Writing can at times be a most meditative pursuit. No, hang on; meditative is the wrong word. Writing can at times allow me some minutes – hours – of total oblivion, an experience very similar to that of being sucked into a fantastic book but the other way around. When I’m engulfed in a book, I am carried along towards an end I know nothing about. When I write, I know what the end is but have to figure out how to get there. Time ceases to exist. My surroundings dissolve. I am in a place where things happen because I decide they should (Not always; my opinionated characters insist on a say), where it is up to me whether the sun is shining or we’re in the midst of a howling blizzard.
Sometimes when I end a writing session, I am relaxed and energised, my mind is humming with contentment, my body is somewhat less enthusiastic, grumbling about far too little exercise, the fact that my chair tilts and that the intake of food for the last few hours has been far too sporadic. Other times, my brain resembles a wrung out dishtowel, and looking at everything I’ve just committed to paper (figuratively) I sigh and conclude most of it will be deleted. Tomorrow.
But hey, who ever said yoga – in whatever form – was supposed to be easy? I’ve never done yoga for any longer periods of time. The pace, the low voice of the instructor – often accompanied by a gentle smile – well, it makes all of me itch. I’m more into exercise where stuff happens all the time. A heated soccer game (although nowadays such activities tend to result in sprained knees or a snapped Achilles tendon) or a competitive class of Body Pump is more my style. Anyway; back to yoga.
A year ago my sister called me.
“Hi!” she sort of warbled.
“Hi,” I replied a bit more warily. Experience has taught me to always be on my guard when she uses that particular tone.
“I was thinking…”
Oh dear; not good at all.
“… that maybe we should try something new.”
“Oh?” I said, stretching myself for my cup of tea.
“A new form of exercise,” she clarified.
A shiver coursed through my body. My sister has through the years introduced me to boxing, to spinning, to power walking, to … I can make this list rather long. My sister is also very competitive – as am I – and therefore exercising with her is extremely strenous as I, being the eldest, have no intention of ever letting her beat me at anything. (This is probably one of those childish behaviours I should do away with, right?)
“Like what?” I asked, fearing she would suggest triathlon.
“Yoga,” she said.
“Come again?” I laughed. Stupid, stupid me.
“Bikram Yoga,” she said, and from the tone of her voice this was something she expected me to be familiar with. I waited. “It’s yoga in 40 degree heat,” she went on. “90 minutes per session.”
“40 degrees heat?” (We’re talking centigrade here. And I’m not a big fan of heat.)
“I suppose it makes your body more limber,” she said.
“Anyway, I’ve signed us up for ten introductory classes,” she said. “We start on Tuesday.” With that she hung up. I sipped my tea and wondered how on earth I was to get out of this one.
It was hell. Most of the other participants were young, slim people in very little clothes – like miniature bikinis. Me, I was wearing a long tee over knee length exercise pants. Bad choice. By the time the session was done, those two garments were so wet their weight must have tripled. Silence was mandatory, if you as much as grunted there would be someone giving you an admonishing look. And I did, because the effort of for example gripping one foot in my hands, extending this foot and leg in a ninety degree angle to other leg (on which I was balancing like a drunk stork) without losing my grip on my sweaty foot (you clasp your hands as a stirrup in which rests the foot. The idea is to arrive at a point where the leg is fully stretched out. I am certain this is a physical impossibility …) was just too much.
By the time the session ended with a whispered “Namaste” from the instructor, I was incapable of as much as moving a finger. My mind was entirely empty – out of sheer exhaustion – and the few brain cells that remained fit for fight demanded that I give them water, and give it to them fast before my organs went into failure mode. Survival instinct kicked in, I somehow got myself, mý drenched clothes and sopping wet towels out of the hot room and found some water. Then I just sat there, staring at absolutely nothing for like twenty minutes. If someone had popped by just then and promised me a million pounds if I could tell him what 2+2 is, I would have passed. I don’t think I could utter more than an “uh” at the time. The very nice, enthusiastic instructor came by to tell me I’d done really well and she was looking forward to seeing me tomorrow. Tomorrow? I glared at my sister.
“Ten consecutive classes,” she muttered.
I actually did those classes. I even did some more, but as every session was preceded by hours of anxiety and hyperventilation I decided this was not for me. Life is too short to fill it with activities that you don’t want to do.
When I need to clear my mind entirely, I take a walk. When I need to get the mental juices flowing, I jot down notes. And when my brain begs for recreation and stimulation I sit down with my computer and write. Some may call this escapism, I call it my kind of yoga!