Last week I wrote about the sweet and sometimes spiky meandering path I’ve walked over the past decade or so to arrive at the little clearing I’m at now – the clearing where the big scary monster-trees have all taken three steps back, and settled into their armchairs where they smile, patiently watching the slow-bubbling potential before them, and ready to assist. It’s quite Lord of the Rings huh. If you haven’t read last week’s instalment, then maybe go read that first HERE. What I was planning to write last week quickly turned into something else, so I’m back today to try again.
Yoga has become so much a part of me now that it’s less a practice I “do”, and more a skin I live in. And if I’m likening it to skin, then I admit that occasionally it’s clear and peachy smooth like a newborn babe (but not my eczema-ish babes), but mostly my “yoga skin” is a little blemished and scarred. Imperfect. My asana practice (physical poses) will always be important because I enjoy feeling strong and straight and light, but my yoga these days is more off the mat than on.
It’s some of the lesser taught aspects of yoga that now as an artist, I practise constantly. You may have heard the Yamas and Niyamas mentioned in your yoga class, but probably not. They are just as important to yoga as Downward Dog or Warrior pose; actually I think they are more important. If you are after a full explanation of the Yamas and Niyamas then you'll find it HERE. In short, they are guiding principles for how we may live our lives in a way that is optimal for mind, body and spirit. In loose terms the yamas and niyamas discuss things such as non-stealing, non-violence, contentment, and perseverance. Common sense, but not very common.
These days, I apply Ahimsa (non-violence) to my inner critic. An inner verbal bashing is not helpful to my work today, and it won’t be tomorrow either. Harsh words have an energy that hangs around, a kind of stink. Ahimsa doesn’t suppress violence, be it in words or actions, it extends kindness and love. And my once brutal inner critic can’t get a word in.
I apply Saucha (Purity/Cleanliness) to myself and my space. To tidy up my studio from time to time and a quick shower each morning is just basic maintenance right, but Saucha is not quite so “do a job-tick a box” as that. I do de-clutter the studio at least weekly, but for me Saucha is more internal. It’s clearing out the cobwebs in my head as well as the studio ceiling. It’s putting good, clean, pure things into my body (most of the time), because I know that’s how good things flow out, for me. It’s indoor plants. Its drinking enough water to make up for the coffee and putting my pencil sharpenings in the bin.
And then there’s Tapas. Not the small morsels of chorizo-spiked deliciousness. Tapas is the generating of heat, the concentrated practise, the perseverance. In other words, it’s getting the damned work done. Just getting on with it. No excuses, no whinging, just getting on with it. Tapas is rolling out your mat and getting started even though you don’t really feel like it and you probably haven’t got time. Tapas is picking up the pencil/brush/camera, whether inspiration has rained upon you today or not. Tapas is the opposite of procrastination.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as the things yoga has taught me that make me a better artist. Not better than another artist, just a better artist than I otherwise may be. But honestly, I don’t think I’d be doing this at all, this that I’ve always dreamed of. Thanks yoga. You’re awesome.