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 story of 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 to live 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 coming up:
Online via Level Six on Saturday 27th November, 10-1pm (you’ll have to make your own lovely brunch, sorry): book here.
In person at Level Six on Saturday 8th January, 10-1pm – get your year started, your writing flowing and your body moving, all joined up. AND the Level Six cafe has great food, coffee and brilliant vegan snickers and millionaire’s shortbread, mmm: book here.
And here’s some lovely things people have said about my workshops:
“The confidence Stella instils, not only to create stuff that’s good, but in not being fearful of creating stuff that’s not so good, is wonderful. And combining that with the bodywork was ridiculously liberating.”
Amy Beashel, author of “The Sky is Mine”
“Skilled teaching, so much generosity, wisdom, embodied practice, cutting through bullshit, encouragement and expertise-dressed-as-nurture. One of those experiences where I’ll still be mining for riches long after it’s over. If you get the chance to work with Stella and absorb this integrated work she’s forging I can highly, highly recommend it.”
Beccy Owen, songwriter/musician