It’s coming up on 13 years since I began practicing yoga, and probably 30 since I started to write. In both cases, I’ve lapsed at times in my practice, whether it’s putting words on paper or feet on the mat. And the best advice I’ve ever gotten for both yoga and writing is the same: Go deeper.
Writing and yoga marched along parallel paths in my life for a long time, the yoga helping me burn off the stress that writing in a newsroom environment inevitably brings. It wasn’t until the digital-induced turmoil in the newspaper industry back in 2008 forced me to think about what I would do if newspapers weren’t an option that I started down a path that would, perhaps inevitably, connect the two.
I was already teaching group fitness classes, and had planned to get the minimum certification to sub for the yoga instructors. As things started falling apart — a promotion to a bigger paper in the company rescinded because of job cutbacks, the first of what has since become seven or eight rounds of layoffs at my current paper and the first year of unpaid furloughs — I decided to go further and get my RYT-200, a Yoga Alliance designation signaling I’ve completed 200 hours of training that meets certain standards.
At the time, fiction writing was something I hadn’t done in three years. I’d burned myself out and then thrown myself into the newsroom until I almost burned out there. Teaching had given me back a measure of balance in my life, and I was sure yoga would continue to help with that. I never knew it would give me back my fiction writing.
The first yoga teacher trainer I had, Suzie Celentano (now Carmack), is also a writer and a generally amazing human being. She led more than half of my training workshops as I worked toward my RYT, and it was through her example that I started journaling. The magic of putting pen to paper and chronicling my journey as a teacher, a yogini and a person also unlocked that piece of myself I’d been missing. I got the urge to write again.
I had characters and stories living in my head, some of which had been there for years. My yoga practice deepened, newspapers and my job lived to see another day and the urge to tell one character’s story grew. I finished my RYT, opened my own yoga studio and got hooked on NCIS for the first time. The fiction writing muscles were rusty, and the story I wanted to tell wouldn’t start. So I turned to fanfiction to hone my skills and wrote and published a novel-length work in 71 days, reconnecting with an old friend and wonderful editor, the exceptional Kyrie, along the way.
Yoga helped me tap into the right-brained side that helps the characters live and breathe in my head. Even as I strived to bring the studio to life while still working at the paper, I found myself torn between hoping people would come to the classes and hoping they wouldn’t so I could have the time to write. Each new story was a chance to practice certain skills. The studio reached its natural end and I kept writing, finally turning to Exeter and the characters that sprouted in my head.
Some moments, the physical practice of yoga helps me — when I flip upside down to increase blood flow to a tired brain or practice heart-openers to offset the way I sometimes hunch in front of my computer during long writing sessions. Other times, it’s the mental discipline that comes into play when I shut out everything except the keyboard and the story. And frequently, it’s the yoga practice of nonattachment that comes into play as I try to roll with the unpredictable punches that come with being an indie author.
I started sharing some of my #WriterYoga tweets a few weeks ago and I’ve had some lovely exchanges with other writers and yogis since then. But you can only say so much in 140 characters, so once I week I’m going to go into a little more depth here. Read them or skip them, the choice is yours. But I hope they help just a bit.
(A traditional yoga salutation that I usually translate as “The good in me salutes and honors the good in all of you.”)