Practice (Not Posture) Makes Perfect


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.


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.