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Yoga and Creativity

What do yoga and creativity have in common?

By most accounts, you would look at both and say – nothing. One is a form of exercise, a peaceful one but not all that easy to do. The other is a way of thinking, a means of making something, or a type of mindset.

Well, I’d like to suggest we look a little deeper. And of course, you know me – If I’m asking the question, I’m probably going to find the links and show them to you.

You would be correct.

So, to confirm, I am starting to get back into yoga. And YES, it is harder than I remember it being. (Not that age has anything to do with that right?) Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual practice that originated in ancient India. It’s generally intended to build strength, improve flexibility, coordination and balance, and relax the body.

“The essential element in nurturing our creativity lies in nurturing ourselves.” Julia Cameron

Modern yoga is most commonly known as the physical exercise of doing a series of poses woven together in what is known as a “flow.” While there are several different types of yoga, each with its own characteristics, most focus on uniting body, mind, and breath as a means of adjusting our energy and consciousness.

Yoga is also used as a therapeutic tool for a lot of conditions. Mind-body research shows it to be effectiveness as a treatment for anxiety, depression, pain and all sorts of physical maladies.

Sounds a lot like what we said about creativity last week when we described creativity as a form of therapy, and a type of mindfulness or meditative-ness (is that even a word?).

It’s called a creative “practice” for a reason.

The Practice takes Practice

Now, not all types of yoga are for every type of person. Like everything, it must be adapted to your abilities. However, just like a creative practice, yoga takes – well, practice.

I remember my history with the “Downward-facing Dog” pose or Adho Mukha Svanasana. Let’s just say I looked more like a spider than a graceful upside-down V. I’d been trying to “flow” into it for months. Step back out of Forward Fold into Dog, then down to . . . ooophhh, PLOP! I had the upper body strength of a Keebler elf! But when I did finally nail it, I felt unstoppable. By achieving this one pose, especially after so much practice (and failure), I understood the link to my creative process – “practice builds success.”

This is true of writing, sewing, music, art, or any creative genre. The more you practice, the better you get. Plus, the more you experiment, trust in your process, and step out of your comfort zone, the better the result.

How Yoga helps Creativity

According to Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, the most common obstacle to creative expression, is fear. This “thief” of joy can stop us cold before we’ve even started to express our creativity.

The fear of judgement, failure, exposure, or not getting it perfect, is paralyzing for creators. Even highly acclaimed creators experience fear. They too say they suffer from anxiety when attempting “the next” novel, artwork, play, or piece of music, despite their previous successes.

A yoga practice helps alleviate stress and negative emotions. The more we restore our emotional systems and find a sense of calm, the greater our creative expression. Again, this sounds a lot like our talk from last week.

Remember that feeling of “being in flow?” Whether you’re a painter, knitter, or quilter, your creative practice can produce the feeling of being completely present, awake, and alive.

And while yoga is usually associated with the body and mind, it can also be a way of helping us tap into our creative selves.

One of the things that the yoga practices can teach us as artists is to bypass the judge and just make the thing and let the chips fall as they may.” Karen Macklin

Finding Your Creative Place

Creative expression can be truly rewarding but getting there isn’t always easy. It takes finding that place of tranquility and presence, which can be difficult in this distracted, preoccupied, and scattered world. That’s where yoga can help the creative mind, and where the two are strikingly similar. Through yoga and meditation, we learn to see, and let go of, distractions. The same can happen in your creative practice. It’s in this quiet and purposeful place that inspiration sneaks in.

Of course, inspiration will only get you to the starting gate. For that poem, blanket, painting, or musical score to come to fruition, you’ll need focus and intent. The focused state of creative flow is quite similar to that of the deeper state of concentration and oneness found in yoga.

Refining Your Practices

The key here is that we become more insightful in both a yoga and creative “practice.” In both, we are examining our thoughts, movements, and our relationship to what’s around us. Musicians may become more in tune with the subtle movements of the fingers on their instruments. Visual artists may become aware of a wider range of shapes, colors, and textures. Fiber artist may be more sensitive to the feel and smell of the fibers between their fingertips. By mindfully noticing, studying, and enjoying the fullness of the experience in our “practices,” we open up the possibility of a deeper connection with our craft.

Now, you don’t have to run out and join a yoga class. But take a few moments and think about how you can use your creative practice to become more centered and aware. Let me know in the comments what kind of mindfulness you get from your creative practice.

Join me LIVE on my Facebook page, Virginia Leigh Studio, at 3:00 pm Central every Wednesday and we’ll chat about this. I’d love to hear from you.

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