Friday, June 15, 2012

Yoga—>Writing in Ten Minutes

Yoga as Muse. It's a great phrase. Not mine. It comes from Jeff Davis, yogi and writing workshop leader extraordinaire. Jeff created an amazing process by which writers can go through a ten-minute yoga routine, each position and breath designed to open up your Concentration or Imagination and release those energies to your writing practice . . . immediately. That's right. You get up in the morning, have your cup of coffee (if you're addicted like me), go to your yoga mat, and ten minutes later, you go directly to the page and start writing.

Here's what the ten minutes look like:

I took a writing workshop with Jeff at the Taos Writing Conference five years ago. He is a terrific teacher, a poet and book writer. At the conference those of us in his workshop got all this good yoga stuff, and actually did the ten-minute practice in class every day as well as writing and workshopping. (Jeff also offered an hour of more general yoga outdoors on the conference grounds each morning before the workshops started, open to everyone there. It was fantastic, geared toward all ages and skill levels.)

I came home and used this ten minute routine regularly, and I can promise you, it works. For those of you who want to give it a shot right away, a step-b-step that gives you specifics is appended at the end of this post.

You start, in the first pose, by stating why you write and what your writing intentions for the day are—it's incredible how powerful just stating that each day is—and that focus is drawn through all the poses. When you finish, you carry the focus and the energy you just generated to your writing desk and GO.

If you are not familiar with the poses in the illustration above, the best way to get the skinny is to get Jeff's excellent book, THE JOURNEY FROM THE CENTER TO THE PAGE, where he provides photos and details along with his whole yoga-as-muse story. Or you can, of course, look up yoga pose descriptions elsewhere.

I believe Jeff still teaches almost every summer at the Taos Writers Conference. It's usually in July, so if you're interested in a writing workshop there, contact them right away, or put Taos on your list for next summer.
Happy Asanas! (Please skip down to the Comments section from here if you're not interested in more detail on the poses at this time.)

For the intrepid among you, here's the step-by-step:
Yoga Sequence for Writer’s Concentration: From Jeff Davis’ Taos Writing Workshop

General: develop timing that works for you. I found that 12 seconds was the perfect amount of time for me to hold each position. Each movement should lead smoothly into the next, so that you don’t stop between them. Your timing may be a bit different, but it’s a good idea to make the holds equal amounts of time for each asana.

1. Adamantine Pose/Vajrasana: kneel on mat, tops of feet against the mat, then sit on heels, hands on knees, and answer the question: 'what am I writing for?' and state the answer to: I intend to:' The intention is what you intend to do that day, whether develop a particular scene, find empathy for your antagonist, create an arc for the entire book, etc.

2. Open-Hearted Adamantine Pose: move your hands back by your feet and breathe. Inhale, lift your hips. Exhale, lower your hips. Combine this with the next step in one smooth series of movements.

3. Adamantine Pose Variation: When you lift your hips (above), curl your toes so that the bottom sides of your toes are on the mat and your feet are off the mat, except for your toes. When you exhale and lower your hips, you are sitting on your heels. (this was painful for my toes at first, so I worked up to the 12-second hold)

4. Standing Forward Bend/Uttanasana to Standing Mountain Pose/Tadasana: curl up from the kneeling position to standing.

5. Shining Skull Cleanse/Kapalabhati Kriya: Fold your hands over each other on your abdomen. This pose is for ‘vigorous breathing.’ What that means is, take a deep breath, keep your lips closed, and quickly, repeatedly, breath out short vigorous breaths through your nose without inhaling again. You’ll sound like you’re huffing, because you are. :) The worksheet says 20-60 breaths. Do not try to do 60 when you start. Start with 20. After a couple of days, go to 40, but take another deep breath at 20. Eventually you will get to where you can do 60.

6. Standing Mountain Pose in Balance: Hands over heart, lift your right knee as shown and hold for twelve seconds, then with lifted leg, move directly into next pose

7. Wide-Legged Forward Bend/Prasarita Paddotanasana: Be sure to turn both feet slightly in and bend so that your hands are on the mat as shown. Hold.

8. Warrior II/Viribadrasana II: inhale as you lift your upper body and arms out of the previous pose into this one, then turn your right foot toward the back of your mat and bend at the knee. Hold.

9. Intense Side Angle: lower your left elbow to your right (bent) knee as you raise your right hand to form a straight line with your back leg (see picture). Hold.

10. Transition Warrior II on Other Side: stand up from previous position, feet still wide-apart, and turn feet to the other direction, then lower into Warrior II position facing other side. Hold.

11.Intense Side Angle on Other Side: lower your right elbow to your left (bent) knee as you raise your left hand to form a straight line with your back leg. Hold.

12.Downward Facing Dog: move feet to both face forward, shoulder-width apart, as you lower both hands to the mat in front of you, bending at the waist at as close to a forty-five degree angle as is comfortable. Hold (I admit I like to hold this position for 18 seconds to get a little extra stretch and core strength)

13.Adamantine Pose with Alternate Nostril Breathing. Go back to the #1 pose. Press your right thumb against your right nostril to close it, and breathe in through your left nostril, then close your left nostril with the forefinger of the same hand, release the right nostril and breathe out through the right nostril. Leave your forefinger on your left nostril and breathe in through your right nostril. Close the right nostril with the thumb once again and breathe out through your left nostril. Repeat all of this two more times, for a total of three repetitions.

14. That’s it. Get up and go directly to the page, whether it’s a pad of paper or your computer, and start writing. 


  1. Wow, this is really interesting! I've never done yoga before, but I can picture doing these moves while contemplating writing would really provide a neat way to get the words flowing.

    Nice post and thanks for sharing!

    1. You're welcome, Laura. You will love it if you just ease into it and give yourself time to find your rhythm. :)

  2. This sounds like an excellent exercise. We definitely need to work this into our next writer's workshop!

    1. It's perfect for that, Heather. Let's do it!

  3. Thank you so much Linda. I keep getting messages from all angles to start doing yoga daily. Now I have one more reason. I would love to attend his conference. Maybe next year. This year is maxed out. But you know what I'll be doing all week. Thank you so much. These are easy and really good poses too.
    P.S. Would you go again?

    1. Yes, I'd definitely go again for Jeff's yoga and the great workshop choices No agents/editors--it's a workshop only kind of experience. Unfortunately I had a problem with severe elevation headaches (common in Taos) that's a real deterrent for me, but it's a cool experience otherwise.

  4. I started a yoga class a few months ago, and I remember after the first class feeling so.....unclogged and emotional. Taking that class is still something I look forward twice a week...I think yoga can help everything.. Thanks so much for posting this. I'm going to definately try it out!

    1. That's fantastic, Eve. Sounds like you've found a wonderful teacher. I think you'll love writer's yoga. :)

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