Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Yoga & Writing: How Yoga Can Help Your Writing

Guest post by Stephanie Renée dos Santos 

Are you a writer? Novelist? Do you sit at a desk and computer, week after week, month after month, year after year? Any tightness or pain in your neck, shoulders, upper back, lower back, hips, or legs? A regular gentle Hatha Yoga practice with breath work can relieve and reverse these stressors, as stress in the body can inhibit creativity. When the body is relaxed, so are tensions of the mind, allowing imagination to flow freely.

I am a writer and yoga guide and practice yoga daily to help my writing endeavors. My suggestion for writers to get started with yoga is to locate in your area a yoga teacher who leads therapeutic style yoga like Yoga Therapy, Viniyoga, Yin Yoga or Kum Nye Yoga (Tibetan Yoga).  Initially, find classes with gentle and slow stretching combined with breath work.  On outset, share with the yoga instructor where your problem areas are in your body and/or mind so they can best assist you.  As your practice grows your inner voice will become clear, present, and will aid you in seeking out other types of yogic practices that will continue to help you in realizing your best self, authentic voice, and creative fire.

I highly recommend for the first 2 ½ months of starting up your yoga practice to attend classes 5 days a week, the reason is that it takes on average 66 days to form a new habit, according to new research by Phillippa Lally and colleagues from the Cancer Research UK Health Behavior Research Center as published in European Journal of Social Psychology. And you will immediately experience the benefits of yoga.

If it is not possible for you to attend this many classes a week with a local teacher or not at all, I suggest these DVD videos as supplements:

1.      Ana Forrest Yoga DVD “Strength & Spirit plus Embodying Spirit” for $20.  This DVD takes you through a regular hour long class which I have really enjoyed.

2.      And/or try Gary Kraftsow’s Viniyoga Therapy DVD’s  “For the Upper Back, Neck & Shoulders” and “For the Low Back, Sacrum & Hips” at $24.95. Gary’s instruction is on the clinical side, with good explanations of the stretches and how they work.

It is important to note that should you experience pain after doing a pose, listen to the wisdom of your body/mind and stop doing that position for a while, trying it again at a later date. Always honor yourself and your limits. After 2 ½ months of dedicated practice, try easing into practicing 2-3 times a week. At this point, more than likely, you will have experienced deep relief from bodily tensions and will easily want to continue your practice.

I love this quote by yogi/activist/writer Mahatma Gandi:

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”

The benefits of yoga for your writing?

1.       General physical comfort in the body and mind, making it easier to keep writing for days, weeks, months, and years on end.

2.      Developing a regular yoga practice helps reinforce discipline to write regularly.

3.      Yoga requires focus of concentration to enter, hold, and exit poses, as you develop this inner faculty it naturally becomes applied to writing projects.

4.      “Staying power” is developed as you try to hold a pose and this helps to then write-through difficult passages and obstacles all writers meet along the way when creating and structuring works.

5.       Inspiration and ideas spring or trickle forth when we are in a state of calm and our mind and heart are open, through yoga one learns how to access this state and stay there.

6.      You can learn how to set intentions/goals for your writing through the practice of guided meditation called Yoga Nidra.

7.       As you develop flexibility in the body that flexibility stretches to the mind, enabling creative thought processes and increased problem solving ability that naturally helps one through the writing process.

In general a writer will experience ease of body, mind, and an uplift of spirit with consistent yoga practice that in turn helps all aspects of living and writing.


Stephanie Renée dos Santos is a writer and yoga guide who teaches weekly yoga classes in Garopaba, Brazil. Currently, she is working on a historical novel: CUT FROM THE EARTH. She also leads/co-leads, half-day to week-long Saraswati Writing & Yoga Workshops in the USA and Brazil, should you like to explore briefly or intensely the synergy of writing and yoga. For more information visit Stephanie’s blog and workshop schedule

Sunday, 12 May 2013

A Mother’s Day Gift from the Garden of Dreams

Guest Post by Carolyn Lee Boyd

For the past century, the greatest gift that mothers have been giving their daughters is their dreams. Each generation has opened up new opportunities for the next and given their daughters the courage and confidence to make the most of them. If we think of what life in 1913 was like -- when women could not vote or pursue most careers, domestic violence was to be suffered silently, constant child-bearing was expected, and women’s lives were repressed in so many ways -- we understand how much each generation received from their mothers and then passed on to their own daughters.

Dreams are like spirits, like living beings who thrive on being shared and loved. We have been given so much by our mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers, for Mother’s Day. Can we close the circle by giving their dreams back to them? If you are lucky enough to have your mother and even grandmothers still living, can you find a way to honor their unrealized dreams? If your mother always wanted to be a published author, can you perhaps self-publish some of her work and make her a gift of the book? If she wanted to travel to someplace, but she is now no longer able to go far from home, can you take her to a cultural evening of song and dance or make her a Mother’s Day meal from her favorite destination?

For those of us who have lost our mothers and grandmothers, we can still give them a gift by living out their dream for them in a way that would have made them proud. My friend Diane Saarinen recently realized that her career providing marketing and publicity to renowned authors through the Saima Agency (link-http://www.saimaagency.com ) brought her into the same kinds of luxurious Manhattan apartment buildings as a guest that her mother had once worked in as a housekeeper. Now when she walks into one of those buildings, she knows she is honoring her mother and all she was able to accomplish in providing for her family by all those years of labor. Diane also named the agency after her mother, whose first name was Saima.

For me, I have just recently realized that both my mother and grandmother were warriors. My grandmother, for example, fought for her own and her family’s survival during the Great Depression when the family was virtually homeless, and was always very clear about making her opinions known. My mother was also a fighter as an avid supporter of social justice causes and signed up for a 30-year stint in the Navy as a nurse at a time when girls from her community stayed home and taught Sunday School. Perhaps for Mother’s Day I can find a way to “fight the good fight” for some cause for which they would have championed were they still with me on Earth.

Still, perhaps the greatest gift we can give our mothers, whether they are still with us or not, is to do something positive to make our own dreams come true. As a mother myself, I know that nothing is dearer to my heart than having my own child follow his brightest star. For Mother’s Day, can you choose the dream you have always had but that you perhaps never told anyone because you thought it was too outrageous? If you have always wanted to sing before an audience but cannot really carry a tune, can you start voice lessons so you can join an amateur chorus? If you have always wanted to paint but did not think you had the time or ability, maybe Mother’s Day is a good day to go out and buy a paint set.

And once you have made headway towards that task, how about doing something to improve the lives of the women who will come after us all? I saw in my own mother and grandmothers how their sights turned to future generations from all over the country and world once their own offspring were out on their own. Is there a cause dear to your mother’s heart that you can spend time benefitting together on Mother’s Day? If you have lost your mother, what ways did she make life better for those who came after her that you can continue, if even for just one day? Having grown up in a segregated community, my mother was an avid supporter of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Maybe for Mother’s Day I can contribute or find another social justice organization in my own community that could use a day of service.

Mother’s Day is a time to honor our mothers and grandmothers in ways that go beyond flowers and cards. For those of us who honor divinities expressing the Great Mother whose compassion and hope for all beings is infinite, making dreams burst into bloom like roses on a rosebush for those in generations past, present, and future is a sacred act. This Mother’s Day, give the gift of a bouquet from the Garden of Dreams, a mother’s paradise.

Visit Carolyn Lee Boyd at her blog, Goddess in a Teapot.