Recently I've been exploring new methods of self-love and relaxation as tools to help the muse. While I've always known that my muse responds best to a balance of positive and negative, it's taken me years to find a practice that helps me refresh both my mind and body. The introduction of yoga into my life has opened my mind to the possibilities.
Yoga is the practice of combining simple meditation, breath control, and specific bodily postures for the purpose of health and relaxation. It originated as a Hindu spiritual practice and ascetic discipline, but has become a popular form of exercise here in the western world. According to the American Osteopathic Association, the benefits include increased flexibility, muscle strength and toning, improved respiration, an increase in energy and vitality, improvements to metabolism, weight loss, cardio and circulatory health, improved athletic performance, and protection from injury. It also does amazing things for your mental health! It helps you manage stress through the development of coping skills, and helps you reach a more positive outlook on life.
The Power of Yoga and Writing
I've been practicing yoga multiple times a week, and it's already made such a huge difference in my creative process. When I first started, I was only focusing on the physical and mental benefits. It started with my best friend and I agreeing to take on Adriene's 30 Day Yoga Challenge on Youtube as part of our New Year's Resolutions. At the time I agreed to it, I did so because I wanted to improve my overall health and adopt a healthier lifestyle. I had no idea what changes yoga would bring about to my writing process- but boy am I glad I found out!
Before I started the 30 day challenge, I'd always had an interest in yoga. Something about the stillness of the movements and mindful focus of the practice beckoned me. I think it was the intention behind it. In order to practice it properly, you have to fully commit to being present in the moment, otherwise it doesn't work. You have to learn to filter out the noise of the outside world and connect with your authentic self. To breathe in good intentions and let the negativity of your accumulated emotions go.
Right away I was amazed to find that after just two days of sessions, I was already seeing health benefits. As someone who does a fair amount of sitting at a desk, the pressure I felt in my lower back, shoulders, and neck dissipated. I noticed a change in my mental health as well. I felt less stressed, happier, and had a better image of myself overall by day four. I felt restored by downward dog and my spirits raised by mountain pose. That lightness was reflected in the way I fell enthusiastically into writing. I could sit down and take on the challenges of my day because I felt capable.
Somehow by learning to twist and fold myself into the various poses, I had untangled the inner workings of my mind. I felt more open-minded and more accepting of my mistakes. I could inhale love and exhale words without the fear of being perfect looming over my shoulder. I learned to accept my flaws and love them. To learn that to be a beginner means to try new things regardless of whether you succeed, and to keep doing them in spite of probable failure.
As it turns out, writing and yoga aren't so different. At the core level, both promote mental wellness. For the same reasons that I commit to keeping a daily journal, I now commit to doing yoga. It helps me process the events of my day and gives me a space to vent whatever emotions are clouding my judgement. It cuts through the overwhelming clutter of daily life and quiets the noise that disrupts both my heart and my writing routine. It provides a presence of mind in the moment and gives mental clarity as the take-away. It teaches me to live with intention, so that I can write with intention.
Giving myself permission to heal, feel better, and experience my greater self is enlightening. Committing an hour of my time to the mat each day where I can come as I am and leave better refreshes my soul and rejuvenates my life's purpose- to write and write well. It teaches me discipline, dedication, patience, and gives me a safe space to try. It allows me to make mistakes and find acceptance in the journey. It strengthens my writing in turn, as I apply the same principles of dedication and mercy to myself whilst writing yet another chapter deep into the night. There is a balance that exists there. The empowerment I feel on the mat breathes life into the pen.
Just like writing, learning yoga comes with specific rules and a new vocabulary to learn. As we give meaning to the page with words, we give meaning to the poses with language. We solidify our intentions with phrases and channel energy from our souls to focus our minds. We become self-reliant with practice. Trusting our bodies to grow stronger with each session. Trusting our minds to sharpen with each page we type. We broaden the horizon of who we are by accepting what is and challenging ourselves to rise above it. We become self-reliant. When we write, we validate ourselves and our experiences. When we find acceptance we write for ourselves, thus setting ourselves free from the validation of others.
Each marks a spiritual journey. To "practice" something means that we do a specific action repeatedly. In spiritual terms it also means that in repeating said action, we are doing so without the expectation of an outcome. We do these actions because we can't help it. While meditation and prayer are deeply private, they do serve others as well as ourselves. Writing in many ways reflects that. We write deeply personal thoughts in the hopes that our feelings may be beneficial to another going through the same experience. By indulging in both, we prove that we don't have to fall prey to impulsivity or the whim of others. We don't have to act the way we always have. We are beings capable of change and that change can reverberate within the world at large.
Cleansing my mind and clarifying my writing intention is the biggest benefit I've received from doing yoga. With a mind that is clear to write whatever my heart is telling me, I am able to say the words that I truly need to say and to share the thoughts that I feel really need expressing. I can channel my emotions and use them to fuel my words with more potency. I am able to connect with the muse with greater ease and can interpret the knowledge bestowed upon me with less resistance. If you've been thinking about giving yoga a try, I say go for it! Not only will you not regret it, it can help you unlock the power of your writing muse too.