Why I Practice Yoga
or, how the creative process is much like my yoga practice
Making art is hard. Every time I finish a piece it’s like putting myself under florescent lights without my makeup. For an hour. In public. And (unfortunately?) the most compelling work comes from the most vulnerable and complicated places. So if I’m making something great, it’s even harder to share it. It’s like that PediEegg scraping off the dead layers to reveal softer, rawer skin, and then letting people see the shavings just sitting there next to my foot. But hopefully prettier.
I used to hate yoga. HATE it. I’m pretty sure that is mostly because it is so blasted hard. I was discouraged by how much of a mind game it was when I was there to do something physical. It turned out that I needed to quiet my inner monologue (dialogue?). I have a very strong inner critic.
Making dance is 98% process and 2% performance. It’s just so fleeting. I often hear my colleagues talk about “post performance blues.” And it’s so very real. We are shoved into the studio by a desperate need to create something, we put forth unedited ideas while our inner critic steps in making us feel inadequate and ill-equipped. We hone, question, ask people to tear holes into the work, and move through a cycle that often looks like this:
relief that thing in us is now out of us in some sort of physical form,
burst of energy from the thrill of doing what we love the most,
speculation of the work,
vulnerability in asking for help with the work,
confidence, doubt, pleasure, doubt,
rejection of the work,
START OVER (any number of times),
appreciation for the work,
We spend most of our lives in this process, in its exquisite pain, and then we birth it. That lasts sometimes only a few hours. And then it’s over. Over. Over.
If I’m being honest, and if I were to let my inner critic run wild, my yoga practice mirrors my creative practice. My instructors consistently remind me that I can let it go. It is my choice. Class will always end in an hour, I will always get to return to shavasana, roll to my side in fetal position and reawaken to the day. I always get to celebrate the journey I took on my yoga mat. The difference is, I don’t have to wait months or years for a cycle of renewal and expression to complete itself.
Artists, I know how hard it is. It can be so dark. Find something in your life that has temporal definition. Something utterly hard that can come to an end after a short time. We need victories more frequent than the completion of a piece of art.