Mona Hatoum, "Nature Morte aux Grenades"
Why was I thinking of Mona Hatoum's "Warriors Infinity"?(Toy soldiers, bronzed, lined up in the infinity shape) Why was I thinking of her crystal grenades? Her larger than life worry beads made of real sized cannon balls? I also thought of Chris Martin's ( from Cold Play) lyrics : "Soldiers you must soldier on" ( from "Dreaming of the Osaka sun"). I was in yoga class and I was struggling into a warrior pose. The remainder of the class was also a struggle. It was as though I was kneeling on hot coals.
I was fighting that was why. Fighting those thoughts away, no matter how artistic. Fighting to perform. Isn't every athletic session a performance?
Fighting to concentrate, to focus. The heat wasn't the issue. In the same way I cross a hot parking lot in june in Dubai, I try to think zen and remind myself that sweating has a cooling effect.
It was in my 30s that I learned mastered the art of focusing. I don't think I'd ever even tried before I was taught to. I walked into my favorite pilates studio five years ago with daydreams and shopping lists in my head. I have now managed to eliminate those lists and am left with fleeting thoughts (how can I not when I am told to "pick cherries" or hang in the "hammock"?) I do focus most of the time. I listen to the isntructions given rather than visually copy the instructor. I breathe : inhaling and exhaling, the way I showed my son when we reviewed the respiratory system for his biology test.
I don't make faces anymore, or show the familiar signs of strain. No drama is required in this performance. I minimize unnecessary movements, as they would only distract me. And most of all I focus on relaxing.
In between every yoga pose, we take a savasna or a rest time. This requires maximal stillness. "Scratch yourself with your mind" says the instructor. If you keep your body and mind still, you can attain relaxation.
The poses are so energetic and the contorsions so excruciating that the in between time is your one chance for recovery. I have learned to take advantage of that moment between two challenging poses, to relax, and to give in to gravity.
In my daily routine, I have also eliminated the unnecessary facial expressions, focused on the listening and especially the relaxation philosophy. At a red light, I sit back, and relax. I enjoy a musical lyric, I catch a brick of inspiration as I gaze upon an idea. The light turns green, and I return my concentration to driving safely . Between two of my kid's activities, I stop at a Starbucks with an outdated LeMonde issue and "relax" myself into a serious article. At NBar I relax between two pickups, with a manicure and a less serious magazine article.
But the most effective method of relaxation is my quasi daily morning siesta. I take it in the morning because the kids are at school. I can take it at any given time and for any duration that I choose. No sooner am I home, that I lay down on my bed, set my head on the pillow, close my eyes, relax my mind and body. And then I am Out! No reading needed, no tossing. Stillness and the certitude that sleep will follow this method of relaxation.
I could not do this before I became a bikram student. The nap does wonders, the alarm rings after the alloted time is over (ranging from 20 mins to 2 hours) and I am back on my feet, ready for the enjoyable daily challenges, albeit with variable levels of caffeine withdrawls.
The bikram yoga class in its entirety is sandwiched between two rest times: the one before the class when we enter the club with our hydrated bodies and our construed enthusiasm and the one after when we exit, our faces red and flushed, our bodies envigorated. I believe the promise of that relaxation time after class is the true motivation while we are "fighting" inside.
Nine months of "training" have come to a halt now. In Geneva, I will trade yoga mat and pilates reformer for for a pair of swimming goggles for laps and Asics sneakers for walking and cycling. It will be my two months relaxing time before I return once again to Dubai.