Why Yoga and Art?
A concept I have been experimenting with since starting yoga is combining yoga with art. People often ask ‘so how does that work?’ well here it is!
Classes and workshops always begin with an intention, If I’m doing it for myself I’ll pick an intent which is relevant to what my needs are on the day. If its a class for others I usually plan the intent but often change it once I have a sense of the group and what their individual need are, some examples are ‘listen to your body’ ‘stay present using your breath’ ‘tune into the pleasure of your practice’ and ‘feed your creativity with your yoga practice’.
Yoga connects you to your body so you become more present in the moment and enjoy the process of creativity rather than becoming fixated on the final product. Forrest yoga encourages the neck to relax which in turn stimulates the vagus nerve to relax the brain, it gets us out of over analysing. The prefrontal cortex of the brain gives us wisdom, mind sight, empathy and some say our soul. Within our limbic system is the amygdala which is essentially an emotional alarm. It is involved in the processing of fear, anger and pleasure. If we are stressed, energy is taken away from the prefrontal cortex and it becomes difficult for us to access our wiser selves. However when we practice activities such as yoga and meditation the opposite happens and it is easier to tap into our creativity and wisdom. We lose inhibitions such as ‘I can’t paint, I’m not very arty’ or ‘what happens if it doesn’t look very good’ and we get absorbed in the beauty of doing. I remember coming home from yoga classes with a huge urge to get creative, I’d get paints out etc and sometimes sit for hours painting away, even though I thought I’d totally lost confidence in my creative ability. I was reminded of my love of doing it, and didn’t care what the picture looked like at the end!
Making the most of breath nourishes our cells and wakes us up, giving fresh inspiration to feed creativity. The idea is that the breath is the centre of the practice, it keeps us in the moment and also helps us communicate with our bodies, for example placing a hand on a tight spot and then directing the breath there can instantly release tension. Breathing deeply reassures us that we don’t have to go into ‘fight or flight’ response, it switches our autonomic nervous system from sympathetic (fight or flight) mode to parasympathetic (rest and digest). I love using Brahmari (buzzing breath) into all the chakras at the start of creative workshops, it connects us to different aspects of ourselves and also builds the bonds between them. Alternate nostril breath is brilliant for balancing the body and calms the mind where as Kapalbhati or fire breath brings in more energy, all these stimulate creativity in their own unique ways.
The postures and poses of the yoga practice are key players and I’m loving the process of forming sequences which compliment artistic expression. Forrest yoga encourages bare and active feet for staying grounded and switched on. If you stand with bare feet and focus on connecting to the earth you’ll probably notice how it influences your body as a whole. My feeling is that bare feet help us to feel more of a part of everything rather than shoving our feet into shoes and disconnecting from the world. Strengthening the core keeps us up and in good posture, it stops us slumping so energy can be freely expressed without blockage. Hip opening forms are extremely effective at converting tension into creative drive. I use wrist stretches and chest openers to connect the hands to the heart and solar plexus which is the area of self empowerment and confidence. Essentially tuning into the internal environment of ourselves so that it can be expressed externally.