Elizabeth: Discovering Yoga – It’s like Writing

Seated yoga poseThis has been the year of trying new things and this past week that meant starting yoga class at the gym in my office building. As I attempted various creatively-named poses that required me to contort my limbs into positions they most definitely did not want to go, I couldn’t help but notice some parallels to writing.

What’s going on?

While the lights turned down low, the music quietly playing in the background, and the pleasant voice of the instructor were very restful, I spent a lot of that first class looking around at the other students trying to figure out exactly what I was supposed to be doing. I’d heard of downward facing dog and child’s pose, so I got those okay, but pigeon pose? Happy baby? What the heck? I felt like I should have read through Yoga for Dummies before class. Very similar to the way I felt when I first started writing and people would ask who’s your protagonist? What’s the main conflict? Are you writing in first person or third?

There’s no comparison

My instructor is strong and amazingly flexible (really – I don’t think legs are supposed to bend that way). She fluidly moves from cobra-pose to plank and then downward facing dog as if it is the simplest thing in the world. I, on the other hand, currently transition with all of the grace of a drunken bear with a Charlie-horse and just hope the lights are low enough that no one notices. While intellectually I know that it takes practice to acquire new skills and that the instructor and all the other students were beginners too at one point in time, it’s a little disheartening to see just how wide the gap is.  It’s a lot like the feeling I get when I read a book by one of my favourite authors and then go back to working on my own projects. On the positive side, after two weeks of classes, I can already see some yoga improvement, like after years of writing practice, I can see improvement there as well. I just have to remember to be careful when comparing myself to others. Although it’s nice to have a level of skill to aspire to, we’re all on our own journey and moving at our own pace. Comparisons are likely to serve no real purpose other than to take the fun out of things.

Focus, focus, focus

The beginning minutes of the yoga classes are a time of focusing on our breathing and movements so that we’re centred and present, not distracted and thinking of the thousand and one things that are waiting on the to-do list back in the office. As I talked about in my One Minute Meditation post here, I find that to be equally important in writing. Trying to write when you’re busy thinking about bills that need to be paid or what to make for dinner makes it a challenge to really get into the story. Taking the beginning minutes of a writing session to turn off distractions and focus on what you’re about to do can help turn whatever writing time you have into productive time.   Although we all seem to spend a regrettable amount of time multitasking, sometimes focusing on one thing at a time is the most rewarding answer.

So tomorrow it’s back to yoga class for me.  Now that I have an idea what the poses are, maybe I can make some progress on transitioning between them. Because whether it’s yoga or writing, no one likes a jarring transition.  You can really hurt yourself that way.

In the meantime, since learning a new skill is hard work, I think a reward, in the form of a little Dark Chocolate Guinness Cake with Baileys Cream Cheese Icing is in order. If you are a chocolate cake fan, I recommend giving it a try. It’s delicious and reminds me of the Guinness Cake I had not that long ago at the Queen of Tarts cafe in Dublin. Here’s a random testimonial, if you don’t want to take my word for it 🙂

“This cake is rich. I mean Roarke-level rich. This cake is so rich that it gets up in the morning and buys large countries or maybe small planets, just to have something to do with its pocket change.” ~ Guy on Facebook

So, what have you learned lately (or what skills have you been polishing)?

10 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Discovering Yoga – It’s like Writing

  1. First, I want to look at that cake recipe but since I’ve gained since Christmas (and trying to pull a few lbs off) I won’t. I’ll take your word for it 🙂

    As to skills: writing, writing, writing. But I’m seeing great progress since McD ended. Yeah, I’m still working on Cheyenne, but she’s evolved over the past 18 months in a good way. It’s all coming together just as your yoga skills will. And I agree wholeheartedly with not making comparisons–I can’t think of a more damaging thing to do to ourselves.

    • Kat – I’ll be happy to eat the cake on your behalf. I’m nice like that 🙂

      Glad you are able to see that your skills are progressing too. Sometimes it’s nice to step back and acknowledge that. Definitely better than making comparisons with others.

  2. I once took a yoga class at the gym in my place of employment, and I felt much the same: like the only Clydesdale in a field of gazelles. After my first class was over, the instructor congratulated me for getting through it! I wish I could say that I was collected enough to realize the parallels to my writing, but…I guess I was just too sweaty to get a grip on it. Now I’m more likely to think deep thoughts from the comfort of my sofa.

    • Kay – I do my best deep thinking from the comfort of the sofa too 🙂 Glad to know I’m not the only one that felt out of place in my first class. I guess it can only improve from here.

  3. I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying yoga! One thing I suggest is to take classes from different yogis, and find one who will gently adjust poses during class and is open to spending a few minutes discussing any pose issues you have after class.

    Maybe that can be applied to writing: find a teacher/mentor who gives guidance and helps you make adjustments as you go. Also, no matter how long you do it, yoga is always practice, never perfection. We’d do well to remember that about our writing as well :-).


    • Nancy, yes, there are three different instructors here and our gym and I’m giving them all a try. So far, the first instructor seems like the best fit for me. She was very good at providing alternatives for me to compensate for my arm that’s currently injured.

      Practice not perfection is a good thought to keep in mind. I’ll have to add that to my white-board.

    • You sound like a yogi, Nancy!

      That’s all great advice, especially the practice, not perfection part. Like Elizabeth, I’m writing that down where I can see it…daily.

  4. Oh, that’s a fantastic comparison! (-: As you hint at, reading a book about how to do it is NOT the same as actually doing it (although it might help, as long as you do the work as well as read the theory).

    My only yoga class was in summer camp when I was about 12. I loved it, and followed up by watching Lillias, Yoga and You on PBS while babysitting (-:. I go on video-yoga kicks now and then, and am always amazed at how much better I feel. And then I slip off the wagon and don’t do it for awhile.

    Very much a parallel to my writing habits, now that I stop to think about it (-:.

    • Michaeline – I remember watching Lillias Yoga on PBS too. I was enthralled by her long braid of hair more than anything else 🙂 I’m enjoying the classes so far. I’m hoping to stick with it and not wander off after something shiny in the distance, but we’ll see. I built going to the gym into a long-term habit – I have high hopes for this too.

  5. Pingback: Elizabeth: Reality Check | Eight Ladies Writing

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