Maybe you are a creative person, or are in a creative job, or perhaps you’d like to infuse your life with more creativity…but at one point or another surely you had doubts, self-questioning everything you do, or even not finished a project because ‘it’s not ready’.
You felt blocked and don’t know how to proceed. We tell ourselves that it’s part of the creative process… but it’s not and it shouldn’t be. Yoga can help boost the creative process.
What if you could use a system that can help you tap into your deeper creative states?
What if you could train yourself to gain the confidence and believe in yourself and your abilities?
What if you could reinforce the discipline and focus you need to sit and write, paint, film, photograph, play, etc, etc.?
I am not saying that yoga is the only way to boost your creativity or that Tolstoy’s work could have improved if he had a pair of Lululemon leggings. Of course not. But yoga is a very complete system that works on your body, your breath, your mind and your spirit. It is widely available to you nowadays and can help you not just as an artist, but as a human being.
Working on your body
‘Mens sana in corpore sano’ – Yeah, that’s a bit of the latin I remember from school, that’s how old I am… I studied latin. Usually translated as ‘a healthy mind in a healthy body’ this phrase is widely used to express the theory that physical exercise is an important or essential part of mental and psychological well-being. And we’ve known that since the Romans!
We also know now that exercising releases endorphins which are responsible for creating positive feelings. These positive feelings make you feel confident and optimistic, thus giving your self-esteem a boost.
Sometimes that’s all we need to start an artistic process, to shut down the negative thoughts and that small voice that tell us we can’t do something. Yoga can give you a good high dose of self-esteem and optimism!
On a more physical level, whatever your creative practice may be, most probably you spend hours perfecting your craft… and in some cases that might be seating for hours or adopting a physically challenging posture (like playing the violin, when sustained for a long period of time). That can take a toll on your body.
When there is pain or discomfort in the body, the creative process suffers.
Yoga postures improve physical well-being by building strength and increasing flexibility. For writers this might mean alleviating back and wrist pain, or building muscle in the core and upper back, and improving flexibility in the chest and shoulders.
I come from a theatre background and I wouldn’t dream of going on stage or starting a rehearsal without a series of warm up exercises, or even just playful physical games… why? Not only to ready our body and mind for the task ahead but more importantly, as we open ourselves up physically, we become more alert and receptive to creative inspiration.
Working on your breath
Pranayama, or the practice of regulating the breath, is an integral component of any complete yoga practice. I could write a whole blog only on breathing… and probably will, but for now let’s focus and some basics.
“Oxygen is crucial for our brains to function, it uses up to three times as much oxygen as our muscles do, and 20% of the total oxygen in our body. (…) Without enough oxygen, our brain cells begin to die off in as little as four minutes, and eventually will shut down. Maintaining a healthy oxygen supply is not only the key to life but also to creativity.” – https://www.standinglight.com/blog/blog/breathing-for-creativity
The breath, mind, and body are intricately linked and by controlling the breath we learn to calm the mind and body. Learning proper breathing will contribute to greater available energy, calm your nervous system, help strengthen your immunity and nourish internal organs.
Studies have shown how deep-breathing exercises increase our Alpha brain waves – the same brain waves associated with higher levels of creativity and lower levels of stress. When we encourage our breath to flow, artistic motivation follows.
Working on your mind
Meditation, another integral part of yoga, has been scientifically studied with astonishing results regarding its effects on the mind, on creativity, on productivity, etc.
There are many studies like this one from Leiden University that states:
“Certain meditation techniques can promote creative thinking, even if you have never meditated before. The study is a clear indication that you don’t need to be an experienced meditator to profit more from meditation. The findings support the belief that meditation can have a long-lasting influence on human cognition, including how we conceive new ideas.”
Did you know that The Walt Disney Company was one of the first companies to incorporate meditation into its workplace, nearly 40 years ago? The company noticed a dramatic increase in creativity after employees mediated on certain projects and ideas. If it’s good enough for Walt Disney is definitely good enough for me!
So I am not going to talk about meditation… but how we use our mind when we perform asanas.
For example, inverting the body increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which helps with mental efficiency and subsequently fosters mental clarity. Inversions can range from the ubiquitous downward dog to a handstand, so you don’t need to perform complicated or difficult poses to feel the effects of inversions. A simple standing forward fold would do.
Balancing postures challenge the mind and body to remain stable, while the internal equilibrium is tested. In order to not fall, the mind clears excess clutter to focus on the balancing pose. We learn to focus, as well as to develop patience and perseverance. And aren’t those integral ingredients in the creative process?
It has been by practicing asanas that I noticed how my discipline and focus in other areas of my life have increased… And it has been by attempting balancing postures and other challenging movement, as well as seating in meditation that I noticed an increase in my patience levels. Although I still have a long way to go for that one!
More importantly, yoga has strengthen my believe in my own abilities, I am much more inclined to get out of my comfort zone, to try new things, to explore different routes. Have I become more creative in the process? I don’t know. What I know for sure is that I feel much less stressed during the creative process!
Would you like more specific advice? To dos and actions?
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Montse Gili, founder of soyoga
Below is a photo of me working on this blog whilst traveling in Pai, North Thailand. I found little cafe with great vegan brownies to boost my own creative juices! If you’d like to know more about my journey click here
What are endorphins – https://www.healthline.com/health/endorphins
The science of breathing https://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/Breathing.html
“Meditation makes you more creative, study suggests.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 October 2014. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141028082355.htm