving yourself first to get there.

Photo from Good Housekeeping.