The more I step on my mat, the more I believe that yoga is more than just finding health. Too often I step on my mat and I feel . . . I feel like I’m making art. I’m creating something beautiful. The poses feel like paintings as I step into them; every movement like another word, another phrase, another poem. The more aware I am of my energy, the more that colors seem to swirl into the poses as well. With every practice, I make art. With every practice, I open the creative faculties of my mind.
There is, interestingly enough, science to back this up. In the book The Science of Yoga, William Broad talks about Elmer Green, a psychologist who studied “the roots of creative reverie in college students” (Broad, 201). He trained them in biofeedback as well as rhythmic breathing and progressive muscle relaxation (just like the relaxation found in Savasana). The results were fascinating; the students reported that “relaxation led to better relationships, greater concentration, more confidence, enhanced skills at organizing materials, and, in general, improvements in handling life challenges” (201). One student told a story of how he was intensely stressed about a paper that was due because he had lost focus and concentration from contracting the flu. The problem, to him, felt insurmountable. However, he still went to his research session and took the time to relax. As he did so, “his mind drifted through all the material. Suddenly, ‘everything just seemed to fall together’” (201). All of these conclusions were positive for Elmer Green; he concluded that “artists . . . have no monopoly on imaginative solutions. The problems of living are ‘also amenable to insight, intuition, and creativity’” (202). This means, essentially, that yoga gives us a great capacity to clear our minds, which leads to greater concentrated creativity. When we take the time to slow down, our brains make more connections.
The more I practice, the more creative I feel. As my feet ground in the poses and my limbs stretch, strengthen, and reach, my mind breathes. And as it breathes, it is free to make connections in the background as I continue to make space. Focusing my mind on the connection it has to my body—its muscles, ligaments, bones, skin, etc.—is another outlet for creativity. When I am more connected to my own body and how it feels, I am more able to describe, paint, act, and imagine how others feel, giving my art more resonation, more power. Yoga makes for a more creatively focused brain.
My own personal brand of creativity has always been writing. Words are everything to me. Some people’s brains see pictures, or colors, or images. Mine sees words. It names things. When my brain runs through scenarios or I need to talk to myself, I see the words scrolling across a screen in my brain. Words are my life. I can, of course, see images as well; but they are almost always accompanied by words. This can get overwhelming—and when I’m particularly stressed, words seem to envelop me. I’ve been debilitated by language, by vernacular, many times. But yoga quiets these words. When I step on my mat and start breathing with purpose, my brain gets quiet. It’s amazing. When I’m deep inside of myself and my body, the words swirling around me slowly disappear. I become present. My mind starts to bring in patterns as it slows down, and when I leave—I’m quiet. My brain has repurposed the overwhelming and things are clearer. The words in my mind are more focused. Because of this, my writing has improved. The words I type or put on paper all have a purpose. Patterns are more elegant as well as concentrated. My words are better because I’m better.
Practice yoga. When you do with purpose, with intention, creativity flows. Have faith and practice. I promise that as you do, things will get clearer.