Last week, I knew I was in trouble.
I was driving to Target when it hit. I had to fight the urge to skip my exit and broaden the trip to venture out into no man’s land.
It’s a common occurrence, that restless feeling. Snacking without hunger, lazing without sleep. An excess of caffeinated energy and an absence of motivation. It’s too early in the year to feel that tense.
Once home from my excursion, I brainstormed a list of things to take the edge off. I’ve already exhausted most methods: lighting candles, deep-cleaning my apartment, taking off for a weekend.
But there was one I held out hope for: yoga.
The benefits of yoga and other styles of meditation have been plugged for centuries. Thirty minutes of moderated breathing and stretching has been proven to lengthen attention spans, reduce blood pressure and alter the gray matter in the brain to boost memory, sense of self and empathy.
Why? Because yoga reverses your stress response. Your heart beats slower, your lungs breathe deeper and your blood flow evens out.
I did yoga regularly in high school and saw these benefits materialize. But that was high school. My stress levels were already practically underground.
Regardless, I signed up for a Wednesday night class at Yama Yoga in the Third Ward. Students are entitled to a great deal: ten days of unlimited classes for $10.
I rode my bike to the studio, and despite having left a half hour early, I arrived five minutes late to class. By the time I found the room, I was winded and flustered.
I followed my classmates’ lead and laid on the mat, staring up at the ceiling. I noticed the brick wall behind me seemed to lean forward and that my earrings felt too heavy. I was hot, nervous about riding my bike home in the dark and thinking about the bar I was to meet my friends at afterwards.
The stretches proved to be simple; it was my brain that couldn’t keep up.
Or was it keeping up too well?
Stress is a side effect of age. In high school, we went home at 3 p.m. and left our books in our lockers; in college, as much as we love it, there is no escape during those times when we don’t.
Hence the urge to forge a road trip out of a Tuesday night Target run.
Cluttered minds may be natural, but they’re curable, too. Yoga and meditation are fantastic, but be under no illusions: it takes a boatload of effort to sit on a mat without thinking.
Still, it’s an effort worth making.
At our age, and at Marquette especially, we’re constantly urged to reflect every move we make and every relationship we build. We’re taught that everything requires thought and planning, and I fully believe that.
The question is: Do we ever stop? I’d argue that we don’t as much as we should. That’s why the first 10 seconds, 10 minutes or even 10 rounds of meditation are so overwhelming. Our thoughts are uncontrollable. It’s a process just to quiet one or two.
But it’s a process we can’t skip. If we don’t clear some room in our heads, everything we store upstairs will turn yellow with age and lose meaning.
So maybe I was mistaken in going to yoga class, looking to emerge afterwards with rosy cheeks and a Zen attitude. This isn’t about staying relaxed, it’s about staying sane.
That takes more effort than holding a pose — but it pays more, too.