The compulsion to write
My friend and colleague, Rachel Zinman, came to visit us and deliver a workshop on Yoga Mudras this last weekend. She and I had time to practice together and we chatted away, as you do. One topic that came up related to writing, something that we both love doing.
We’re not unusual that way. What is it about writing that attracts many people to it? Is it because every person has a book in them? Is that even true?
It does seem that writing a book is a dream that lots of people think about and even have a go at. I’ve written two yoga books, Teach Yourself Yoga and The Art of Adjusting. Rachel, too, is an author. She came to Taree in July and launched her own book, Yoga for Diabetes.
I confess that I’ve been working on a memoir. I had a working title–Autobiography of a Yogini–but sadly, someone has already laid claim to that one.
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the hugely popular memoir Eat Pray Love said some interesting things about her compulsion to write a novel. She said:
A novel is stirring in me, and I haven’t had time to give it the attention it wants but everyday I talk to it: Soon I will be with you, I want you to stay, don’t let me wake up and read in the New York Times that someone else wrote you. Stay here with me, I’m coming.
The world is constantly being circled as though by gulf stream forces of ideas that want to be made manifest and they are looking for portals to come through in people. If you don’t do it, they’ll go find someone else and you’ll have to convince [the muse] that you’re serious, you have to talk to her and let her know that you’re there.
Writing has parallels with yoga practice. Do enough of it and something in you changes. It may be that your technique improves. As you stay committed to the practice, you get more life experience. This then gets poured back onto the page or into what you do on your mat.
Practising yoga and writing over a long period of time will change you, you can be sure. You may not notice it at the time but looking back, you’ll see the difference. Looking back may be three years, or more than 40 years, like me.
My blog, which was born eight years ago, has become a regular practice in writing about yoga. I’ve married my two passions. When I dived into what felt like the swirling waters of this Yoga Suits Her blog, I didn’t know if I was going to sink or swim. As it transpired, my husband, Daniel, came up with the title, Yoga Suits Her. I said, that sounds good, and added a subtitle, ‘Sharing from the Yoga Shed’. That sounded good, too.
After no time, my commitment to almost daily writing started to pull me in certain directions. I would be walking on the beach and the river stones seemed to offer up a theme for that day’s post. Or, I would be pushing a wheelbarrow full of compost in the garden and suddenly I knew what I was going to write about that night. If I had a disagreement with Daniel and it disturbed my peace of mind, that was grist for the mill.
The blog material, which started out as rural musings from an ex-city yogini, then developed into something like heart shares or soul sharing.
The benefits of writing and yoga
Doing yoga on my mat and sitting at my desk writing each day feel to me like spiritual disciplines. They are activities that help bring me home to myself. In both, I try to be as authentic as possible.
Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, has beautifully described something of my experience:
We should write because it is human nature to write. Writing claims our world. It makes it directly and specifically our own. We should write because humans are spiritual beings and writing is a powerful form of prayer and meditation, connecting us both to our own insights and to a higher and deeper level of inner guidance.
We should write because writing brings clarity and passion to the act of living. Writing is sensual, experiential, grounding. We should write because writing is good for the soul. We should write because writing yields us a body of work, a felt path through the world we live in.
I can legitimately substitute the word yoga for every time writing is used in the above quote. To me, writing and yoga carry equal value.
When I first started doing yoga, and this is true for my writing, too, it was something that I just wanted to get good at. After years of practising these two activities, I see that it’s the constant doing that is the thing. They both demand discipline and that part is always a challenge. To put it simply, they bring joy.
It is work and play together. E.M. Forster quipped, ‘How can I know what I think until I see what I write?’ Equally, I might say, ‘How do I know how I am until I do my yoga practice?’