Yoga for creativity
If your creativity is lacking a little spark, don’t despair. Think of it as quiet time to contemplate your next project and in the meantime try these yoga asanas to fan the flames.
We all have a deep intuitive knowing about how to get in touch with our creative impulses and, basically, we need to allow ourselves to do what comes naturally.
Our creative fire needs to be fuelled. If we are feeling tired or flat, we may need to restore and build our energy.
When the wellspring of your creative life appears to have dried up, you can look to nature for reassurance. The natural rhythm of the seasons and the cycles of the moon can teach you about your inner cycle of creativity and how to renew your inner life.
During the cold winter months, we often feel we want to hibernate and turn inward. With the warmth of spring comes a surge of new growth and energy and the promise of summer. In our creative cycle, it’s important to draw inward at times to rest, restore and prepare for new growth, incubating that creative project. When the idea has ripened, there comes a natural time in the cycle when our energy rises and we become active and productive again.
We need to learn to accept this sacred cycle and flow with it. In all aspects of life, first energy builds and then comes a natural decline and finally a time of restoration. “In the cycle of creation, of rising and falling energy, there is no such thing as creative block,” says Clarissa Pinkola Estes, storyteller and Jungian analyst. “There is a time when this energy flows underground like a river and disappears … in the meantime, making something, creating a new body and then emerging again.”
We all have a deep intuitive knowing about how to get in touch with our creative impulses and, basically, we need to allow ourselves to do what comes naturally. When we allow ourselves to be distracted from our instinctive knowing, the result can often be frustration. We need to get out of our own way and allow our unique creative genius to come through. If we open to more of what we are capable of, we will naturally be able to connect to so much more of our creativity.
To tap into creative energy, you must first start to make space for it in your life. It’s helpful to have a room or a private corner where you can work creatively. The feng shui principle of clearing out the physical clutter from your home also allows creative energy to flow more freely. Decorating your creative space with harmonious colours and filling it with music and inspirational art or anything that gives you pleasure will help the flow of energy.
In the clutter of daily life, meditation is a way to create inner space. Many of us lead busy lives full of noise and distractions. Slowing down enough to catch our breath, become still and experience silence can be difficult because we often don’t know how to do this.
Building solitude and silence into your life is important if you want to be able to hear yourself think. As creative beings we need that silence. Take the time to consciously tune in to yourself and slow down perhaps by spending time in nature, journaling or doing a regular meditation practice. Make an appointment to have a cup of tea with yourself.
Inspiration means “the drawing in of breath”. The practice of pranayama (yogic breathing) is a way to create spaciousness inside by focusing on the inhalation and the exhalation, allowing the mind to settle into a calm state, leading naturally to meditation.
Your inner child
If the natural cycle of creativity is interrupted, it can feel like a drought and for some people this is experienced as a depression. When the drying-up of creative juice is prolonged, when the depression is extended, then you need to ask what happened in your personal history. When did you lose your sense of adventurous play and childlike wonder at the world? More importantly, how can you regain it?
Sometimes, we have internalised voices from our childhood that cut off our creative impulses and they go underground. Often called the inner critic, this judgmental inner voice can at times be helpful but at other times it can be disheartening and even downright destructive. Those who suffer the “got to get it right syndrome” believe if they’re not perfect they won’t even make an attempt. Why? They might fail. This fear of failure, agony of self-doubt or critical voice cuts off any attempt at creative endeavours. That childlike, innocent, creative, playful part of us then becomes disheartened. We need to guard the child that lives inside, encourage, nurture and praise its efforts, just as you would your own child.
Pablo Picasso once said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Imagination and play are at the heart of all good work. Have fun. Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way recommends a weekly artist date. Your artist is a child and spending time alone with your artist child is essential to self nurturing. It could be a solitary ramble on the beach at sunset, a movie — whatever you enjoy that stimulates your sense of play.
Laughter is a key that frees the energy of the playful child. Your play time may include putting on some music and dancing with abandon, playing with colour, clay, words or sounds. Regaining your sense of wonder and seeing the world with childlike eyes is a spiritual practice that allows you to live close to your creative centre.
The creative fire
Your creative fire needs to be fuelled. If you are feeling tired or flat, you may need to restore and build your energy. Following a regular routine, not skipping meals, getting enough sleep and exercise to keep your body and mind functioning optimally will all help.
Moving your body is also a way to fuel the creative fire. Clear your mind and move your energy by going for a brisk walk. Likewise, you can put on some music and dance, or perhaps do some yoga postures. The Warrior, Twists, Cat and deep breathing all work on stoking your internal fire, building energy for mental and physical activity. After movement, it’s much easier to sit quietly in stillness. Movement, solitude and silence are doorways that open you to deeper connection and inspiration.
The creative muse
“In your light, I learn how to love, In your beauty, how to make poems. You dance inside my chest, Where no one sees you, But sometimes I do, And that sight becomes this art.”
The job of the artist is to get out of the way. Sometimes the “creative muse” suddenly appears, making his or her presence known. You feel inspired and get a “hit” about creating something and the idea takes off like a rocket. You must write this book, start this business, create this show, paint this painting. You are fuelled with a creative fire that seems to know no bounds. This “creative muse” is a gift, not only to yourself but also to those you eventually share the final product with.
You can call on your creative muse to show you the way, the plan, the form. When you allow yourself to be still and listen, you can become the sacred vessel that you are. You can be assured you are not alone in your creative pursuit; you have support and you will hear the inner whisperings of your creative muse gently guiding you through.
A dancer’s saying goes: “If I skip my practice for one day, I notice. If I skip it for two days, my teachers notice. If I skip it for three days, the audience notices.” The benefit of creating a time frame, focus and intention is that these all support you to create. The creative journey begins with one step and requires discipline. In order to create, you need to make time, you need to show up. Setting your intention starts the process. Your energy is released and you are fuelled with enthusiasm. Persistence pays off. You must hone your craft, remembering to enjoy the entire creative process rather than just the finished product.
Yoga and creativity
Swami Satyananda Saraswati talks about yoga, intuition and creativity. “The human brain has two modes, which need to be harmonised for us to achieve our potential as creative beings. The left hemisphere of our brain is oriented towards our external life and is our more active mode. The right hemisphere is more internal and orientated towards our emotions. It is also more receptive and introverted. Our right brain also holds the key to our intuition and higher perception.” There are many yogic techniques for achieving this integration of right and left, conscious and subconscious, verbal and spatial, solar and lunar, positive and negative, including movement, breathing and meditation.
The chakras and creativity
The second chakra, located at the base of the spinal column, relates to our creative and pro-creative energies. Symbols representing the unconscious mind are associated with it. Circular movements of the hips can help to free the energy of this chakra. The fifth chakra is also associated with creativity and is located in the throat.
When centred in the throat chakra, it is possible to develop the ability to become a detached witness to your thought processes and to the patterns of your life. When you become the observer of your own nature, you are able to begin to re-integrate elements of the subconscious. Carl Jung describes these unconscious aspects of the self as the “shadow”. Shadow elements can be any aspect of your psyche, positive or negative, that is not expressed consciously.
These unconscious parts of you, when acknowledged, ultimately enrich your inner life. That river flowing underground becomes a source of inspiration and fuel for your creativity. During the incubation phase of the creative cycle, it can seem that not much is happening, but it’s important to allow the process occurring below the surface the time it needs to come to fruition.
As the wheel turns, that idea, project or business will birth and the gems that have been mined from the depths of your being will become your gift to the world. The true creative act is a gift that ultimately nourishes and sustains the society you are part of.
Creating our life
“Beauty is the essence of life. Its feeling pushes the artist to create, opens the heart to love, leads the brain to clarify, invites the mind to comprehend and brings the body to participate.” — Vanda Scaravelli
We all have a longing to create and express our unique inner voices. For many people, children are a natural expression of this creative energy and any project or business is just as much a product of creativity. All things of beauty are born out of love. Your creative fire fuels the love you have and your love fuels your creative fire. When you love deeply, there is nothing that can stand in the way of what you are meant to be and do.
Every day is different and every moment new. Some, days it’s hard to find the motivation to do your yoga practice or your work. One way to free your energy and be inspired is to begin by warming up and moving creatively.
Freeing your energy
Moving your hips in a circular way will help you to release creative energy from the second chakra area of your lower spine. Put on some flowing rhythmic music you like to move to and that makes you feel happy. Explore the range of movement in your hips by moving them first in circles, then in figure eights. As you move your hips, allow your hands to follow the pattern of a figure eight lying on its side and feel your whole spine moving and loosening as you move your hands and arms up toward the sky and then down to the earth. This is to be done in a mode of playful discovery — there are no rules. Allow your body to move expressively.
Standing with your feet comfortably wide and hands on thighs, practise moving your spine in a wave from the base to the crown. Begin by contracting your pelvic floor and lower abs as you tuck your tailbone under and concave your upper chest.
Then move your tail back and up, tilting your pelvis forward and feeling the movement along your spine as your chest opens and your shoulder blades move down, freeing the neck to lengthen. Keep moving and exploring the wave along your spine. Visualise the spine flowing like a river and feel the energising effect of this movement.
Lying down, place your hands on your hips, inhale, arching into your lower back as your pelvis tilts forward. Then exhale, drawing up through your pelvic floor, moving your lower abdominals toward your spine. You should feel your tailbone lift a little. Repeat three to four times.
Free the neck
Draw your shoulders away from your ears and turn your head from side to side. Then inhale and arch your neck, exhale and draw your chin to your chest. Repeat twice.
The bridge posture helps to free blocked energy in the pelvic area and allows energy to flow freely from the base chakra upwards to the throat centre. Lie with your knees up and your feet under your knees. Your feet should be hip-width apart. Relax your shoulders away from your ears and lengthen your neck by drawing your chin to your chest. On an exhale, draw up through the pelvic floor, tighten your lower abdominals, push through your heels and lift your pelvis. Lift your spine until you are up between your shoulder blades. Breathe easily. Lengthen your tailbone away as you lift your chest towards your chin. Push down with your big toes so your knees don’t splay out. To come down, continue to work the abdominals and lower your spine gently.
Knees to chest
Draw your knees to your chest, gently rock side to side and allow your head to move in the opposite direction.
Stillness and integration
Lie on your back, inhale and roll your feet and hands in toward the midline of the body and roll your head to the left. Exhale, roll your feet and hands out and your head to the right. Continue the rolling movements for three to five minutes, then be still, allowing time for the integration to occur.
Lai Morris and Sara Siegelman conduct yoga retreats, workshops and classes with an emphasis on flowing yoga sequences, meditation and relaxation. E: email@example.com W: www.shantirasayoga.com.au