It is October, 1990. Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico for a week. I have been coming here for 10 years with good friends, Kathie, Dena, Carla, Linda and often, others. This beautiful place, south of San Diego is familiar, comfortable. No phones in the room. No television. Lots of Rummikub playing. The world outside of here does not exist right now. Ah. . . silence, the smell of jasmine, healthy food, massage, deep pink bougainvillea, exercise, massage.
In my red and black leotard with black tights to my knees, I am sitting on a large, padded mat in an outdoor pavilion. The only enclosure is a roof overhead to protect us from the sun; the rest is open to outside. Sheri, a tall, slender young woman, maybe mid-twenties, is our instructor for stretch and relax class. I am captivated by the very thin braid that gently flows down the left side of her head, almost to her waist. She has a multi-colored cloth woven into the braid. The rest of her shiny, blond hair is straight. What a great look!
“Roll your shoulders up, breathe in. Exhale, and roll your shoulders down,” she says while walking around among the 20 or so people in the class. I feel a tiny breeze float through our space, tune in to the singing of a couple birds above us in a tree. I am glad to be here.
About 30 minutes into the 45-minute class, Sheri says she wants us to do a little experiment.
“Do you know what ‘relaxed’ is, what it feels like? Let’s all lie down on our backs. Just be comfortable with your arms at your sides.”
Very methodically, she leads us through bringing awareness to our body. “Tense up your toes. Hold. Release. Next, tense up your feet. Hold. Release.” Step by step she instructs us to move up our body, tense up each part, hold, then release. After we move up to the top of our heads, she tells us to just take time to be here, feel the moment, still, relaxed.
“If you have any remaining tension in your back, let it go. Let it go out of your body and into the mat.”
We lie still for a few minutes, with soft music playing, helping us further relax. She asks us to sit up, very slowly, taking our time.
“One last thing as we close,” Sheri says, pausing to give us time for our eyes to re-focus, for us to return to where we are in the pavilion. “We often think about ‘relaxing’ as something we want to do. We might go watch the sun set, sit by a lake and stare at the water or sit on our couch and read a book. Those are good things, but. . . relaxing is not adding something, not adding a new activity. ‘Relaxing’ is letting go of something we are already doing.”