There are a lot of themes I try to weave into my classes.
Self-love, gratitude, acceptance, living in the present moment, the list goes on and on.
Two people from different “parts” of my life (for lack of a better word) gave me some solid advice a couple weeks ago.
Yoga is an art. Treat it as such.
Art is a good way to cope, to have a safe release.
So, I asked my classes a couple weeks ago to make art. Dance in your space, paint the air with your breath, I said.
And, to add some extra art to the class, I shared three poems throughout class as well from my favorite book of poems as of late, Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur.
are your own
Art takes so many forms. Paintings and sketches. Dances and plays. Musicals and film festivals. Coachella and Firefly, Bonnaroo and Merriweather Post, and Red Rocks. Red Rocks is natural art, forever changing with every crowd and artist that graces its landscape. Records and cassettes and CDs and lyrics scrawled on napkins, melodies hummed under your breath as you ride the bus to work, school, home. Books and novellas and poems and prose and novels and Kindles (yes, even Kindles have art) and old, smelly, yellowing pages from the back shelves in your local library.
Art is on our bodies. Stretch marks on hip bones and freckles in constellations across our cheekbones. Birth marks and scars, stitches and staples, bruises and band-aids. Colored hair, natural hair. Tattoos and piercings. Bright colored sneakers, black jeans, distressed denim jackets, earth toned beanies, shiny baubles on our ears, noses, wrists, fingers, resting on our collarbones. Toe rings and anklets, belts with shiny gemstones, worn belt buckles with a better story than I’ll ever be able to tell.
Art moves through us. In our minds, through our breath, off our tongues and onto another’s. Through the ripples of fingertips on keyboards, clinging to pens and pencils for dear life, against guitar strings.
Look at the way the clouds paint the sky, different every day. Art can never be replicated. You can try to recreate a Picasso, but it won’t be the same. Not that it won’t be good, but it won’t be the same. The shades of yellow and orange will be different, because you can’t mix the exact way he once did. Maybe your yellow is brighter, but the human eye can’t tell. Maybe you swirl your brush right, and he swirled it left. There’s art, the act of looking at it, analyzing it. And there’s creating art. Neither can be replicated. No one sees one song the same as another. A song might bring me joy, and bring you sadness. It could take me back to a happy time, and you to a time of heartbreak. Warrior II doesn’t feel the same in my body as it does in yours. My stance might be shorter, longer, heel to heel rather than heel to arch, but it’s still the same posture, and it’s still beautiful.
Different bodies do yoga for different reasons. Different minds, backgrounds, colors, sizes, shapes do yoga for different reasons. I don’t come to the mat for the exact same reason you do. On Monday, maybe I needed to detox from the weekend, and you needed to wake up from a weekend sick in bed. On Tuesday, I’m stressed, and you’re already zen. On Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, I want a mental practice, to meditate in my flow, and you want the physical workout. No matter the reason, no matter who you are, you’re an artist on your mat. You’re creating a masterpiece with your body, mind, and breath.
Even as you’re sitting still, perhaps in child’s pose before class begins, or easy pose with a tall spine, you’re making magic happen. And your breath, even as we breathe as a tribe, inhale, exhale, listening to your teacher’s cues, could never match your neighbors. Yours might be deeper, your neighbor’s might be louder. Yours might be ujjayi, your neighbors might be out their mouth.
Art is magical in that it is unique to the artist. Yoga is magical in that it is unique to the yogi. Art is creating something new, every time you begin to create. Yoga is creating something new, every time you step into your studio, your mat, your safe space.
Art is a safe haven, yoga is a release, art is calming, yoga is enlightening. Art is beautiful, yoga is powerful, art is a choice, yoga is a lifestyle, art is healthy, yoga takes bravery. Art takes willpower, yoga takes commitment, art is a perspective, yoga is learning new things every day.
Switch up ‘yoga’ and ‘art’ and every word, in my opinion, in those sentences are still the truth.
When I plan my classes, I journal beforehand. All the thoughts in my head pour out onto paper and then I speak these words, as best I can, to my class later on. Sometimes I journal for days before a class, trying to figure out what message I want to paint in our vision to be our guide for 60 minutes or so. Sometimes, the message doesn’t come across as clear as I’d like it to, because I myself cannot fully understand what I’m trying to speak.
I’ll speak of ancient teachings. The Yamas and Niyamas, ahimsa, svadyaya, etc. etc. etc.
And I’ve only briefly studied these, in teacher training and on my own time, in books and online and with other teachers. But I still speak to them, because they add depth to this practice.
If you look at a piece of art, you’ll see a lot of things. Color, brush strokes. Word choice, syntax. Melodies, the bass, the drum beat. But then you look deeper. You analyze. Why did the artist choose to do this? Why that word over that word? Why this rhyme scheme/rhythm/shade of purple? And you, in most cases, infer, unless the artist is there beside you.
Why did we go from Warrior II to Crescent Lunge? Why did we breath out of our mouths instead of our noses this time? Why are my hips tight, shoulders rounding in, core engaged? Why are we doing what we are doing? Breathing this way or that? Flowing or meditating? Opening our eyes or closing them? Why did you choose this intention over your usual one? Why this song during this part of the flow?
I’m a bit neurotic, in a good way, when it comes to my classes. I change the playlist until it feels perfect for the message, the energy of the class, the time of day, the size of the class I’m expecting or accustom to. I’ll change the flow as I go if a particular class seems more advanced, or less so. I’ll add extra time in savasana on sleepy days, and build more heat before we start to flow on cold, snowy, I-would-rather-be-in-bed-but-I’m-here-anyways days.
When I write, it’s not too different. I take deep breaths when I’m feeling frustrated or losing focus. I step out of my space when I need to clear my head, similar to how I step into my yoga space when I need to clear my head. I find a balance between the two, and they keep me grounded. I can’t write while in bed, that’s where I rest. Rather, I write with two feet on the ground and my hands constantly moving, even if they escape the keyboard or the grasp of my pen to lift my coffee mug, clear dishes, leave a tip, put my jacket back on in a chilly coffeeshop, adjust my hair, answer the phone, doodle on a napkin. I close my eyes when needed, and keep them open to welcome in the light, color, inspiration surrounding me in every environment I take on. I switch up words. I play certain songs when I want to delve deeper into a certain mood. I turn my phone on silent and don’t answer it for an hour or so, and I dread turning it back on again. The flood of messages ruins my zen. I find solace in my safe spaces. In my journals, books, pages on my laptop, on my mat, my meditation pillow, walking to yoga class or writing class or one of my favorite writing spots.
There are two things, besides friends/family/etc.etc.etc. that got me through high school fairly unscathed. It’s not that I didn’t love high school, I did, I do, it was a blessing to me, it shaped me into who I am today. Those years gave me so much. But those years, those drastic, ever evolving, painfully full of feeling teenage years. They gave me my yoga practice and my writing. My love for art didn’t truly come about until the end of senior year, I would say. I dreaded museums, now I crave them. I enjoyed music, but I never truly felt it until more recently. I skimmed paragraphs of books I bought, but now I have too much respect for writers and musicians and artists to skim over their work. I glue my gaze onto every word on the page, off their lips, into my ears, through my eyes. I appreciate all that went into a work of art. Including a yoga class. I’m grateful for all my teachers and the flows they create, the wise words they speak, the advice they give me, the support in their presence, the life in them is art itself. The way my teachers, my fellow yogis, students, writers, friends, family choose to live their lives is my greatest inspiration.
Yoga and writing. Two things I sometimes lose track of, but they’re the foundation of who I am. I love words, sharing them, meditating on them, scratching them out and starting from zero. I love yoga, flowing and finding stillness, breathing and tuning in to the inner works of my mind, body, breath. I love the community that comes from both of these things. Yoga gave me CorePower, Yoga Love, some of my favorite people in this world. Yoga has given me experiences I’ll never forget. I crave feedback now, rather than fearing it. Writing gave me a new purpose. An internship, writing jobs, a second major I was never planning on. A community that gives me critiques and compliments, ideas and “this is a terrible idea.” Writing gave me one of my best friends, and she taught me to accept the critiques, to embrace them, to see where they take me. She taught me to be brave with my words, that they are good enough to take me farther than I thought. Writing gave me HerCampus, The Tab, Folk Rebellion. Connection and friends, kind words and encouraging feedback, building blocks and stepping stones, a foundation that began in high school has created a magical life for me now.
I spend my days writing, reading, yoga-ing, breathing, creating, finding inspiration, seeking new connections. I’m not afraid of this life anymore, I crave more of it. Deeper breaths, more meaningful words and friendships, strong connections, understanding of all that going ons in my life. Stillness, energy, love, love, love. I find all this in my work. And I’m blessed to say I work in both these areas that I love so dearly. Not all yogis and writers can say this. But if you work towards it, manifest it, build your life around these things, whatever your favorite things are, you’ll find they come to you as easy as the breeze bites your exposed cheeks in winter time.
Until next time,