Today, I am sharing a hobby of mine that turned into something more than expected. After years of practicing yoga, on and off, I’ve discovered one more benefit to keeping a regular yoga routine.
About three months ago, I picked up an old hobby of mine again. That hobby is yoga.
Boy, has it paid off.
Let me give you a little background first. A little over five years ago, I began my journey into yoga. It started as a physical pursuit, but I quickly benefited from its mental, emotional, and spiritual effects.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve practiced and felt a huge mood shift. It’s one of the most therapeutic things you can do for yourself, mentally and physically.
I practiced Ashtanga yoga very consistently several times a week for over a year. I had an at-home practice and took a few classes at a local yoga studio in downtown Kansas City, too.
After an injury, I practiced pretty sparingly for a while. I had strained a muscle in my chest, and it was uncomfortable to practice most yoga.
Eventually, though, I was able to practice again… but over time it somehow lost its appeal to me. Life happened, I was busy, and I began to practice less and less.
Fast forward to today and I have found my home again. I am on my mat 30-45 minutes a day every single morning, Monday through Friday. Some days it means a sweaty vinyasa flow, sometimes it means a slower, longer hatha routine. (And some days it is completely restorative–full of yin yoga.)
I love the routine. I love my virtual yoga teachers. I love having a beautiful space to practice in, in the comfort of my own home. It works different muscles, all over my body, and kicks my heart rate up. It even helps reduce stress. And most of all, it forces me to be present. It keeps me grounded.
Now, one unexpected thing that started happening when I began practicing again is I had this new sense of confidence. Not just in my overall life, but especially in my many creative interests. Yoga energizes the body and wakes it up. It only makes sense that it would increase creativity as well.
Yoga has helped stretch my mind, too. It’s helped me become more resilient, and the mantras I listen to during each session motivate me, even when I’m ready to give up.
It is also worth noting that when a person (an artist, a writer, even an athlete) experiences the phenomenon called “flow,” they are so consumed with what they are doing that they lose sense of their surroundings. Anyone can experience this as they become enthralled in their favorite pastime, but it is really important to find this state for those doing creative work.
These “makers” lose track of time and seem to get lost in their work for hours. Inhibitions and self-judgment fall to the wayside.
When we practice yoga, we are flexing this same muscle. We are training the mind to be fully present, in a state of mindfulness: quieting the mind, but listening closely to our inner wisdom. This is the same state as flow.
When we practice this type of awareness we’re able to ignore distractions, keeping in this state of flow as we’re working so intently on something.
Now, I didn’t go into yoga again with any intention of boosting creativity. (Actually, I just wanted to stay active more consistently.) But the universe must have had other ideas in mind…
Although I sometimes find it a struggle to balance my morning yoga routine with other important tasks, I’ve noticed that ideas come pouring out as soon as I sit down to my computer. Or pick up my camera, a fountain pen, or paint brush–whatever creative work is on the agenda for that day.
When we train our mind to be fully present throughout everyday moments it becomes second nature. It feels like waking up, being fully conscious after being so oblivious for so long. This learned skill can deeply impact how we do creative work, along with the results of our labor.
Creative pursuits take practice, a solid routine, and a bit of study to be successful. But without a quiet mind, our work can become fruitless. Just as the mind can be trained to control the breath and movement in yoga, it can be trained to quiet and listen to our inner self without judgment as we work creatively.
That mindset is sometimes all I need to sit down and practice the art of hand lettering. Or before I sit down to edit photos, or to write a blog post like this one.
To exist in our own creative world without judgment can be a powerful tool at your disposal.
Just because we are creatives and gallantly bare our souls to the world doesn’t mean it’s not uncomfortable for us… As creatives, we are not infallible: We are not free of self-doubt or the chains of imposter’s syndrome. To gain the courage to merely sit down and try some days is rocky, at best.
I think that’s why many of us could really benefit from a yoga practice. As much or as little as you need each week.
Although I went into my yoga practice looking for stress reduction and more muscle strength, I came out also with less expectations of myself. Less perfection. Less expectations on producing results. And more giving myself permission to do seemingly hard things without anticipating things going one way or another.
My yoga teacher often says during any given yoga practice, “It’s not about the pose. You don’t have to be perfect,” “If you can breathe, you can do yoga,” and “Focus on the breath and practice in the body you have today–not yesterday’s, not the body you want.”
And honestly, that’s exactly what I need to remember when I’m creating something with my own two hands, too.
Most of all, it’s about showing up, fully present–that’s the secret.
So here I am just showing up. On my mat, every day. On my blog. In my other creative interests. I’ll keep trying until it doesn’t feel right anymore. And mistakes will be made. That is inevitable…
Once we drop the judgments and all the expectations, it can open up an entire new world of acceptance and curiosity, though. It is in these quiet moments of existence that we grow the most.
John Steinbeck once wrote, in one of my favorite stories of all time, East of Eden, “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”
That truth has never resonated so clearly until now.
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