Joining a swanky new yoga centre this summer has confirmed a suspicion I’d long held. That I am not one to have relaxation forced upon me by words or suggestion alone. While I have taken to fast-flowing 26-degree yoga like a lizard to a hot wall, I signed up for the wrong class today.
The plan (and I am paraphrasing wildly of course) was to help us empty our minds of all the little things that scurry around in them and as a result overcome mental obstacles to new and more worthwhile ventures. So what’s not to like?
And this while we were doing some simple but oddly unpleasant stretches or, later, doing nothing at all while lying over a bolster.
So as we sat with our torsos doubled up forward and our heads touching the floor, the instructor dropped a sandbag onto our backs. We were supposed to notice how our breathing became deeper and longer. Well not mine. Perhaps I’m alone in preferring that the sub-conscious mind (System 1) gets on with this vital function, allowing the conscious part (System 2) to deal with the stuff it’s needed for, including the to-do-list. The combination of upside-down lungs and an extra weight pressing down almost brought on a panic attack induced by Systems 1 and 2 together.
My mind will only empty if it is either first invigorated by lots of exercise that triggers whichever neurotransmitter will help me unwind, or if I am in a wide landscape that reminds me of my smallness in the world – and the insignificance of all those daft things on the to-do-list. The Little Karoo in South Africa springs to mind, but on a good day I can get the feeling at some of those National Trust properties where they own all the land up to the horizon and you can gaze at it while sipping a cup of Earl Grey and munching Victoria sponge.
But now it was to Ganesh we should turn. There were two wall-hangings of this elephant-headed Hindu deity who is supposed to help us be successful by sweeping aside negative thoughts. I couldn’t help noticing his big tummy, perhaps a result of his known penchant for sweet things – he’d probably enjoy membership of the National Trust too.
But the inaction of the class and the succession of poetic lines (of the Desiderata type) designed to clear away mental detritus only wound my mind up into a frenzy of unconnected thoughts. Wasn’t it strange that nearly all the men in my new Spanish evening class were either bald or almost bald? That, viewed from the back, my cat’s arthritic legs look more and more like a Queen Anne table. And was it the person lying next to me, or next-but-one who had nodded off and was making tiny little sounds like a snoring marmoset or someone getting over a head cold?
At least this class wasn’t as bad as another years back labelled ‘soundscape’. At that one we listened to a gong for 20 minutes and then had to lie still for the remainder of the hour. It felt like a torture imposed by a twisted headmistress at a 1950s primary school. And I’d had time to log every light switch in my house, plot a novel, and choose where the stops should be if a tram system were miraculously introduced in our town. At the end we were asked if we’d like to share our thoughts with the group. I had to resist the urge to say: “Yes, well definitely one outside Waitrose, then up to the tennis club – and we’ll make Argos just a request stop I think …”