On Wednesday 26 February 2014 I went to a well-established London centre affiliated to one of the better known yoga persuasions.

I am 72 years of age with a right hip re-surfacing and neurological (spinal) problems which I indicated on my first visit to the centre with Kati my wife on 17 February. The class I joined on the 26th was only my third since I was in my early thirties and the first at this centre, although until surgery 7 years ago I had a long run of Pilates classes. In each of those yoga and Pilates classes as a first step the instructor would welcome newcomers and ask about medical conditions that might affect their practice or that of other members of the class whose circumstances may have changed since they last met. The teacher on this occasion did not follow this well established procedure which fulfils one element of their duty of care towards class members.

My difficulties with her were in three poses leading up to the dislocation. In the first, I explained that I couldn’t sit back on my heels because of significant pain due to neurological and hip problems. This drew the response from the teacher “where have you been for the last 20 years? If you had come here you wouldn’t have all these problems now.” This was unprofessional and personally insensitive.

On the second position. involving ropes, when I received further exhortation to get closer to the desired position and I replied that I was doing my best, the teacher added “I don’t think so.”

The third position with which I had difficulties involved me lying on my back and trying to raise a leg to a vertical position. I took my right (operated) leg up to the position which I indicated as my limit before the teacher took my leg and moved it up to a point where there was a sliding crunching sensation and acute pain as my hip dislocated. She next suggested that my leg, which was by then bent in contact with the floor, should be straightened. I said that I could not move it, thought it dislocated, and the best she could do would be to seek medical help for me and pass me my bag so that I could phone my wife. The class went on around me as I waited for my wife and then we waited together for the paramedics and they prepared to load me onto the ambulance, behaviour that seemed to me socially insensitive, but did give my wife, who has wide experience of yoga, the opportunity to observe the teacher’s style of management of the class, which she found to be completely beyond her range of experience.

A group of paramedics then gave me pain relief and transported me to a nearby hospital where the orthopaedics team already knew me. I spent 48 hours there, in the course of which my hip was manipulated back into position under general anaesthetic, and I was prepared by the physiotherapists to go home. Before the operation I had a one-to-one visit from the consultant who greeted me with “so yoga can be dangerous” and wanted details. After the operation the consultant, who on this occasion was accompanied by a retinue of junior doctors, again visited me. He used the details he had learned about my case to tell his group how it chimed with his experience and distrust of yoga. At no stage of this account did the consultant make eye contact with me.

At the beginning and end of the hospital experience I did receive patient-centred care: from sensitive and professional paramedics and physiotherapists. Other than this, both at the centre and the hospital I felt like the de-humanised object of two body-processing tribes. Despite the notional ideology of yoga of being responsive to individual differences, the true purpose of the bullying teacher seemed to be about power, conformity and control. I was seen as the outlier who challenged the group by my non-achievement of the required positions. This problem couldn’t be physical, it had to be mental recalcitrance, about ‘not trying hard enough. ‘ Likewise at the hospital, the consultant was using my body and its experiences as the (very) raw material for him to entertain his team and reinforce status differentials. As for the nursing staff, they seemed simply disconnected from the wider care process, taking over 5 minutes on one occasion to respond to a call button, and not knowing one patient was diabetic, or that I had no post-operative wound.