Great writing, like great music or art, is highly physical. Well, at least for me it is.
I know I’ve written well when I feel totally and utterly physically exhausted at the end of it. Sometimes it’s the kind of exhausted you feel after one of your best ski runs or after dancing for hours at a time. At others, especially when it comes to darker scenes, it’s more like the heaviness of loss or despair.
At first this created a real problem for me. Whilst I could easily recharge my batteries and carry on writing after the first kind of exhausted, it took longer to recover from the second kind and as a result I began to avoid the darker scenes and stick to the energising ones. As I did this, I began to worry about how I would ever be able to write my difficult scenes. How could I write for longer periods when my best work was so physically draining?
It didn’t take long for the perfect solution to come to me… yoga. Please don’t switch off just yet. I’m just as surprised as you. What the hell did yoga have to do with writing?
Although I’ve only been practising yoga for less than two years, it has already made me so much more aware. I was already quite in tune with my body because I’ve always loved active sports like skiing, climbing and water sports. Yoga proved to me that my balance and flexibility were nothing like as good as I thought they were. It presented me with new physical challenges which I really enjoy.
In terms of my writing though, it is the meditative aspects of yoga that have helped me step outside of myself and see things from new perspectives. As I practised yoga more and more, I became aware of how easy it was to free my thoughts and follow them in certain poses. On several occasions I would ‘see’ that scene I’d been having problems come to life on my private screen while in savasana or shoulder stand. I also noticed that the discipline of yoga was helping me to write more regularly, even when I didn’t feel like it.
Then, just the other day, I was writing ‘that’ scene, the one I’d been avoiding for so long. This time I used my breathing to help me continue when things got tough. Writing truthfully can be very painful, but recognising the physical effects when they happen and then focussing on calming the body enabled me to write it all out in one go. As always, I was so emotionally and physically drained by it that as I stood up I felt faint. Instead of doing what I normally do, which is to sit or lie down, I forced myself to stay standing and instead focussed on ‘mountain pose’.
Mountain pose or Tadasana is one of the most basic yoga poses, and yet it is one of my favourites. As the pose strengthened me, I felt all the bad stuff float away and I began to experiment with a sequence of poses my body ’told’ me to do. Afterwards I felt elated, buzzing with energy and about as far from exhausted as I could get. I was ready to write again. And it had only taken twenty minutes!
Yoga and writing are really not that different. They both allow us to enter new worlds and dream. When practised together they allow me to truly live in the sense that the yoga is my inbreath and the writing is my out.