Around the bend: Nine minutes just too much to ask
When my life gets really busy, I fall back on my tried-and-true coping strategies: snapping at my family and keeping my shoulders clenched up around my ears. But sometimes even those aren’t enough to make me feel better.
Recently, I went in search of some real stress relief.
With little time lately for a proper yoga class, I settled for a shortcut I found on YouTube: a 9-minute guided relaxation led by a soft-spoken European woman. I like to call her Elsa.
It’s essentially the shavasana(corpse pose) at the end of yoga class, where you focus on relaxing your body one part at a time and finish feeling rested and calm. I couldn’t wait to try it.
But each time I’d attempt it, heeding Elsa’s gently accented suggestions to release the tension in everything from my ankles to my eyelashes, I’d get interrupted and my eyelashes would tense right up. If it wasn’t the phone, it was a drop-in guest, the cats wanting to go out, or my husband, Mark, needing to know when I’d be done so he could ask me a question.
Finally, in desperation, I tried getting up before the rest of the family. Savor the irony: I would have to wake myself from a dead sleep to make time for relaxation.
The next morning at dawn, on my way to the living room floor, I passed the kitchen window and saw something silhouetted against the sky: the unmistakable outline of a goat in the middle of the lawn.
Instead of lying down in a tension-free pose and systematically de-stressing all my parts as planned, I threw on my muck boots and barn coat and spent a half-hour trying to persuade the stubborn animal to embrace life inside the fence.
By the time I got back to the house, the family was awake. But I wasn’t giving up. I took the computer and tiptoed into the bedroom. If I could hide, I might be able to sneak in my 9 minutes. I had been reduced to relaxation by stealth.
Mark headed down to the barn to do chores; our 11-year-old daughter stepped into the shower; and I assumed a corpse pose on the bedroom floor. Three minutes into the video I had relaxed most of my lower body, even the backs of my knees; I was doing great.
Just then Mark, down in the barn, turned on the hose to fill the cows’ water trough.
I knew this only because the water pressure in the house dropped to 2 ounces per minute and my daughter started shrieking, “I still have shampoo in my hair! I’m going to miss the bus!”
Feeling the backs of my knees start to tighten, I almost shut off the video. Instead, I persevered.
I tuned out the drama emanating from the bathroom and turned my thoughts inward, trying to be conscious of my body, my breathing and my muscles, releasing the tension typical in a person who has been wrangling a goat at 6 in the morning.
Then Milo, our part-wolverine former barn cat, showed up.
He wanted affection, but I was currently dealing with the inward-turning thing, focusing on Elsa’s suggestion to allow serenity to come into my arm hair.
Milo — not one to accept rejection — pounced on my wrist, biting down hard on the base of my thumb and rabbit-kicking my forearm. The element of surprise, not to mention the puncture wound, totally upset my arm hair serenity.
“Release the tension in your elbows,” Elsa said.
“I’m going to miss the bus!” my daughter yelled from the dripping shower.
“Die, wench!” Milo said (or at least implied with his teeth).
Suddenly, the pain, the noise and the pressure of trying to overcome all of it became too much. I snapped. I yelled so loud even Elsa flinched.
Hey, it was easy for her to achieve mind/body peace in her softly lit, sparsely furnished, cat-free meditation room. Let Elsa walk a mile in my yoga pants, as it were. Three days in my world, tops, and her elbows would suffer a full-blown panic attack.
I’ve heard part of achieving inner peace is acceptance. So I’ve accepted that until my life settles down I’m going to have to work on relaxing in whatever quiet moments I can find throughout the day.
At the rate I’m going I should get to the end of the video in another week or two.