Yoga and writing have a lot more in common than the chair (pose), profuse sweating and an equal feeling of exhaustion and exhilaration when you’re done. Yoga and writing make you push past your comfort zone, forces you to stand on the edge and confront your fears.
I’m not a great yogi. My lack of balance means that something as basic as Mountain Pose (umm, standing there) is tough and you don’t want to stand too close to me during poses that have me balancing on one foot. The overachiever in me gets frustrated when a pose I easily moved into last week seems to be tough this week. Luckily, the athlete in me finds solace in the drill sergeant yoga teacher who barks poses faster than a person can move into them.
Why do I do this to myself, you may ask. Well, in addition for my quest for a yoga butt, the practice of yoga has taught me so much about writing.
I am not a patient person. It’s not in my DNA. So, imagine my surprise when I stepped into my first yoga studio 10 years ago and expected to master every pose (did I mention I’m an overachiever?). Every teacher I’ve had over the years expound on the practice of patience in yoga. When I first started querying my novel, I foolishly thought I’d have a book out by now. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t still be trying to break into this crazy business if I didn’t have the wisdom of my yoga teachers reminding me that nothing worth having comes easily.
Yoga is also about pushing boundaries. Once I realized that I couldn’t immediately balance my entire body on my forearms and that some poses scared the bejeezus out of me, I put up walls to protect myself. Teachers typically use the standing on the edge metaphor when it comes to pushing past your fears. In yoga, when you let yourself go over the edge, you may fall or you may fly.
What happens if you don’t fly when you step over the edge. What happens if you fall and land on your face?
That happened to me the first time I did Crow. This is a balance, upper body and core pose in which you tuck your body, lean your knees on the back of your arms and lift your feet from the ground. It also happens to be my teacher’s favorite pose for the class. Crow is tough, especially when you’re in a fast-paced class that leaves you sweaty and breathless. The first time I made it, I could barely control myself … no really. I’m there, arms trembling, sweat dripping in my eyes when suddenly, I started to fall forward in slow motion. And then, splat, forehead to the mat I fell out of the pose. That was a year ago and I’ve never tried to lift off again. I went to the edge, I peeked over, took a step and ended up on my forehead.
As writers, we have to push ourselves and our writing to the edge. Too often, I see stories where I can tell the writer was afraid to take that extra step, to push their characters into uncomfortable and uncharted territory. I don’t think poorly of these writers. Instead, I wonder if they have once stood on the edge and fell flat, or if they looked down and decided to back away.
Like staring down the dreaded Crow, looking at a story that has us going beyond our boundaries is terrifying. What if I fall? What if I break something? What if I hit bottom before I can right myself? These are all valid worries, but all that does is leave us standing there, wondering.
I’ve mentioned before that when the ending of my current WIP revealed itself to me, it took my breath away. It is going to be heartbreaking – for me and my main character. And I’ve asked myself if I can actually do it.
Now, as I continue chugging along in the story, I realize the edge is getting closer. I also realized today in yoga that when the time comes I will be able to take that step over the edge. I won’t fall, I’ll fly. You know why I know this? Because after a year of being afraid to take my feet off the ground, this morning when Crow came up, I lifted off the mat and I flew.