I’ve done yoga for decades. I say ‘done’ but in many ways, the ‘doing’ words don’t work. While yoga can be a ‘doing’, it is also a being. A being present to my body, a being with myself, a being in flow, in rhythm, in breath. A mindbody-bodymind being.
I’ve been writing for decades too. My 17th novel, Lullaby Beach, came out this year. I don’t think writing is only a ‘doing’ either. When I’m very into the work of a book or story, whether that’s first draft or edits, it’s always there, somewhere beneath what else I’m doing, moving alongside me in my daily life.
And I’m in the second year of a doctorate in Existential Psychotherapy, alongside the practical work and theoretical training, I am beginning my research project into the embodied experience of being postmenopausal – ie, not the symptoms or the to-HRT-or-not dilemmas (both of which seem to be the prime focus of most menopause research), but what it’s like afterwards, postmenopause, the long and fruitful rest of our lives. This too, sits with me all the time, an embodied wondering that will (eventually!) take form in the embodied writing of my thesis*.
Yoga helps my writing. Yoga supports me to be writing. I’ve known this for ages and have often incorporated breath work or physical offers when I teach writing workshops. And so I chose to train to teach yoga, not to be a yoga teacher solely, but to bring yoga more centrally into my writing workshops.
This year I have taught a yoga-for-writing workshop once a month. Mostly online due to Covid restrictions, we’ve also had one in person and another coming up. I’ve been grateful to be supported in this by Level Six, a yoga studio in Peckham which has the community-based values that were the core of my Fun Palaces work and are what yoga, to me, should be about – less shiny in lycra, more connecting with and for local people.
The workshops have been an experiment, for me as much as for those in the room/zoom. People tell me it works for them – in non-fiction writing as well as fiction, for academic writing and for people who have never written before. Each time the offer changes a little and I have made an effort to adjust sequences for attendees with specific physical challenges.
The yoga flows are intentionally low-key and lead into writing exercises that match the energy we’re awakening in our bodies. Just as there is no studying each others’ yoga poses, nor is there any reading out loud – it’s a workshop, a playtime, an allowing.
If this sounds like something you’d like to try, there are two workshops this July:
In person at Level Six on Saturday 10th July, 10-1pm (the Level Six cafe has great food, coffee and brilliant vegan snickers): book here.
Online via Level Six on Saturday 17th July, 10-1pm (you’ll have to make your own lovely brunch, sorry): book here.
*and yes, I do think a postmenopausal writing-yoga group might be a good thing. One day.