Position yourself for creative success.
This is an unapologetically fan-girly post. But I'm hoping the creative side-effects will turn you into an enthusiast too.
In my quest for a healthy mind and body (ongoing) I've done everything from pilates to pump. Yet I only really discovered the creative benefits of yoga a few years back.
My original experience of yoga was around 20 years ago at a class in south London. The teacher was a bully and I was nearly reduced to tears because I couldn't get my legs through the gap in the backrest of a stacking chair...while doing a shoulder stand.
I'll give you a moment to process that mental image. Beginner's class, y'know.
Anyway, everyone else in the class could do this human origami. They felt smug, while I felt like I'd done in every single PE class at school.
Flash-forward a few years from that trauma - and I'm now doing pilates (with nice people) to help after a hip operation and for my dodgy lower back. 'Better for me than yoga' was the advice, as yoga could be counterproductive because I'm hypermobile (ironically) - so while I can bend myself into extreme positions, it's bad news if I do. Suits me.
Then I had a mental health wobble. Things were not good. And I ended up speaking to my GP Liz, who suggested - guess what - yoga.
"Aren't I suffering enough?" was my immediate thought. But Dr Liz assured me that not all yoga involved being upside down, fused with a chair. She waxed lyrical about an online yoga course she herself had done called '30 Days of Yoga'. She assured me it would change my mind. In lots of ways.
Dr Liz is a good egg. So I Googled it and discovered the YouTube channel Yoga with Adriene.
For those of you who don't know, Adriene (Mishler) is a yoga teacher from Austin, Texas, who's been publishing at-home yoga videos since 2013 - one of which is a playlist of daily 20-30m yoga sessions, posted every January, called '30 Days of Yoga'. I gave it a go...and was hooked.
It helps that Adriene is easy to listen to, and often quirky. She sings sometimes or goes on short flights of fancy if a thought pops into her head. She's also an advocate of not needing any special gear. Turning up is the main thing. Something is better than nothing. No balancing of chairs like an upside-down seal.
"Find what feels good," as she puts it.
And what feels good about yoga are not only the direct gains of strength, flexibility, relaxation and reduced anxiety - but one of the many other benefits that emanate from there: Creativity.
Breathwork is a huge component of yoga, and I've already spoken on another blog about how breathing properly is amazing for creativity. When you add in the mindful way in which movement improves your blood flow, what seems small in terms of effort at the time begins to pay big dividends after, in ways that - for me - have been life-changing.
On one level you can get into a flow state during yoga, and often I get ideas as a result. I sometimes want to stop and grab a notepad. But I resist the temptation - it kinda messes up the conditions which lead to an idea in the first place. If the thought is good, it'll stick around.
But the more important way in which yoga facilitates creativity is far more simple. It's also rather obvious when you think about it:
By doing regular, daily yoga practise you're setting the conditions in your life to be more centred, in tune with yourself, calmer and relaxed - all the things that set you up for being a much more creative person.
That's it in a nutshell. Maybe you were expecting something more whizz-bang. Well, yoga is subtle, but it sure is powerful (affects Adriene-style Texan accent).
One yoga session won't change your life. But it might. Try it. There's even some yoga you can do in a chair should you fancy it.
But for a taste of the good stuff, check out Adriene on YouTube. Her current 30 Days of Yoga plan 'Breath' is running on her channel right now.
Come join me and many, many others on the mat. Who knows where it might take you creatively - you may even figure out how to do a shoulderstandwithlegsthroughachair move. Show me how it's done if you do.
Fan-girl postscript: I got to meet Adriene a year after I started following her channel and was able to thank her (along with 200 other adoring fans!) for what she'd done for me. I expect she gets that a lot, but it was nice to be able to show her some gratitude in person.