As a born worrier and Olympic fidget, I have spent over four decades without mastering the ability to relax. When I say relax I mean the type of relaxing which involves sitting still for hours and thinking of nothing. The trigger word for me to see red these days is “chill”, closely followed by “relax”. Telling someone who struggles to relax to do just that is like telling a short person to be taller! – impossible and bordering on an insult. I would love to be one of those who doesn’t lay awake when something is bothering them. I would love to sit and do nothing and NOT find it stressful. I would love for my chest to not always feel tight when something is troubling me.
Six months ago I achieved one and half hours of what I can only describe as magical relaxation, ethereal chilling and downright amazing feeling of nothing in the world troubling me….I found yoga. For any of my lovely American readers (I am lucky enough to have a handful!) yoga seems far more common your side of the pond, certainly in cities at least. Here in the UK it falls into mainly two types. Local sports centres where they teach it in noisy side rooms where all you can here is screaming from the public swimming pool or tiny rural village halls. I am fortunate to have found the latter a mere ten minutes from home.
Picture the scene. A small typical English village with a couple of thatched cottages, a lone telephone box, a village cricket pitch and no street lighting. An angel of a silver haired, gentle speaking yoga goddess approaching her seventh decade – and believe me yoga must keep you young as she does NOT look as if she is knocking nearly seventy! Taught in a small group of less than ten and wait for it, by candlelight! All my bumps, lumps and bad yoga positions looked so much less scary by candlelight I can assure you. Well, as long as you didn’t look behind me….the candlelight can create particularly unflattering huge shadows of one’s bulky bits on the village hall walls. I instinctively closed my eyes and thought of England, and the eyes have remained closed every Wednesday for the last six months or so.
Yoga doesn’t worry about size, age, profession, fitness, domestic situation, family, mental state. In fact in the dim lighting, amidst gentle music and the soothing tones of the silver haired angel we are all contented, equal and rested. For the first time in my life I felt I had stepped off. Work, children, in fact I do not recall anything other than a wonderful feeling of space and freedom. My body feel like it was floating during the meditation relaxation exercises. The visualisations came to me far easier than I imagined. I saw colours and wandered the imaginary paths through woodland as described by the Yogi angel.
I feared it would be very spiritual and church like. Having been raised a god fearing Catholic I haven’t ever been good at spiritual and paranoid at ‘getting it wrong’. I needn’t have worried. Another important part of this particular village group is humour. An eclectic mix of stressed professionals, retired, business owners, some battling mental health issues and then the rest of us battling our modern day demons. Learning to relax and breathe is needed by most of us for many a different reason. There is nothing like an unexpected leak of noisy air from an unsuspecting relaxed person to make an entire room roar with laughter. The candlelight protecting the modesty of the offendee, but being so terribly British no one reacts for the first ten seconds. Then the laughter begins, a Benny Hill style of juvenile tittering which can make your tummy ache. Another yogi comments she feels like she is in a Residential home for the Elderly and the room erupts with laughter. Yoga and humour really are quite a wonderful combination for making you feel grounded and happy.
I knew I was never going to be very bendy and supple but that hasn’t been an issue. The breathing and visualisation techniques have been life changing. What I need is the strict ability to practice these amazing techniques daily, routinely and almost obsessively. I return from my hour and a half of ‘stepping off’ this fast place life of ours, with great intention of repeating this evening’s bliss every day in my own home until next Wednesday but alas real life always seems to stop this.
I live in hope of my lottery numbers coming up this week and then I can employ the silver haired angel every day. I wonder though if that would be just as good? Part of me feels that the eclectic mix of attendees, the magical candlelight, the rural darkened village hall and the occasional flatulence really do add to the whole atmosphere!
Step off and relax?…only if it’s a Wednesday.