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Notes from the Writing Life

Yoga and Writing: Together Again

Back in February, The Guardian ran a piece on “Rules for Writing Fiction” that featured sage advice from famous writers on what to do and what not to do. In general, I hate that type of article, which always makes me feel like I’m doing it all wrong, but always read them anyway on the off chance of discovering something useful. In the article, some writers said to Always Do things I never do, and others said to Never Do things that I sometimes do, and a few suggested Sometimes Doing things that I always do, and in the end I didn’t end up any wiser about the process of writing than I was before, which is pretty much a chronic condition for anyone who takes the business of writing seriously.

But there was one piece of advice that I thought was very good. It came from Margaret Atwood and it went like this:

Do back exercises. Pain is distracting.

That advice is one of many reasons that I will be co-teaching a day-long Yoga and Writing Retreat with Julie Rappaport on June 20 at beautiful Green Gulch Farm in Mill Valley, California. This will be the third time the two of us have taught the workshop, which we dreamed up while sitting next to a waterfall one day at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers where we had struck up a friendship. Julie’s a yoga teacher who writes; I’m a writer who does yoga, and we both found that yoga, long walks, and bike rides were critical antidotes to the atmosphere of anxious striving one typically finds at a writing conferences.

In the years since, I’ve found that some writers (usually those who already do yoga) know immediately why we would put yoga and writing together, and others are completely mystified. So here are a few of my reasons:

  1. Because, as the writer Margaret Atwood says, “pain is distracting” and if you’re going to torment your body by spending hours sitting at the computer, the least you can do is nourish it with stretches and movement.
  2. Because, as the choreographer Twyla Tharp says, “When you stimulate your body, your brain comes alive in ways you can't simulate in a sedentary position.”
  3. Because both yoga and writing are, ideally, daily practices that are best approached with humble curiosity. The writer Isak Dinesen said, “I write a little every day, without hope and without despair.” This is the attitude that yoga teaches – to simply do the best work you can do that day, without being attached to the outcome.
  4. Because, as the writer Barbara Kingsolver has said, “There’s no perfect time to write. There’s only now.” Yoga teaches us to cultivate the present moment.
  5. Because the body remembers what the mind forgets.
  6. Because both yoga and writing require you to lose interest in the distractions of the world, and yoga can help you learn how to do it.

I could go on, but I won’t, at least not now. At the retreat, Julie and I will talk more about the connection we see between the two disciplines, and how writers can use yoga to free the mind of its old habits and the body of its aches and pains. If you’re interested in joining us call Julie at 510-273-2417 or email her: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The daylong workshop is $165 including a delicious organic lunch and snacks, or $140 if you pay in full by May 1st.

Here’s what people have said about previous workshops:

  • "I had a thoroughly enjoyable time and left feeling refreshed and like I'd learned some new things about yoga and writing -- and about myself.”
  • “Thank you for a wonderfully enlightening day that I continue to think about! This was one of those significant events in life made even more special by the personalities, the creativity and the quest of finding your core through yoga.”
  • “It was encouraging to find that the thoughts just flowed – suddenly writing was easy! It was a great experience!”
  • “Both the yoga and writing were so fulfilling and nurturing. Thank you both for creating a safe, non-judgmental atmosphere -- heaven!”
  • “My body thanked me profusely for taking it to the workshop. I had a wonderful day and you both inspired me.”

Come join us!

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