Three Similarities Between the Practice of Yoga and Poetry
Before Going to the Mat or the Keyboard, Loosen Up
Yoga and writing poetry are two of the same animal. They may look different on the surface, but they both involve the same creative process. There are three important similarities that I will share: mindfulness, relaxation and being precise. But first, no matter if it's yoga or writing, loosen up the mind and body.
Yoga is more effective when you loosen up before the class. A brisk walk or a gentle stretch might be sufficient. Get the synovial fluid moving in your joints. You'll start off class being more flexible and might avoid injuries.
Writers could benefit as well. Before you write a poem, jot down some notes or journal to get yourself in the right frame of mind, the right form and the right tone. I'd also suggest a few minutes of wild writing, that is, uncensored, stream-of-conscious writing to get those brain cells firing to develop energy in your words.
A loosened body and mind can work wonders either on the mat or on the keyboard.
One: Be Mindful with your Practice
Mindfulness means being in the present moment of awareness. This awareness of the moment encompasses many things for the poet and yogi.
- Flow. The flow of poetry is like the flow of yoga. It can be gentle or rigorous, full of passion or temperate, whimsical or serious. In a good yoga or poetry practice, flow is essential.
- Breath. The breath moves the asana as it moves the written words. Allow the breath to be present, to be audible. Conscious breathing will help in giving you a singular focus.
- Being non-judgmental. Not criticizing what skill level you are at in yoga or poetry is vital for the creative process. Take one step at a time and don't worry about getting to the final destination. Being non-judgment in your yoga or poetry practice, enables you to stay positive and worry less about what others are thinking or comparing.
- Be In the present. In yoga, being in the present means being on your mat, listening to the words of the teacher, being in tune with your body, the dynamics of the yoga room and how you are breathing. In poetry, the present means experiencing the person, place or thing that you are writing about, and staying connected with it's energy and all its nuances throughout the entire poem.
- Being creative. In yoga creativity means trying a new pose or opening up the body in a deeper way. In writing poetry it could be taking a risk in expression, expanding out of the box and perhaps using a fresh perspective or angle.
Have Fun, Don't take Yourself too Seriously
Two: Be Relaxed
Being mindful of the moment may stir difficult feelings like anxiety or fear. Maybe its a new yoga teacher with a severe personality or a poetry theme that is haunting or painful. In any case, the yogi and the poet must get into a state of calm or relaxation in order to stay grounded or neutral during the process.
- Notice what is triggering your feelings. Breathe into the part of your body that is in distress or the part of you that needs to soften or relax.
- Accept what is. Know that you are imperfect, that others around you are flawed and that your poses and poems will never reach perfection. But it's okay.
- Have fun and enjoy the moment. Remind yourself that this is where I want to be.
- Meditate. Usually yoga starts off the class with a few minutes of slow, mindful breathing. If you need more, come early and close your eyes and follow your breath. Same for the poet. Set a timer for five minutes before you go to the computer. Relax your mind by following your breath and let go of nagging or stressful thoughts.
Things not to do before yoga or writing:
- Drinking an energy drink.
- Having an argument with a loved one.
- Paying your taxes.
- Eating large quantities of food that bloat your belly or food that is difficult to digest and, consequently, makes your body exhausted.
- Drinking alcohol or using drugs to make you relaxed.
Relax, Meditate and Quiet Unwanted Thoughts
Being Precise, not Perfect
Yoga and writing are two endeavors that can not be perfected. The more perfect you try to be, the more pressure you put on yourself and the less fun it becomes. On the other hand, trying to be precise with yoga and poetry can be more effective.
In yoga, being precise means trying to have the right foundation--shoulders down, feet firmly planted, squared off hips, knee over ankle and legs strong. Throughout the yoga sequence, the yogi is constantly aware of her form. She attempts to be precise by making small adjustments in her stance, in her spine and shoulders to find the right foundation for balance and relaxed breathing.
In poetry, being precise means getting the right words, the right punctuation and the right form of the poem. Like yoga, form is very important. Whether the form be in Haiku, iambic pentameter or free verse it has to fit the content. The poet completes the first draft of the poem and keeps going back to make it more precise. Precision for the poet means, more meaningful, authentic and flowing expression of an an idea.
Accept what is. Know that you are imperfect, that others around you are flawed and that your poses and poems will never reach perfection. But it's okay.
Combining the Two: Yoga and Poetry.
Inez Baranay, in her book, Sun Square Moon: Writings on Yoga and Writing, connects the relationship to the body and the written word: "The writer needs a body to perform writing. The body is a text upon which yoga writes....Writing and yoga emerge as related practices. Yoga, a text written on herself, has a discipline that a writer might employ to inquire into the writing practice."
In my poem, "I am the Warrior," I combine the elements of mindfulness, relaxation, and being precise.
I AM THE WARRIOR
I hold firm, look straight,
arms raised, chest forward,
relaxed-smile and in control.
I am the warrior
who settles in,
shoulders down, spine extends.
I don’t waver
or lose my gaze.
I am in it for the long haul,
however long I stand,
however long I hold.
I am the warrior,
peace nor fame or attention
do I demand,
but navel to spine,
feet rooted down.
I am the warrior.
This is who I am,
balanced and bold.