Writing and yoga have always gone hand in hand for me. Starting with the writing marathon that earned me a PhD.
Writing my dissertation led to two addictions: reading Who Weekly magazine secretly on the loo, and standing on my head.
That was back in the day, before everybody on campus did yoga. (And when reading Who Weekly was decidedly uncool).
I had this natural craving for yogic balance. I needed my weekly dose of celebrity gossip to stay centred as I trained to become an academic scholar.
At the same time I discovered that standing on my head was the most effective way to refresh my exhausted brain. I did my first headstand next to my desk, long before I did my first dog pose at a yoga studio.
Since completing the dissertation, I’ve lost the urge to read Who Weekly, but I love headstands more than ever.
I can’t imagine life without yoga and writing. It’s what keeps me centred and connected to my core.
6 reasons why every writer needs to practice yoga:
1. Yoga allows writers to abuse their bodies occasionally.
If we have a regular yoga practice, we can get away with sitting for hours hunched over a keyboard, stuffing ourselves with treats, as we agonise over the blank page. Yoga makes sure we loosen those hamstrings, open our hips and limber our stiff writers’ backs and shoulders.
2. Yoga is empowering.
Both writing and yoga are hard work. Yoga helps us understand that the effort of stretching out those hamstrings is a process. Writing is a similar process.
It is by showing up on the mat every week that I have progressed in my yoga journey. I am stronger and more flexible at 53 than I was at 28.
If only I’d flexed my creative writing muscle in the way I’ve stretched my hamstrings over the years, I could have an armful of novels to my name now.
Since 50 is officially the new 40 (thanks to yoga!), I might yet produce an armful of novels. Of course that’s highly unlikely, but I take comfort in the fact that everything is a process. If we stay with it, we will see results.
Watching my chin hit the floor in Upavistha Konasana (Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend) for the first time in 53 years, was totally empowering! It made me set more daring goals for 2017. (Splits and freestanding Forearm Balance by Christmas. Wish me luck!)
3. Yoga teaches us discipline.
To progress in our practice, we must repeat the same asanas over and over again until it becomes a sort of ritual. If you practice yoga regularly you know what I mean. That feeling when you skip a class in favour of a glass of wine. It somehow never feels right. It’s like missing a sacred ritual.
Since completing a 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training Course last year, I try to be my own teacher a few times a week. It’s much like being a freelance writer. There are days when I procrastinate until I feel sick.
On the days when I do my own yoga practice at home before I start writing, I nip the inner critic in the bud and I don’t give a toss about writer’s block.
Once I’ve moved through my daily Ashtanga sequence, it’s easier to trust the process of simply putting pen to paper. On a good day, it feels effortless to take the discipline from the mat to the page.
4. Yoga invites us to tap into our potential.
When we move through a vinyasa, we tap into the flow. Every asana is an invitation to step into the present moment, to connect with the breath and to free our creative voice.
Once we are aware of our breath, finding our writing voice is so much easier.
5. Writing and yoga are different ways of releasing blockages.
Writing is a creative exploration of the tangle inside us. Writing our stories, is a way of letting go.
Yoga makes body and mind become spacious and fluid. By stretching our muscles and aligning our bodies, yoga loosens what is being held within.
6. Yoga encourages us to be curious
In yoga we use the breath and movement to explore our bodies on a cellular level. We cultivate a deep curiosity. When we bring that curiosity from the mat to the page, we can go to a whole new place.
Do you need any more convincing that writing and yoga are perfect companion practices?
Join me in Bali for a week of mind, body, soul stretching!