‘Can yoga make you more creative?’ one of my students asked a few years ago. I replied that it seemed to help my own creative process and also my tenacity to see projects through.
I asked a few students whose work involved being creative, what they thought? One person said she believed yoga could free up ‘mental space for creative thoughts’. Another student – a graphic designer – said yoga helped her be more free thinking with her ideas and thoughts, it also increased her awareness in everyday life and of her surroundings, this meant she became more visually aware too.
I believe that yoga can also assist the creative process, as we become more in touch with our feelings and emotions in the moment. Through increased awareness we can learn to recognise our visceral responses, even when they’re subtle. For example I can feel my heart warm and soften in response to a friend’s kind words, I can also feel my heart lift and expand with pleasure when I see or even imagine something of beauty. Even though I’m not yet gazing at them, or smelling their delicious scent, I’m already dreaming of the peonies and roses that will be flowering in my garden in June. I can feel a tingle of excitement in my solar plexus (stomach region) at the thought of this pleasure to come. What’s more, my visceral response to the roses and peonies makes me long to paint them.
A Harrogate based artist friend and yogi – Alex Godfrey (Alex Malcomson) – makes sculptural pieces that are inspired by the sea. In conversation with him I said I was curious – the sea being sixty miles or so from Harrogate. He replied that having been brought up in the Shetland Isles, he retains a longing for the sea and that he expresses this longing in his work. The response of his heart manifests in his creativity.
In class, we also considered how bringing more awareness to the sensations and emotions felt in the organs can inform how we respond to others and in decision making. Becoming more attuned to sensation in the viscera results in inner experience that’s more in synchrony with our outer actions. Susan Aposhyan in her book ‘Body-Mind Psychotherapy’ says “emotional expression is linked to the possibility of reflection and a creative range of response. On the other hand unconscious or habitualized emotional repression limits vitality, creativity, communication, and growth.”
At the start of the organs themed class we looked at a picture of the organs of the body. We noted the location of the guts, spleen, liver and stomach within the abdomen and then how the diaphragm separates these organs from the lungs and heart above. We placed our hands to each of these organs, felt the breath movement there and noted if there was any other sensation. We then practised a sitting twist with a partner’s hands to help bring more focus to the volume and location of organs, ultimately facilitating an ‘organic’, spiralling sitting twist. Demonstration of Twisting with the support of the organs . We also looked at how the ‘organ system’ of the body can give support in yoga poses. Donna Farhi believes it’s possible for yoga practitioners to become excessively tired and even injured, through over-use of the muscular-skeletal systems – especially in the more dynamic styles of yoga such as Ashtanga Vinyasa. Donna maintains that in asana practice the organs of the body should move in concert with the muscles and the bones – allowing the quieter voice of the organs to be heard.
Some of my students tease me when I talk about coming into a pose ‘as an organic move.’ But they know I’m not really talking about an Abel & Cole organic fruit and veg. box! I’m referring to lots of phenomena in nature: for example a foetus in the early stages of gestation has movement that radiates out from centre, supported by the developing organs; an opening flower unfolds organically – it doesn’t stick out one petal and then three more in a disjointed manner. So using the term ‘organic’ in this way, implies being connected up/ all of a piece/integrated. In the practice of yoga poses, in addition to the Twists, it’s possible to feel more ‘whole’ when support is gained from the organs.
Piera Nina Teatini’s piece ‘A Shooting Smile’ in the book ‘Exploring Body-Mind Centering’ describes organs thus: …”the warm, cozy home of our inner sense of fullness, intrinsically expanding in three dimensions regardless of gravity, an expansion that reverberates ……to the periphery of the system, sustaining all limbs (head included) to move in an effortlessly, buoyant way.”