Tuesday, October 26, 2010

RE: Serenity Now! Humor about the elusive creature that is relaxation...

Serenity Now!

In our “hurry up and relax” culture we search for the elusive commodity that is serenity as though it’s our lost keys. The visual I always get is from Seinfeld when George Costanza’s father, played by Jerry Stiller, screams “Serenity Now!” in that classic episode when he is attempting to achieve a nirvanic state.

One of the last bastions of serenity is yoga. Whether it’s Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Iyengar or Kundalini, right from the get-go yoga is a real eye-opener, providing plenty of opportunities to execute physical and mental twists, all leading to personal growth. Yep. It’s all about self-reflection, self-empowerment and self-discovery in positive surroundings, making for a peaceful environment. Until new, stressed out people visit, that is.

Our Generation Y-ME guest seems much too young to have accumulated that much stress and unfettered tension in such a short period of time. It took me at least 15 years of motherhood, unsympathetic credit card companies and an even less sympathetic metabolism to amass the boatload of irritation I brought to my first yoga class.

She snaps out her mat as though it has attempted to exact bodily harm upon her, plopping down with an irritated sigh. We grizzled veterans wear Mona Lisa smiles as we continue breathing in with practiced rhythms, breathing out with good intentions. Our peaceful pond is experiencing a few rough ripples, but we’ve been here before.

As we go through our warm-ups we achieve a glow better than even an energy bill credit can provide. Despite our collective feel-good vibe, our visitor provides spirited commentary during the teachings, which is not all that usual in yoga, but then again, it’s not completely unusual either.

As a class we experience increasing centeredness subsequent to our various postures, poses and positioning, working our way toward my hands down favorite pose, Savasana, also known as corpse pose.

This is when we will be guided through our final breathing segment by our instructor, culminating in nearly eight blessed minutes of deep relaxation. I live for this state of mind. I breathe for this state of mind. I yearn for this state of mind.

There we all are in gentle repose, calmly listening to our teacher’s melodic voice intoning gentle instructions. “Lightly tense your hands, relax, go with the breath, let the floor take the rest of your tension,” when suddenly out of nowhere – okay, actually out of the mouth of the newbie – comes the jack-hammered question: “Can you turn the heater up?”

I jump up so far that, for a second, I am convinced I have achieved a spiritual state that has gifted me with levitational abilities. I can feel the whole room simultaneously lose our beloved deep relaxation as we now struggle to achieve any sort of non-agitated state that doesn’t even have to begin with the letter “r.”

Ah, the young of heart and heat. It is a weekday morning, so the group is primarily over the age of thirty, forty, (do I hear fifty?) and female. There is general, unspoken consensus that there is no such thing as a room too cool for exercise, even during the cool down phase of our session.

You can bet when the room temperature finally dips below seventy degrees we’re all feeling relieved that we will not have to strip down to our practical Hanes underwear in order to achieve Celsius comfort.

Nevertheless, our teacher calmly walks over to the central heat and boots it up, as though this was part of the routine.

In the last few minutes of our class we manage to gain back dually acceptable levels of serenity and temperature. Everyone is kind and understanding, refraining from comment and we end as always, feeling better than when we came in.

Placing our hands in prayer position over our hearts, sitting in a comfortable lotus position we silently give thanks for the accumulated yogic wisdom we’ve netted since we first skidded in, our bodies fairly screaming, “Serenity now!”

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