One cold, grey day in February, when I couldn’t get warm in my own house, I walked into Yard Yoga and immediately started stripping off my layers. It felt so comfortable, welcoming and nurturing. I wanted to spend more time there, so I approached Sarah and Daphne about becoming their writer in residence at part of my MA in Creative Writing.
It was also partly a ruse to trick my body into exercising. If I turned exercise into a writing project, I told myself, I would stick with it. So far, it’s worked. After years at my desk spending hours reading and writing and ignoring my body, the strain I felt in my shoulders and neck was crying out for attention. I needed to do something, so alongside the writer in residence project, I signed up for Yard Yoga’s £30 for 30 days offer.
Another thought that attracted my writer self was that yoga is about so much more than exercise; it would help me write by giving me stillness, focus and calm. It would also engage my interest in story and mythology as yoga is rich in ancient history.
I have done yoga before, but not for about 15 years and not since having children. Yoga at age 45 is different to yoga at 30, I would have to be kind to myself! My first class of the 30-day offer was with Amber Scott on a Thursday morning. It felt decadent, taking time during the day when I should be working, but this was part of a writing project, after all. And if it helped my energy and focus afterwards, it would be worth it. I told her I was new and she reassured me, telling me to take it easy, rest if I needed to. I unrolled my brand new sticky mat and copying everyone else, lay down on my back. I did not expect to feel so uncomfortable just lying down. It was like lying on a twisted rope tied between my shoulder blades.
My arms and shoulders hurt during downward-facing dog. My hamstrings felt so tight they could pop any minute and they murmured to me for days. And the hardest part was the exhaustion after the first few classes. I fell asleep for two hours one Sunday afternoon. I needed more energy, not less. But, slowly I realised that if I drank lots of water after a class, and ate what I needed to keep going until bedtime, I would sleep deeply and feel refreshed the next day.
Now, just a few weeks after starting yoga, I notice my breath more, the way my body sits at my desk and where I’m holding tension. I am not so tired after a class and when I walk out of there, I feel a little bit taller. I can also lie down on the floor without my shoulders feeling lumpy!
Next, I’d like to integrate my writing and yoga. These two practices go so well together - yoga opens the body and creates space for writing, and writing can record feelings, thoughts and moments from yoga, deepening reflection. Both are good for mindfulness, staying calm and strong in our busy lives.
Yard Yoga Writer in Residence Project
This project explores the connection between writing and yoga and brings the two practices and communities together. I will be making a poem from words given to me during two participatory sessions at the studio, as well as writing my own poetry inspired by yoga and the body.
Books about writing and yoga
Writing the Fire! Yoga and the Art of Making Your Words Come Alive - Gail Sher
Journey From the Center To The Page: Yoga Philosophies and Practices as Muse for Authentic Writing - Jeff Davis
More about Mel Parks
Mel Parks, a professional writer for 20 years, now runs HoneyLeaf Writing [link to: www.honeyleafwriting.com] aimed at helping other people find ease with writing. She offers copywriting services, creative writing courses, workshops and coaching. She is also studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Brighton University.