Yoga teacher Emmy Cleaves has been practising yoga longer than many people have been alive.

The 85-year-old took centre stage in North Vancouver on Sunday at the Western Canadian Hatha Yoga Championship.

"It was in a jazz dance class -- it was in the 1950s and I had not heard the word of yoga and neither had anyone else," she said as she taught a class at the event.

Emmy realized she like the warm-up stretches more than the dancing. That realization led her to yoga and then, about two decades later, to Bikram's yoga, which involves 26 postures and a lot of heat.

Though the gym never really warmed up -- participants still got a workout at the events.

"I hope to be at least half her skill level by the time I get to her age," said one participant.

Emmy's age has not held her back and neither has her past. Born in Latvia in Eastern Europe, Emmy ended up in a Nazi slave labour camp during the Second World War.

"It's the struggle that makes you stronger, that makes you more competent and makes life more exciting in a way," she said.

Many years later she credited yoga with helping her recover from a debilitating brain aneurysm.

"All of those things, when I look back, made me the person that I am," she said.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Maria Weisgarber