There’s not many rural towns which could sustain their own yoga centre but Hebden Bridge is one of them.
Jon Pearson opened the 70sq metre yoga studio on Hangingroyd Lane in November 2009.
It is the only exclusive yoga centre in Calderdale and each of the classes run by Jon and the other teachers are packed.
Then, he was a 24 year-old corporate executive but that wasn’t satisfying him and he quit.
While living in York it was suggested he try yoga and he has never looked back.
“It was 1983 so I turned up and there was a group of women, all wearing leotards and I was there, with dreads half way down my back,” he laughed.
But that class changed his life.
“It was like my body suddenly spread out across the land.
“I took up yoga and a massive energy was unleashed,” he said.
He started running on just two hours sleep a night.
Yoga itself doesn’t just mean getting into impossible positions. Meditation is a type of yoga, says Jon, and each school of yoga offers something different.
“Ashtanga looks like a sweaty workout but it’s actually doing cardiovascular activity and promoting limberness. If you’re practising properly, you’re learning to focus your mind on different parts of the body.
“You’re learning a new breathing technique and lifting your pelvic floor as it redistributes the energy – or parna – through the body,” he said.
Jon has completed five silent Buddhist retreats which last 10 days and around 40 yoga retreats.The silent retreats teach you about yourself, he said.
“When you’re not talking to anybody, all the things you do secure your sense of identity. All that disintegrates after a few days and you’re left with what is more purely you. Some people find that very distressing or disorientating but you come to see who you are.
“We distinguish between stuff that’s out there and the things that are inside of us,” he said.
But yoga doesn’t just strengthen the body and mind, it also helps with relationships. “When you can listen to yourself, you can listen to somebody else. You’re cultivating the art of listening,” Jon said.
“You have to stretch your mind, and your body.”
But why does business boom in Hebden Bridge? According to Jon, it’s the type of people in the town.
There’s a bigger focus on ecology and health as well as many having the openness, or as he calls it, “centre of gravity” of people in bigger towns.
“People come here because the scenery is beautiful, there’s a sense of layered community that’s quite complex and people like to connect with one another and with nature – anything that is nourishing,” Jon said.
Jon fields around 10 calls or e-mails a week about people coming to try the classes. He will speak to them, discuss their needs and what they hope to get from yoga and refer them to different teachers. “There’s a type for everyone,” he said.
But it’s not all about being bendy. “You can get somebody who’s not practised very much and they’re not very limber, they’d be lucky if they can touch their knees, but if their mind is entirely focused on what’s happening in their body, that’s yoga,” he said.
“All you need is some sentience in your mind. As long as you’re aware, you might be quadreplegic and could still practise yoga. You’re learning to love ethical lifestyle, you’re learning how to focus your mind and connect.”
For more details on the centre visit www.calderdaleyoga.co.uk.