Life Well Lived wants to know about my favorite relaxation techniques for this week's expert's panel discussion. I had to laugh when the invitation arrived in my inbox.
Relaxation and I have an interesting - some would say antagonistic - relationship. No one who knew me before I got shot could have imagined that I would be capable of lying still on a couch for 12 weeks. No one. You didn't even have to know me. You could have watched me from afar and made the same deduction: this is not person who sits still.
My mother-in-law, the world's most wonderful mother-in-law whose example I aim to follow scrupulously, Nannie, called it sucrrying. "Just listen to her scurrying around up there," she'd smile at TBG as she listened to my feet racing down the hall from the bathroom to Auntie Em's bedroom in which I sought refuge, thanking G'ma for insisting that I bring a bathrobe along on my first visit to his parents' house. I carried her grocery bags with alacrity. I fidgeted on her white leather couch as they chatted and watched television and enjoyed one another's company.
In my house, prolonged periods of intra-familial contact inevitably ended up with someone crying, someone astonished, someone perplexed. We mitigated those outcomes with activities - folding laundry sufficed, in a pinch - designed to distract us from the fact that we were sharing space with one another. Just sitting around with the tv for background noise, speaking of everything and nothing, relaxing..... this was something new for me.
Over the years, I've never had time to relax; there was always something to do. I never thought I deserved to relax; there was always something to do. It took an epiphany in yoga one morning to make me realize that the something to do might be to relax.
I gave it a try. I made that 8:30am Friday morning class a priority. It was written on my calendar, along with the dentist appointments and Happy Ladies' Club Luncheons. It was a committment. For one hour, with five or ten minutes of grace on each end, I was focused on being present in the moment. There was nothing else to do.
It was wonderful, inhaling and exhaling and, when I noticed my mind wandering from the breath, bringing myself back to my intention. For that first focused year, my intention was radiant health. That's all. I said it to myself as I settled into my resting position and again as I arose from savasana.
It's called corpse pose for a reason - the idea is to surrender to the earth, to let go, to relax. I resisted that notion for many, many years. I'd rest, but I would still be alert to the world around me, wondering what I'd do next. Yoga was energetic for me and I had a very hard time letting go of that mindset.
But I was focused on a new mindset that year, so I tried ... well, that was my first mistake. You can't really try to relax. It's like sleep.... a place to which you can't really go. No matter how hard you try, if sleep is not meant to be, sleep will not come. You can't meet it half way... without narcotics, anyway.... and you can't coerce it to come to you. Once I figured out that relaxation was as elusive as my REM cycles, I stopped worrying about it. I brought an eye pillow to class and I made sure I had my cover-up over my chest and shoulders before I settled into the pose.
I never slept. I was exceptionally present. In an emergency, I'd have been the first one to the front door. But the part of me that was more than limbic system, the part that was vigilant and inquisitive, that part was focused inward.... and all that was in there was my breath... moving in and out as my lungs expanded and contracted.
I was relaxed.
It carried over into my real life, too. I began to be able to sit quietly. Years ago, in a fit of pique while waiting in line at a Marin market, I resolved to explore the concept of patience. Becoming patient was too difficult to imagine let alone embrace; understanding how one arrived at that result was something I could consider. It's been nearly a decade since then; with relaxation I began to notice the rumblings in my belly as my anxiety grew as the fools in front of me couldn't manage to get their check book out of her purse with his help.... breathe..... in .... and.... out.... with that lovely pause in between when you're just .... relaxed.
It's a little bit touchy feely for MTF, I know. I feel her cringing, wondering what kind of belated birthday present this mention of her in The Burrow might me, but it's true.
Oh, Life Well Lived wants to know what kind of benefits I reaped from using a focused yoga practise to learn to relax in a year of radiant health.
I was never sick. Not a sniffle, not a cough, not a migraine nor even a headache, not a rash or gastrointestinal distress. Not one.
If you are so moved, there's a contest over at Life Well Lived. Yeah, yeah, I know... you hate contests they'll sell your email it's a waste of time but I have to tell you, BlogHer will respect your privacy, make it easy to enter and I actually won a Kindle Fire last December when I wrote a comment to enter.
Perhaps The Burrow is on a roll? You'll never know unless you try. Click here for your chance to win!