by Riva Gdanski: Yoga teaches us how to connect to our mind, body, and soul through meditation, poses, and breathing.
While we often associate yoga with growth in strength, flexibility, and spirituality, there’s another valuable reason to practice regularly. It turns out that yoga can be an effective tool for tapping into our creativity. Scientific research is backing up what many practitioners have already discovered – yoga helps foster creative energy through the unification of our mind, body, and spirit.
Mindfulness is a powerful meditation technique practiced in yoga. Being mindful means having an awareness of our present thoughts and feelings without judging them or reacting to them. In other words, it teaches us to observe our emotions without labeling them as “right” or “wrong”. The practice of accepting our experiences rather than struggling with them is an effective tool for dealing with the highs and lows that are a part of the creative flow. Mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress, increase happiness, and promote divergent thinking, or the thought process used to generate and explore creative ideas. A 2014 study conducted at Leiden University found that mindful-meditation led to an increase in innovative thinking and the generation of new ideas. Clearing the mind from the fog of emotion allows our creative energy to be visible and more accessible.
Working for hours at a time to perfect one’s craft can take a heavy physical toll. When there is pain or discomfort in the body, the creative process suffers. Yoga postures improve physical well-being by building strength and increasing flexibility. For writers this might mean alleviating back and wrist pain by building muscle in the core and upper back, and improving flexibility in the chest and shoulders. Violinists, for example, can dramatically reverse the asymmetry in their upper bodies by stretching and strengthening the corresponding muscles on each side. When the body is unrestricted by pain, it becomes free to create. As we open ourselves up physically, we become receptive to creative inspiration.
Pranayama, or the practice of regulating the breath, is another vital component of yoga that promotes unity from the inside out. The breath, mind, and body are intricately linked; think of how our heart rate speeds up when we get nervous, and slows down as we relax. By controlling the breath we learn to calm the mind and body. Numerous studies have shown how deep-breathing exercises increase our Alpha brain waves – the same brain waves associated with higher levels of creativity and lower levels of stress. When we encourage our breath to flow, artistic motivation follows suit.
Yoga offers the tools to align the body, breath and mind and allows us to tap into the places where our creative energy resides. When our head is clear and our body is relaxed we become receptive to the abundant creativity within.
* Photos above taken by John F. Cooper at The Sky Gallery for Nina B. Roze and Riva G Yoga