Just Relax

28th July 2020

For a while there, I had back troubles and attended a Therapy Yoga class. I went twice a week. But I only ever liked the part where we were allowed to grab a blanket and an eye sack and lay down in Shavasana, the corpse pose.

I’m one of those people who completes the first downward dog and checks the time. So, for me, Shavasana was like the end-of-school bell.

I’m not saying I dislike yoga. I just don’t find bending my head to my knees relaxing like some people.

In fact, I’m very tight everywhere and find the discomfort tortuous which is why mid-stretch I tend to hold my breath a lot. “Just relax,” the yoga instructor would say.

If relaxing was so easy, I’d think, I wouldn’t be at yoga, would I? I could just relinquish the tension that seems to manifest in my body as steel-like rigidity.

Relaxing during discomfort is one of those spiritual oxymorons I find hard to grasp. After all, I live in a world that equates relaxing with meditating on the beach, mud baths and infinity pool cocktails. The idea that my inner life isn’t predicted on life ‘out there’ certainly seemed to turn things upside down. Could I really be at peace with a leg over the head?

I was contemplating this during Shavasana one time when a jackhammer began pounding away outside. I jolted, naturally, sitting up, my eye bag flying off. I scanned the room, expecting others to feel similarly infringed upon. But everyone else still lay peacefully, seemingly unaffected.

The instructor, a yogi veteran called Kale Leaf, ambled to the window and gently closed the shutter. “'It's not the noise that disturbs you,” he whispered to the room. “It's you that disturbs the noise.”

Jaw clenched, I dismissed Kale’s words as yogi drivel and continued to imagine punching the person behind the jackhammer.

“Close your eyes, Jayden,” Kale said. “And relax your jaw.”

After the 15-minutes of jackhammering, I drove to a bar where I caught up with my girlfriend Jay and her friends Abbey and Ambra. Abbey is a school teacher. Ambra is a designer and photographer who also works at a cafe.

At the bar, I sat on a velvet armchair next to a crackling fireplace and sipped a pale ale. Billie Holiday played softly in the background. Relieved, I sighed and sank deeper into the folds of the soft fabric. “How’s work, Ambra?” I said.

“Fine,” she said. “Everything’s just such a juggling act. At the moment, I wake up every morning to like 1000 things on my to-do list.”

“Same here” I said. “I’m trying to integrate more balance.”

“Me too. Last week I tried to add more balance by giving myself like 30 minutes of relaxing time a day,” Ambra said.

“Was that on your to-do list as well?” Jay said.

“Totally,” Ambra said. “I’d like, wash the dishes really fast”—she made frantic movements with her hands—“so I could fit in time to relax. But, in the end, I was always so wound up, I couldn’t relax anyway.”

“Why don’t you just relax while you’re washing the dishes?” Jay said.

We—Ambra, Abbey and I—laughed at that as if the suggestion was preposterous.

“What?” Jay said.

At this, I reflected on Jay’s repose at home. When completing monotonous tasks, she always does seem quite serene. I meanwhile approach chores like yoga. I just brace, which is why I lack Jay’s equanimity when I, say, make the bed in the morning. Jay’s always looks like a hotel’s. Mine looks like a shot putter has stood on the other end of the room and, in the general direction of the mattress, blindly hurled the doona.

I checked the time and sculled the rest of my wine. “I got to go,” I said and stood.

“Okay, darling,” Jay said.

I hugged Ambra and Abbey. Then I embraced Jay.

“You okay?” Jay said.

“Fine,” I said, flustered, obviously lying. I had a meeting in the morning and just remembered I forgot to take my only business shirt out of the washing machine as well as failed to reply to a client’s email. I slung my backpack over my shoulder and briskly walked out of the bar. Speeding home, I created a mental checklist. After all, if I was efficient enough, I might even have time to put the feet up before bed, and just relax.

. . .

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