During a recent treatment, my acupuncturist told me to relax my leg. He was doing a crazy manipulation. I was on my stomach and he had my leg in the air. It was like I was doing one leg of locust pose without the arms under my body. He bent my leg at the knee and told me to relax. I couldn't!!!! I tried every relaxation technique I know. The more I tried to relax, the more my hip contracted, my toes flexed, my quads bulged. "I'm trying to relax" I mumbled into the massage table with embarrassment. Being a skilled professional, the acupuncturist was kind and supportive and told me to just do the best I could.
On Fridays I teach yoga at Lucia's school. The kids are 5, 6 and 7 years old. Alexander is the youngest in the class. He's just five, having barely made the cut-off for kindergarten. The first day of class I taught the kids Savasana. I dimmed the lights, put on Deva Premal, and guided the kids into relaxation. Everyone tried. And of course they fidgeted. Even adults fidget. But Alexander was like a little rolled up sleeping bag. His eyes were clenched shut like a scary movie was playing. His little tiny palms were squeezed into fists, and his toes curled under in pre-high dive formation. Every Friday now, I try to help Alexander relax. I peel his fingers open and massage his hands. "Ow" he says. I rub his arms "Ow." And his toes "Ow". Each week he's a little better, a little more relaxed, but he struggles. It's a lot of work for Alexander to relax.
Last night at Prayer Square*, like always, we started with a five-minute silent meditation. Only five minutes. Usually I at least go through the motions-- be quiet, focused, still-- but last night, I just gave into my distractions. I yawned. I played with the pockets on my new pants, I even opened my eyes and spied on the other people a few times. But then, when the bell chimed signifying that our five minutes was over, I snapped into attention from a deep deep deeply relaxed place. I'd never been to a place like that while meditating, especially in five minutes.
There is something to this whole idea of being where we are, giving in to the experience of being okay not being okay. We are where we are and oftentimes that's not okay, or appropriate, or perfect. I spend a lot of time trying to do exactly the right thing. Put the right amount of money into savings each month, eat enough fiber, send thank you notes. Yoga for me is the time in my life when just doing what I am doing is exactly right, even if it is not exactly right. Yoga gets me to relaxation because there is no "supposed to be". Sure a practice exists. We hold to a physical form, but internally, mentally, emotionally, there is wide open space. While not always applicable in the general operating expectations of daily life, this is a good lesson. When you're all jacked up like Alexander in Savasana or me at the acupuncturist, try being okay with that. Maybe, like my unexpected surprise in Prayer Square, you'll find yourself relaxed anyway.
*Prayer Square is group of women friends I've been meeting with on a monthly basis for close to ten years. We meet monthly and have intentional conversations, sometimes about specific topics, sometimes based on what is going on in our lives.