Why Writing Is Like Yoga

“Remind me why we’re doing this?” I grunted. I was upside-down, one leg flung high enough in the air to hurt muscles I didn’t know I had, most of my weight pressing against my shaky arms.

“It’s good for us,” my friend gasped beside me.

And then, as I tried to count my breaths and come out of the position without collapsing onto my face, I thought, It’s just like writing.

TheFaulknerPortable

I imagine flattering activewear and graceful poses—as if, after one session of yoga, I’ll suddenly find myself hiking mountains, drinking lattes on beaches, and playing acoustic guitar. Like yoga, writing seems fun—exciting, even. I dream of cozy blankets and poetic lines—as if, after one rough draft, I’ll suddenly find myself autographing novels, reading in an idyllic personal library, and giving TV interviews.

But my muscles ache, my joints pop, my body stinks; after the third chaturanga, I consider quitting. Like yoga, writing is not romantic. My imagination falters, my motivation wanes, my vocabulary disappears; after the third paragraph, I consider quitting.

Both seem simple. How hard can it be to balance on one foot? How hard can it be to string one word after another? And yet it is hard—nearly impossible, sometimes. Every inch is agony; every verb is torture. Breath after breath drags by, the beating of my heart counting the time from eager beginning to final resignation.

Pain, exhaustion, disillusionment… but I wouldn’t trade a moment of it.

Because, like yoga, writing is worth it. It forces you into uncomfortable positions, shows you irrefutably your own limits, demands dedication and strength you didn’t know you had. It slows you down, teaches you the infinitesimal eternity of every breath, the impossible vitality of every comma. Up close, you see that every moment of life is movement—always rising or falling, straining or relaxing. Nothing is stationary; even the most perfect point of balance is motion, a hundred tiny muscles pulling furiously to maintain the position.

Every ending is a beginning, a cycle of constant change: A handful of letters repeated in endlessly shifting patterns to form meaning. A handful of motions repeated in endlessly shifting positions to form yoga.

Like yoga, writing will never be easy. Each time, I conquer one difficulty and discover another. The difficulty is what makes it worth pursuing over and over again. Each time, I come with a different motivation—a pain I’m desperate to ease, a challenge I’m eager to overcome. Each time, I wonder whether I really can do this—and each time, I finish spent, amazed to discover that yes, I can.

Yoga

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About Elizabeth Syson

While consuming tea and coffee at an alarming rate, I read and write everything I can and pursue my unnatural love of copyediting. My hobbies include learning new instruments and languages, riding horseback, sketching very badly indeed, and periodically recommitting to doing yoga regularly. View all posts by Elizabeth Syson

One response to “Why Writing Is Like Yoga

  • snidgetknight

    I love this. Sometimes I forget that writing is always hard and always will be, no matter how much better I get or how much I work at it. It’s nice to remember that it will always be difficult, and that’s okay and even part of the beauty of it.

    Like

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