Thursday, January 13, 2011
A writer's life can be active: speaking at conferences, attending book signings, giving interviews. But, most of my time is spent typing at my laptop or sketching out ideas in a notebook. Long hours of this sedentary type of work causes muscle strain and headaches. It doesn't help that I also inherited migraine headaches from my mother.
When I become focused on what's going onto the page, I no longer pay attention to my posture. Without realizing it, I'm soon hunching over the keyboard, sometimes remaining in the same position for an hour or two, and even clenching my jaw. To soothe my cramped hands and alleviate the crook in my neck, I do yoga.
The practice of yoga began thousands of years ago in India. The same poses are still taught today around the globe. Gyms, fitness centers, and spas offer instructor-led classes for groups while many personal trainers now include some yoga in regimes for private clients. Novices can also teach themselves through a variety of media such as cable fitness programs, DVDs, and books.
For a decade I have maneuvered my body through poses and stretches in order to work out the muscle kinks caused by daily life. When I started writing full time six years ago, sticking to a daily yoga routine provided me with benefits beyond keeping limber and honing my balance.
Practicing yoga for one half hour a day forces me to leave the computer behind both physically and mentally. This break is part of my everyday schedule, as important to me as meeting a deadline because it has become a step in my writing process.
One of yoga's basic tenets is breath. We breathe constantly, yet seldom do we take the time to concentrate on our breath, to be in the present moment. For writers, breath can be both the literal action of inhaling and exhaling, but also the metaphorical stirring of creativity.
Sustained yoga breathing allows me to focus on what's happening at that moment without worrying about what still needs to be done or what transpired earlier. I stretch my limbs, lower my heart rate, and clear my mind. Breathing through poses with names like upward facing dog, butterfly, and warrior one, reminds me about the whimsy in life and never to underestimate the value and strength of even the smallest part of our world or my creative musings.
Since I've been doing yoga for many years I've learned to customize my practice every day. Depending on which muscles need the most attention and just how sore they are, I concentrate on specific poses and determine how long a session should last. I always end with savasana, a resting pose where I lay flat on my back and allow all of my muscles to relax and "sink into the ground," starting at the tips of my toes.
After a yoga session, I feel confident and rested. Because I am refreshed mentally and renewed physically, my creativity rises, and I look forward to sitting down to write again. I can look at my goals realistically and work on completing them one at a time, even if that involves hours at the keyboard or hours signing books at the local bookstore.
("Yoga and Writing" originally appeared at The Magic River, Nov. 2009.)
Heidi Ruby Miller is also the author of "The Surrender" in The Best of Every Day Fiction.
posted by heidi