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Practice (Not Posture) Makes Perfect

Acro_Yoga

In last week’s post, I focused on what yoga has taught me as a writer: in short, that my practice doesn’t end when I leave the mat. (Let me also acknowledge the influence of Alexander Technique, a great bridge between yoga and daily life, to which I’ll circle back in a later post.)

Writing this post is the reminder I need to reposition myself at the edge of my seat, so as to place both feet fully on the floor, enabling me to feel my whole body as one unit.

When I feel (or imagine I feel) the energy moving up from the ground through my body and onto the page, it gives me the awareness I need to release unnecessary tension that would otherwise erode my progress or arrest it altogether.

Since I’m a fidgeter, the trick becomes to maintain awareness and release as I travel through my own spontaneous series of would-rather-be-moving-around-than-seated-writing poses.

Of course, that flow is exactly what makes the act of writing a physical practice and not a held posture.

Hangle_Dangle

Writing for Yoga Practitioners

In the past I would have thought of myself as needing a reminder to “sit up straight,” the moment-to-moment equivalent of a counter pose to slouching.

Likewise in yoga class, I wished for a mirror so I might more effectively emulate the “correctness” of my instructor’s posture in the pose of the moment and hold for the duration.

No more — the best part of getting older, knowing better!

Perhaps because it’s normally performed in solitude, and because there is no actual performance, it’s easier to recognize the internal aspects of a writing practice.

It still took me more than a decade to take that knowledge to my yoga practice, and to grasp in my teacher’s demonstration of each pose the equivalent of a writing prompt, a jumping-off point.

The most important relationship in any yoga class turns out to be not the one between my teacher and myself but the one between the different parts of the body, a relationship that differs with every pose.

When I practice Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana, for instance, a version of which appears in the above picture, it’s essential that I remain focused on the internal reality of my limbs radiating out from a strong center, the strength of which I need to maintain with sufficient flexibility, release, breath, and continually moving energy.

That directive to “turn inward,” which previously seemed vague and esoteric, now seems much more concrete: whether writing or doing yoga, I need to keep practicing in order to hear the subtle messages of my body, to extend further out from even deeper within.

The Writer’s Body

Of course, some will argue that it’s necessary for writers to turn inwards to the degree that we lose all awareness of our bodies, our surroundings, the present moment.

And they’re not wrong. There’s no reason to berate ourselves when we do experience those blissful moments of inspired oblivion — even if we’re “slouching towards Bethlehem,” as the poet said.

But how often does this really happen? (Cue: Collective sigh.)

Most of the time, physical discomfort actively hinders my efforts to access that writing samadhi.

The more I practice writing, the more I think of it as a physical act, not a way of being, but a way of moving through space, seeking to connect with readers in the way an acroyogi connects with a partner.

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Yoga for Writers

Utkatasana-Pose

Yoga has been a part of my life for more than 13 years now, but only in this last year did I begin to see how I might bring my yoga and writing practices into alignment.

Perhaps that’s one reason I’ll finally be taking a yoga teacher training this summer in DC.

In a previous post, I wrote about discovering the way five stages evoking the “classic arc” of a vinyasa yoga class also mirror the five stages presented in The Creative Compass.

The transit we make through a yoga class resembles the one we make as writers (or artists) through a project: as we move away from beginnings, we undertake the pathway to our own peaks, surmounting obstacles along the way, ultimately (read: ideally) coming at once to our journey’s conclusion and the realization that it has transformed us.

(And yes, if your yoga class doesn’t make you feel this way, then you may need to try a different one.)

Basic Writer’s Asana

First the fundamentals: Both yoga and writing ask us to spend long periods in challenging positions.

As anyone who practices yoga will tell you, however, it’s not about freezing in place but dynamic stillness, rooting into the ground and moving deeper into each stretch with every breath, sending that continuous flow of energy into an arm or body balance.

Eka_Pada_koundinyasana

To that end, yoga has something essential to teach us as writers.

Yoga asanas (or postures) can certainly be difficult but they’re designed to protect and promote our health, progressively building strength, stamina, and flexibility as we inhabit them.

Whereas our own primary desk-bound “writer’s asana” can easily and habitually turn into a spine-compressing, shoulder-rounding, leg-entangled crunch — more “oof!” than “Om.”

But all we have to do is sit up straight or use a standing desk, right?

If only it were so easy. Everything you’ve heard about “correct posture”? At the least, it bears a second look.

Come back next week for the concluding post in this two-part series: Practice (Not Posture) Makes Perfect.

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Voice, Yoga, and Creativity

Don’t you love it when it all just seems to come together?

Freeing-the-Natural-Voice-9780896762503

I spent last weekend in New York at a voice workshop with The Linklater Center.

It’s a “voice” workshop, but if you do this work, you quickly discover that it’s also much more. In the words of instructor Dianna Schoenborn:

What would happen if I took myself out of that comfort zone … of my habit, and tried to find the most economical use of my body so I have more freedom to connect to my impulses?

That’s a cornerstone of voice and movement work, but it’s also central to all creativity.

Then, on the train ride home, while reading Yoga Sequencing: Designing Transformative Yoga Classes, I came across this chart:

(Click to see larger image)

(Click to see larger image)

These five stages evoking the “Yoga Class Arc Structure” mirror the stages my dad and I explore in The Creative Compass: Dream, Draft, Develop, Refine, and Share.

Namaste to that.

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