Stress Relief for Beginners

“Two deep breaths. Two deep breaths. Two de–”. I stop myself as my voice begins to speed up again. This is a yoga studio, no place to show off who I used to be. In my mind I stress the used to be, because if I can convince myself, I sure as hell can convince some middle aged women in a yoga class.

I smile calmly at the group of women seated around the room. Every eye is locked on me. They wait for me to make a move so that they can copy it exactly.

Dictating the actions of others is something I’ve always been quite fond of. As an auctioneer, I led crowds of people to pursue their spending habits. Making other people squander money was my own bad habit, one I’m trying to break now. They said the yoga would help. So far I’m not noticing any significant improvements.

“Alright ladies. Warrior pose, One-One-One (stop that!) more time. The therapists all said that inner monologue would stop the external dialogue from getting out of hand.

“Warrior One, can I get Two? Warrior Two-Two-Two (stop.) How ‘bout Three? Who’s got Warrior Three?”

The staring has now gone from respectful to bewildered. My voice has sped up considerably, and I’m almost shouting at them. My auctioneer side is definitely showing.

Half of the women are somewhere between Warrior Two and Three. Some, still at One, look even more confused. A few seem to have lost their balance and have toppled over completely. I’ve created a disaster out of a perfectly normal class. (Pull it together.)

“I apologize, ladies. Let’s all have a seat, close our eyes and take a few soothing deep breaths.” Looking around at the peace I’ve regained, a smile forms on the corners of my mouth.

“Good. Moving on.”

Class proceeds rather well from here, with just a few slight hiccups. (Sun salutation, with its many numbered steps trips me up several times.)

I resist the urge to point at people and loudly declare their victories. Shannon, you’re going home today with a brand new understanding of relaxation! Margie, you’ve just won a new breathing technique! Congratulations on nailing that pose, Laurie! You can take that home with you!

These thoughts I’m careful to keep to myself. We finish the class with guided meditation. My words manage to stay calm, meanwhile my thoughts race uncontrollably.

“Focus on your thoughts. Relax your mind.”

(15 seconds of silence. Can I hear 30? 30? 60 seconds, going once. Twice…)

“Now pay attention to your emotions. Accept any emotions you may be feeling.”

(Stress. Anxiety. Despair. Helplessness. Longing.)

When the class finally ends, I stay silent while the women file past me, offering them only smiles as rewards for their hard work. I’m far too afraid of a repeat of last session’s “I’ll-see-you-in-a-week-debacle”. That got out of hand quickly.