For many years, I squirmed at the term “yoga” because of my personal faith that contradicts many of the teachings of Eastern religions which yoga is founded in. I shunned the concepts – though unwittingly I practiced yoga under a different name on the regular – and, to my shame, even lectured a few folks who “preached” yoga at me.
In recent years, I’ve come to have a better understanding of yoga, what it is, and what it isn’t, and that not every form of yoga is steeped in Eastern practice religiously speaking. Any practice can be, of course, but when most folks tout themselves as “yogis” they are not expecting folks to follow their religious teachings but rather the mindful practice of physical well-being found in movement and stretching.
As a creative, I’ve come to see the value in this practice of gentle movement and stretching. I formerly have worked in many fields, nearly all of which are highly active (think biking dog-walker, athletics coach for young kids, magician’s assistant, wrangler, home organizer…). But since becoming a full-time writer and editor – of course as I’m aging, rather than when I was younger – my body has expressed its strong disfavor for this career shift.
I’ve found other things to keep my body moving during work hours (think treadmill desk or Swiss ball instead of chair), but they are not enough.
Enter the need for more yoga, intentionality with that practice, and faithfulness to better wellness practices overall.
Technically, all yoga is good for creatives. Whether that’s head stands or the peacock for those more advanced or happy baby and child’s pose for simple, easy stretching. But these are the ones I’ve found most effective for developing, healing, and improving my creative practices.
One of the main issues with most of my creative endeavors is that they require me to sit down. I’m a writer and painter – so my hips and lower back get tight, stiff, and painful. The happy baby pose helps with this.
Downward Facing Dog
A good pose for building up wrist strength and giving a good stretch to forearms is Downward Facing Dog. This pose puts the right kind of gentle pressure on these spots to help us artists and writers improve dexterity, ease achiness, and build strength all in one simple pose.
Very simple Child’s Pose is another one that I use all the time for my lower back and hips – right before bed, right when I wake up, throughout the day. This one has a few different forms (honestly, they probably all do) for use in different situations. Most often, it’s outstretched arms for me, but sometimes behind the legs is better.
Standing Forward Fold
A few years ago, I could bend at the waist, knees straight, and plant my palms flat on the floor. Then, I became a writer full-time. A year after my career started taking off, I bent over one day and realized I could no longer do the palm-flat-to-floor thing. I started doing the Standing Forward Fold each gym visit, gradually working my way to palms-flat again. Each day I did this one, I felt a bit more relief in my back even while hunched at a desk clacking away at the keys.
Ear to Shoulder Neck Rolls
I can’t do this one myself because of an old brain injury that makes me super dizzy, so beware. But for the majority of the population, the ear-to-shoulder neck roll is a great way to break up knots and ease stiffness in the neck.
Cross Body Shoulder Stretch
This one’s associated perhaps most often with sport, but the cross body shoulder stretch is great for artists, writers, and others who use their hands a lot. It helps to break tension, release stress, and loosen stiff, sore muscles in the shoulders.
This is one of those stretches I both love and hate. It helps my entire body feel better after a day stuck at a desk, but it takes some effort to do it right and do it well. Plus, I usually have to do a dozen of them to pop those vertebrae properly and get things loose and happy again. It’s worth it in the end.