There are two practices that are central in my life. Both of them are absorbing and perspective-bending and take me out of the every day, so that the every day feels better. One of them reminds me to be aware of every movement in my body and pattern in my thoughts as I travel through each hour. The other has a sneaky way of making everything more interesting – pushing me to look a little deeper at the seemingly mundane.
I practise yoga and I practise writing stories. And sometimes, I practise them together: flowing through some asanas, sitting quietly for a moment to still the mind, and then scribbling down any thoughts that are in my head when I open my eyes before moving through some more postures. Now, I'm leading workshops for other wordsmiths to give it a go; and this is why it works.
- Writing leads you to ask questions – a lot of them – while yoga teaches you to accept that not knowing the answer is fine.
- Short meditations dotted throughout a practice allow the breath to settle, the body to soften, and thoughts to come and go without worry. We notice what's there, and learn to be in the moment as it is.
- Emptying thoughts onto a page allows you to move on with a practice without dwelling. Working on a piece of writing can become consuming, so that if an idea comes during a yoga session, it can be hard to come back to the breath and focus. When you write it down, you don't have to worry that you might forget it forever (in which case it would, obviously, have been the best idea you ever had in your life).
- And ideas DO come. Physical yoga practice is a good place for Svadhyaya, or self study: and as we tune into what's going on in the body and mind, the way becomes clear for ideas to be untangled. It can bring about moments of clarity, and with clarity comes a little sprinkling of inspiration.
- Sometimes, stories don't work, no matter how much time you spend on them or how amazing the idea seemed in the beginning. Through yoga we learn Aparigraha, or non-possessiveness; and so it becomes easier to let a story go.