The Flying Swami: seeking a higher state of consciousness in upstate New York

In the 1950s the ‘Flying Swami’ left India to bring yoga to the West. Half a century on, his ashrams are visited by thousands worldwide every year. Sarah Barrell gets spiritual in upstate New York.

A steaming figure stands in the sauna doorway. He is almost entirely enveloped in a cloud of hot air. I follow him back inside and pull the door shut. As the vapour clears, introductions are made and the conversation ambles from the weather (brutally cold) to yoga classes (hotly anticipated) and the view (blissful wilderness). This is not so much a sauna as an urban decompression chamber. A little over two hours after leaving Manhattan on a bus I find myself exhaling the weight of the metropolis. And I haven’t even got my yoga mat out yet.

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