I've been practicing yoga on and off since I was 12 years old, but when I really, deeply started to get into it, it was during my Master's degree in English Literature. See, I can be a bit of a workaholic, and yoga gave me a loophole for taking a break from my work to practice. It was this: Yoga made me smarter, more focused, and more efficient. Not only was the work done faster, it was better. It was more creative, more expansive, and more fun to do. I found creative ways to write the most technical essays, and I understood the poetry on levels that I hadn't before thought possible. Yoga time folded so neatly into work time that I never had to feel guilty for taking time off writing to practice!
Unfortunately for my academic career, I found the yoga so fascinating that it swept me up, and now instead of teaching student conferences on literary theory, I get groups of people together to move and flow and listen to poetry and write and sometimes even cry. In a nice way, though.
Actually, in a pretty magical way. This past weekend, I taught another Creative Flow workshop (at Highgate YYOGA) where we explore the intersections between yoga and creativity through writing.
We go on a journey that starts with a good soak in poetry. These two poems, for example, set the tone for our practice:
After listening to some gems like these, we flow through a dynamic vinyasa practice and a deep meditative Yin practice designed to spark creative centers in the body, and then we write. It is amazing what people who never in a million years thought they could write anything can come up with. Even people who have been writing regularly for a long time were "blown away" by what they wrote with when they put the yoga and writing together. One person said he felt like his body was actually writing rather than his mind.
Which it was. Magical, right?
Well, not exactly. There is a science to it. One aspect of why Creative Flow works is that when we practice yoga, we change our brain chemistry. We move from the Beta brain wave state, which is a fast moving rhythm that is excellent for multitasking, to Alpha brain wave state, a much slower, deeper rhythm. This is the state that a painter is in when he is painting, or a poet when she is writing, or a dancer who is dancing. It's a state of deep focus and creativity, where you almost can't hear anything else going on around you. Sometimes it even happens in the shower: We suddenly 'wake up' and wonder how long we've been under the water, and can't remember what we've been doing.
From a yogic perspective, we have two main energy centers, or chakras, that govern our creativity. These are Vishuddha, the throat center (expression, honesty) and Svadisthana, the sacral chakra (creation of life and ideas, pleasure, fantasy, and desire). This weekend we went deep into the hiding places of Svadisthana. We opened up the hips, low back, and abdomen and listened carefully for the whispers of this area's inspiration, sweetness, desire, and pleasure, as well as its inevitable and more difficult shadows: the shame, guilt, grief, traumas, anger, and anything else we've pushed down into the hips that we haven't wanted or been able to deal with.
Those of you that practice yoga probably have already experienced the release of emotions that can sometimes arise through practice. A deep hip opener like Pigeon pose is notorious for its emotional effects, and last week I wrote a post about the anger and frustration that hides in the core that can often manifest as anger at your teacher (that's me!).
The amazing thing about Creative Flow is that this energy and emotion that gets stirred up has a place to go: the page. We can direct all our anger, fear, frustration, guilt, desire, and brutal honesty to a page no one has to see but us. Coming out of a very intense pose during this workshop whose subtitle was "Love Letters," I told the class to go ahead and write me a hate letter if they wanted to. Rage and fear and other unmanageable inchoate emotions can feel so much clearer and more in control when we can simply write them down. One of my students who practices this with me regularly told me she always finally understands how she's really feeling when she writes it down in class. Emotions don't really live in the analytical mind, so when we approach them from a non-analytical, creative, intuitive place this way, they make a LOT more sense.
So here's your homework, if this concept interests you: Bring a journal to your next yoga class. Right before savasana or after the class closing, spend one to five minutes writing anything that comes to mind (or hand) in your journal. Just make sure you let the teacher know what you are doing beforehand so she doesn't think you are taking notes on her! Don't worry about it being anything brilliant, just let out whatever needs to come out. You might surprise yourself.
And if you want to try this with me in a more intensive fashion, I'm bringing these workshops to Maya Whole Health in Renton, near Seattle, on February 24th and 25th. More information on that here: https://clients.mindbodyonline.com/ASP/home.asp?studioid=801 and https://www.facebook.com/events/210208929072653/. My website, www.jcpeters.ca, will also be updated when future workshops come up.