A to Z: Breathe

Day two. A to Z Blog Challenge:

For me, writing and yoga are part of the same practice. I use each to inform the other and to deepen my work as both a writer and a yogi.

One of my children, though not a yogi, is a creative writing student. He attends a residential fine arts high school (this is a public school, I might add, which admits students from all over our state). On one of my son’s weekend visits home, he expressed frustration that his poetry instructor’s biggest criticism was that my son doesn’t respect language. He insists that he loves writing, text, language. He respects them all. It’s evident that it distresses him to think that his own work offers some sort of disrespect to any aspect of the process. This particular child is the fastest moving of my three. A colicky and restless infant, he became delightful when he learned to crawl; he did this for a few short weeks and then was off and running, literally. His mind has been moving at full speed ever since, as well.

So my advice to him was to slow down, to breathe, develop something akin to a Pranayama practice to still and focus the mind. Pranayama is the term used for yogic breathing. My own practice uses both Ujjayi Pranayama, which is diaphragmatic breathing connected to an asana or pose, as well as Pranayama at my writing desk. Concentrating on the breath, stilling the body and mind and then combining that with intentionality in my writing help me slow down enough to look at each passage, sentence, phrase, word and see how each fits with others within the work and might connect both within the work and outside the work, with readers. Often, reading a sentence, scene or passage with which I’m working and then looking away and breathing into it helps my mind land on alternatives.

So I advised my son to become physically still by sitting, or, if that’s too hard, to practice meditative walking, while breathing and holding the work in his mind. (If walking is the choice, one of those tiny little Moleskine’s can go along to record the language that the mind conjures).

Get still.

Breathe into each word.

Let the mind demonstrate its respect for the language.

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4 responses to “A to Z: Breathe

  1. I’ve never done yoga before, but your description of how it helps your writing has made me very curious about giving it a try.

    Best of luck with the A to Z challenge,
    Jocelyn

    • Heather Marshall

      Thanks, Jocelyn. If you are interested in reading more about yoga and writing, you could try, The Journey from the Center to the Page by Jeff Davis. Good luck to you, too, with the A to Z challenge.

  2. Hi Heather, I love yoga too, but haven’t come across Jeff Davis’ s book. Thank you.

  3. Heather Marshall

    I think Davis’ book is a great resource for yogis who write and writers who practice (or want to practice) yoga. Amongst other things, he offers asanas and sequences for particular writing issues.

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