On Sunday I participated in my first yoga session.
It was “Yoga 101” at my gym, and it was pretty awesome. It wasn’t easy, let’s get that out of the way. I was forced to face some pretty feisty physical demons along the way, namely my tight hamstrings, inability to stretch, complete lack of upper body strength, embarrassing lack of core strength, and well, a total lack of physical strength in general.
But all in all, it was a great experience and I will be doing it again soon!
There was however, a singular a moment during the session that really got me thinking.
Allow me to set the stage.
The room was warm. Soft relaxing music played over the speakers. I was at a point where I was so tired I could sleep – on the mat that I’m sure a thousand other people had sweat on just like I was.
We were lying flat on our backs, arms at our sides, palms up. It was the first “break” we were given after approximately 45 minutes of up, down, twist, up, down, up, and repeat.
We were told to relax.
I thought I was doing this well. I mean, everyone knows how to be sedentary right?
I could see the instructor out of the corner of my eyes working the room. She seemed to be helping others achieve whatever pose we were supposed to be in. I didn’t want to look directly at her because I didn’t want to be caught overthinking it. But I’ll be honest, I was totally overthinking it.
Oh GOSH. Oh GEEZE. Deep breaths! Relax.
At about this point I could tell she was putting her hands on the other students. My pulse quickened. “God, I hope she doesn’t do that to me” I thought.
Then it was my turn.
She came around the top of my head, looked down at me and said “Okay, lift your head a bit”, and I did. She then put her hands on the bottom of my neck as if to gently pull me straight, but I was having none of it.
She whispered, “relax”, and then tried again.
My body fought her. My neck stiffened as if to prove that it would not be taking orders from some highly qualified stranger.
I could sense the battle between my mind and my body. Later that day I tried to explain it to a friend. It was as if my mind was screaming, “Hey neck! Chill out you’re embarrassing us!”, and my neck was responding, “Stranger danger! Move to phase 4 security measures!”
The instructor then leaned in, cupped her hands and whisper/yelled, “RELAX”.
She tried again. Once again, my neck tightened as if to proclaim that IT was in charge around here, and that the only thing it would be doing is staying exactly where it was – hovering inches off the mat and fighting all aggressors.
She tried yet again, “Shhh. Can you just let your head hang? Don’t fight it. Relax.”. This time her tone had changed. Her brow raised. She was now asking if I had the capability to do what she was asking me to do.
Once more she said, “RELAX”. The room was now HOT. The music continued to pump soothingly into the room as if it had somehow learned sarcasm.
At that point I knew I didn’t have it in me. I knew what I had to do to end this. I said it…
She smiled, did her best to straighten me out and then moved on in that graceful way that yoga people do.
Bless her heart. I’m a difficult customer, and apparently I don’t know HOW to relax.
I lay there after she moved on to the next instinctively relaxed participant. I started counting ceiling tiles and then decided that I had a lot of work to do in terms of stress management. Because on this day I finally saw what my friends and family have perhaps known all along, and precisely why I’ll be going back for more yoga.
I literally need to learn to relax.
Image credit: “Dickinson Law Yoga Offering” by Jeremy Hess Photography – Dickinson Law Photo shoot. Licensed under CC0 via Wikimedia Commons