Feed Your Writing – with Yoga

tara mooreNumber 5 on Margaret Atwood’s 10 Rules for Writers is, “do back exercises.  Pain is distracting.”  Ouch!  Apparently, sitting is a killer.  Too much time at our desks is this year’s cigarette.  Maybe the media have been a tad hysterical/keen to get us to buy standing desks  (hey, it worked for Hemingway), but we all know it’s good practice to remember to stand up, move our limbs, and get our blood flowing.  In the latest in our series of what feeds our writing, here’s 3 Prime Writers – Melissa Bailey, Sarah Jasmon & Terry Stiasny – on how they keep their backs – and their books – going.  Read on… and breathe… 

Melissa Bailey, author of Beyond the Sea, has been practising yoga regularly for over ten years.  “In the beginning, it was all I could do to simply get through the exhausting and difficult series of physical postures. But the more I practised, the more I built up my strength, the easier it became. Then, as the postures became second nature, I was able to shut out what was happening around me – other people fidgeting, huffing, puffing and falling – and channel all my energies internally. And to that end, my yoga practice began to acquire its own rhythm – one that was more concentrated, more meditative, my breath calm and measured even when I felt breathless and overwhelmed. Of course, sometimes, it’s impossible for me to reach this place. Or stay there if I make it. Suddenly I’m fully conscious, acutely aware of the room around me and that I’m gasping and sweating on a mat!”  Huffing and puffing aside, Bailey finds yoga is a lot like writing.  “I spend an awful lot of time sitting at my desk, focusing hard, digging deep into myself, trying to tap into a rich seam of words and imagination. I don’t always get there, but I grapple with almost physical intensity to do so, constantly trying to improve, building stamina and endurance. So when I flounder and fall, which I inevitably will, just as I do in yoga I know I’ll get up and try again.”

The Summer of Secrets

For Sarah Jasmon, author of The Summer of Secrets, Yoga allows her to keep working.  “Yoga keeps my back and shoulders functioning, and reminds me that I’m not in competition with anyone else, that I can only reach the positions my body is ready for, and that I can only improve with regular practice. And that the seemingly impossible is achievable in time…”

“I’m probably not the ideal yogi,” confesses Terry Stiasny, author of Acts of Omission, who started yoga when she was a full-time journalist.  “I found that it was the only way to unclench my neck muscles, return my shoulders to their proper location rather than somewhere up near my ears, and to have a place where I wasn’t allowed to have my phone switched on for at least an hour. Fifteen years later, I still try to do yoga at least twice a week.”
Acts of OmissionFor Stiasny, it is a mental as much as physical practice.  “It’s not so much that’s impossible to think about anything else when you’re doing yoga — it’s more that thinking about that plot hole, Amazon rankings, the state of the world or the email that hasn’t had a reply makes it harder to do the poses. Try standing on one leg in tree pose, holding your arms above your head and then closing your eyes. Now try thinking about something complicated at the same time. You’ll fall over. (You can open your eyes now.)”  As an ‘imperfect yogi,’ Staisny says, “I can’t resist the urge to compete, to keep pushing myself, no matter how much the teachers say you should take each day as it comes. That’s probably true (and just as unhealthy) of writing as well. I can’t say I’ve achieved enlightenment but at least I can aim for a bit more flexibility and a small space of peace and quiet.”

Photo:  Tara Moore.  taramoore.co.uk 




One thought on “Feed Your Writing – with Yoga

  1. Very helpful advice. I’m struggling with yoga thanks to very bad knees as a result of statin use. I need to find a version that allows for that issue. My yoga burn I was doing is too intense on the knees. But, I get the need to move away from the desk.


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