Every Sunday, before I dive into my Morning Pages, I dive into downward-facing dog. I stretch myself into asanas, pushing my body up and out, channeling vitality that will power me long after class is done. As I close my practice, hands pressed together, I always feel thankful I made the time.
Even in the midst of Pandemic Frenzy, my yoga mat is my oasis. As Jamie, founder of The Grinning Yogi (my beloved Seattle yoga home) said, “now more than ever, yoga can help.”
Ironically, I discovered yoga while in Peace Corps. My first few months in Paraguay were filled with intensive language training and integration, including staying in the home of a family and not preparing any of my own food. I thought I’d be lean and muscular during my time abroad, but not with the diet I saw on my plate: breaded and fried. I embraced the culture, including all its meaty options. After three months my shorts were embracing me a little too tightly: I’d gained 15 pounds.
Jogging down the street for no apparent reason was not normal in my town for anyone but soccer players. And, as a nearly 6′ tall blond who pretty much couldn’t speak, I couldn’t handle any more exposure than I already felt. I had no equipment, but I did have my mother buzzing on Skype about trying yoga. With internet too weak to barely have a conversation let alone watch a class, I went the writer route and found this book in the Peace Corps library in the capital.
Yoga is not what I expected
Honestly, I was shocked by how hard it was. Why were sweat beads from my forehead pooling in my sports bra? Why were my abs screaming at me when I hadn’t done a single crunch? Why couldn’t I push my own weight off the floor? I quickly learned there’s far more to yoga than learning to touch my toes.
Ten years, two worn footprints in my mat, and thousand sun salutations later, yoga has become a tool I use not only to train my body, but also my creativity and focus. If you’ve tried it, and quarantine is getting the best of you, now might be a good time.
I’ve been a groupie of The Grinning Yogi since they opened 8 years ago. My teacher Ryan (yogi realtor) has become one of my favorite friends. Their mission celebrates self-acceptance, both physical and mental, and embracing the body I woke up with today. Even more, their community support and commitment to social issues is pretty special. Right now, they’re offering classes at a suggested rate of $10, or completely complimentary for the BIPOC community. For one of the best yoga studios in a major American city — and from a writer on a budget — it doesn’t get any better than that!
Why writers need yoga
And what better time to pick up yoga than now? Especially for writers.
I could mindlessly assume the writer’s position for hours. You know the one: butt sunk, back hunched, fingers resembling claws, poised to attack the blank page. There are health risks in my sedentary requirements, so I have to prioritize exercise and being kind to my body. Because it becomes a creaky attic when I don’t.
When’s the last time I stretched that? Have I moved from one position today?
A few years ago, I realized I had been experiencing pain in my hips and plummeting flexibility for quite some time, so I sought professional help. In a private lesson with the owner of The Grinning Yogi, I learned my hips were so tight because I was constantly sitting. Without a hardhat or legal team to protect me from this job hazard, yoga became more essential than ever.
The physical bonuses are evident: improved posture, increased flexibility, lower blood pressure, stronger muscles and lungs — it can even improve your sex life! But those are just the cherries on top.
The real meat of it (yes, even yogis can be carnivores) lies in the cerebral. Whenever I don’t feel like practicing, and my mat is taunting me from the corner of my room, I know I’ll always be in a better mood after (my roommates agree). Kind of like when I’m dodging editing a messy chapter, but I know how good it will feel when it’s done.
It’s taught me to check my ego — other students aren’t judging me for using blocks in half-moon. And other writers (well, most) aren’t judging my worth over landing a byline in the New Yorker or not. It’s taught me gentle persistence, and that it’s ok to laugh at myself when I wobble out of tree pose, as I do in literally every aspect of my life. I can always try again.
I miss The Grinning Yogi every day, especially Ryan. He taught me how to be a front row yogi, after all. But in making peace with our bizarre reality, I’ve learned that doing yoga at home has its silver linings.
If I’m not in a hot yoga headspace, I can turn my home into a freezer.
If I feel like nailing dancer pose while blasting Rihanna, I can and I absolutely should.
There’s no shame if I need to rest in child’s pose (not that there should be, ever). I have access to incredible teachers at any time of day. I can calm my mind and fill my home — my sanctuary — with joy. It clears the path for creativity, in both written and visual arts (I even designed my own yoga mat. Read carefully).
I dream of the day we breathe life into a yoga studio together. Until then, I’ll be hitting asanas on a yoga mat in my living room, with my notepad by my side. In 10 years, I’ve only bolted from a yoga class once to capture a story idea. Now I can practice with my notepad by my side.
If you’ve never tried it, now might be the time.