I would be surprised to meet even a single writer who had never struggled with a creative block. We find ourselves blocked for any number of reasons. One of the biggest ones people struggle with is balancing their creativity with the rest of their lives. When you’re tired from your day job and/or taking care of your family, sometimes, it feels like there’s no energy left for your writing. Others report that struggles with self-confidence hold them back from diving into their projects. Physical and mental health issues can also take a toll on your creativity. And of course, there’s the classic burnout. I’ve been struggling with that since finishing my MFA in May.
Fortunately, I have my yoga practice, which helps me weather all the difficulties of life, including creative blocks. Below are the 12 ways my practice sustains me when my creativity feels depleted.
1. Asana frees my mind. Sometimes, when my head and my heart feel depleted, the best thing for me is to move. Whether I’m on my mat at home, or taking a group class, getting in tune with breath and body leaves me feeling energized and inspired.
2. Pranayama is my ultimate attitude and energy adjustment. Admittedly, I took a few years to come around to meditation. In an earlier phase of my practice, I didn’t understand the value of being able to watch and shape the breath. Now, it’s the non-negotiable part of my practice. While ideally I have time for asana, pranayama, and meditation every day, sometimes that just doesn’t work out (especially if I’m traveling). No matter what, though, I made time for pranayama. There are so many practices that can help you prepare to write. Need an energy boost? Try breath of fire. Feeling too stressed to focus? Try 1:2 breathing. Feeling out of balance? Nadi shodhana will help you get settled. Plus, most of them can be done anywhere. If I’m stressed in traffic, you can bet I’m doing 1:2 breathing in my car.
3. Meditation settles my mind. When I’m busy, my energy can feel so scattered that I can’t focus on my project. Sitting down to meditate helps still my churning thoughts. Once I can calm the mind, I can get to work.
4. Savasana helps me let go. Never skip savasana after an asana practice! I used to resist savasana because lying still was difficult and boring. I was restless, and I didn’t want to bother sitting still. But taking rest after asana and/or pranayama serves as a nice buffer between practice and what’s coming next. Learning to rest helps me let go of any judgements or impressions I have about my practice. It allows me to move into my creativity in a mindful way.
5. Yoga nidra helps me tap into my creative consciousness. Some of my most fruitful creative revelations happened while practicing yoga nidra. When I was deep in the practice, they would simply appear in front of my eyes, as though I was receiving a message from a higher source.
6. Philosophy helps me approach my work in meaningful ways. Maybe I’m stuck because I’m clinging to a project that no longer serves me. Maybe I’m stuck because I’m jealous of other poets’ achievements, and thus stealing from my own contentment and happiness. When taking time to study yoga philosophy, I always find fresh ways to apply the concepts to my work.
7. Sanskrit brings out the poet in me. Three weeks ago, I started taking Sanskrit 101 on the Yogic Studies platform. In Week 1, we learned a great deal about the history and spiritual underpinnings of the language, and I got a better understanding of just how poetic Sanskrit really is. Chanting mantra in Sanskrit is to me like reciting a tiny poem to myself, in order to receive clarity and wisdom. Sanskrit really is a language for poets.
8. Teaching is a great creative outlet. Okay, not everyone agrees with this. Different personalities respond in different ways. For me, teaching is an energizing and inspiring experience. After I’ve led a class or mini-retreat, I’m ready to delve into my own stuff. Plus, putting together class plans, blog posts, and email content definitely uses my creativity. Teaching is a good reminder that even though I might not be up to working on my manuscript right now, I’m still putting my creative energy to good use.
9. Yoga has helped me quell creativity-destroying behaviors. I won’t lie; I enjoy a good glass of wine. But getting drunk tanks my creativity, and a hangover doesn’t help. Being foolish with my finances results in anxiety about paying the bills, and anxiety is the number-one creativity destroyer for me. Through yoga, I’ve learned to temper many of my worst tendencies. Of course, I still slip up from time to time. I’m still human. But yoga has absolutely encouraged me to make self-honoring choices rather than self-destructive ones.
10. My yoga family is a huge source of inspiration. I have made some incredible friends through yoga classes and my teacher training. Even though we don’t all live close by, we still talk regularly. My yoga family consists of some of the most supportive people I’ve ever met. The inspiration I get from interpersonal connection is some of the best fuel for my creative drive.
11. Yoga reminds me that I’m never done learning. My practice reminds me that there’s no being complacent. Yoga is a deep tradition, and there’s always something new to learn once I’ve acquired a good understanding of the current material. The same goes with writing. I’m happy with where I’m at as a poet right now; there’s also way more I can learn, new topics to explore, new techniques to play with. My yoga practice will always evolve, and so will my writing practice.
12. Yoga pants are comfortable. I mean… who doesn’t want to be completely comfortable when they’re in the throes of creation? Just sayin’…