This is the beginning of a project that has been a little while in the making; its seeds are scattered across pages in notebooks, documents on my computer, notes on my phone and in conversations and musings that have taken place over the last couple of years. There’s no particular goal; like a yoga practice, it will be an exploration of connections between yoga and art; yoga and the processes of creating and thinking, making and writing, playing and performing.
I started teaching yoga whilst studying for my degree in social anthropology, and the intertwining mind-turning parallels between them were impossible to miss. Yoga is lots of things, but what often stands out is that it’s about understanding and accepting. Physically moving, or not moving, and mindfully trusting. Seeing things without judgement and knowing that they may not be real – whatever real really means. Anthropology is about listening, seeing, not judging; about understanding people on their own terms, and using creativity to give a voice to what you’ve learnt whilst also knowing that your experience and expression of another person’s experience is probably never accurate. Yoga and anthropology are both an attempt to deepen understanding and, optimistically, to build positive connections.
There is also a connection between yoga practice and creative work that I’ve noticed again and again, in different ways. I’ve always been surrounded by artists – my family and friends, immediate and extended, and the yoga community too is full of people making beautiful and weird and unexpected things. An increasing number of studies show exciting stuff happening in our heads when we do yoga, and suggest that it does have a significant impact on cognition and, importantly, could be a valuable tool in improving mental health. And I think that the relationship between yoga and creativity deserves to be explored: does yoga practice have an effect on cognition and thinking that inspires creativity, or allows access to thought realms previously undiscovered? How do yoga and breathing practices change performance and help with nerves? How does the clarity and quiet we find in our practice help us to make things?
This blog will be an amalgam of anecdote and opinion; conversation and practice; discussion of studies on yoga; ideas for practical exercises, and whatever else might come up. I welcome thoughts, contributions and collaborations, written or visual or both, from yoga practitioners and artists and anthropologists and beyond. There may also be a few scientifically unsound experiments in the not too distant future, which will involve free exploratory workshops for anyone interested in getting involved.